2016 ATP Sao Paulo Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The last call on the golden swing on South American clay is Sao Paulo, Brazil, as a host of dirtballers descend to do battle.
ATP World Tour 250
Sao Paulo, Brazil
February 22-28, 2016
Prize Money: $436,220
*denotes joint ATP/WTA event
Top 4 seeds (Who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Benoit Paire (22)
2: Thomaz Bellucci (32)
3: Pablo Cuevas (45)
4: Federico Delbonis (46)
First round matchups to watch:
(7)Nicolas Almagro vs. (WC)Thiago Monteiro
The three time Sao Paulo champion Almagro is nearly back into the top 50, and he’ll open finish his golden swing campaign with an opening match against the wild card Monteiro. The 21 year old Brazilian stunned Jo-Wilfried Tsonga for a top 10 win in Rio in his ATP debut, and also has some good challenger results this year. Almagro is a heavy favorite, but opponents will be wary of Monteiro on clay for a while after his performance against Tsonga.
(5)Albert Ramos vs. Pablo Carreno Busta
The first meeting between these Spanish dirtballers. The spin maestro Ramos should be the favorite since Carreno Busta has lost three straight, but this should be a high quality clay court contest.
Top seed Benoit Paire went 19-9 on clay last season, and is playing on the surface for the first time this season after a run to the semifinals in Marseille on home soil. Paire will face Dusan Lajovic or Luca Vanni as the Buenos Aires quarterfinalist Lajovic seeks to avenge his loss last year to Vanni in Sao Paulo. Paire could take his check and lose early, but skill wise he should be able to reach the quarterfinals.
Qualifier Gastao Elias of Portugal has a good chance to pull a round one upset over Pablo Andujar. The #8 seed hasn’t won a match in 2016, while Elias has had success in qualifying and on the challenger circuit. Santiago Giraldo has the inside track to beat Marco Cecchinato, and then slip past Andujar or Elias in this open section to reach the quarters himself.
Giraldo has a h2h win on clay over Paire, who could be jet lagged, given Benoit’s inconsistency, I have the Colombian veteran reaching a surprising semifinal.
Rio champ and Buenos Aires quarterfinalist Pablo Cuevas is the defending champion, and he’ll open with either Facundo Bagnis or Paul-Henri Mathieu. The qualifier likely has a slight edge over the French veteran on clay, and if Cuevas isn’t too exhausted, he should continue his good form and reach another quarterfinal.
Almagro/Monteiro will face Daniel Munoz-De La Nava or qualifier Maximo Gonzalez in round 2. Almagro should be able to ease past either player to reach the quarterfinals. Both have struggling as of late.
Cuevas is 4-0 against Almagro in the h2h, and has been in far better form as of late. Almagro will have a great shot at a semi given the fatigue factor, but look for Paire or Giraldo vs. Cuevas/Almagro semi in Sao Paulo.
Quito finalist Thomaz Bellucci rarely plays well on home soil, and struggled in Rio, but he still is a better player on clay than either Taro Daniel or Roberto Carballes Baena, and thus he should advance into the quarters. Carballes Baena has a clear h2h edge over Daniel, though he’s a lucky loser.
Ramos/Carreno-Busta are Bellucci’s likely quarterfinal opponent. Ramos/Carreno-Busta will face Brazilian wild card Guilherme Clezar, who has a challenger final this year on clay, or Daniel Gimeno-Traver, who reached the Rio quarters as a qualifier. I have Ramos over Clezar, and them Ramos over Bellucci for a spot in the semis. Bellucci beat Ramos on clay last year, but the home soil factor gives the Spaniard an edge in this case.
Federico Delbonis was the 2014 champion in Sao Paulo, and he has a great draw if he can repeat that performance this year. He’ll open with a fellow Argentine, either Diego Schwartzman or Horacio Zeballos (2-0 in the h2h against Schwartzman), and the Rio quarterfinalist then will most likely face Paolo Lorenzi. The Italian veteran is 6-3 on clay in recent ATP tournaments, and opens with qualifier Blaz Rola, with Marcel Granollers or Inigo Cervantes to follow. Cervantes could upset the veteran Granollers, but Lorenzi should prove too much.
Delbonis has won his previous three meetings against Lorenzi, including one last week in Rio, giving him an edge for the semis.
Giraldo isn’t in the best of form, even with his attacking game and strong forehand, but he is a benefit of a rather open top half of the draw. His first three matches are winnable, and a match against either a tired Cuevas, or a somewhat shaky Almagro could result in a win as well, giving him a dark horse shot at an ATP final.
Semis Cuevas d. Giraldo
Delbonis d. Ramos
Cuevas has a h2h edge over Giraldo, Ramos and Delbonis are split on clay 2-2, but Delbonis has been in better recent form, and he’s a former champion.
Final Delbonis d. Cuevas
Cuevas has won his last two meetings on clay against Delbonis and just beat him in Rio, but I have that result reversing itself, because if Cuevas reaches the final, he’s likely to be out of gas.
2015 ATP London Queen’s and Halle Previews and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The 2015 ATP grass court season continues with the traditional stops in London at Queen’s Club, and Halle. Fan favorites highlight both draws as these two well run, and popular tournaments have both been upgraded to 500 level events this year, after previously featuring as stars of the 250 level. It’s a needed upgrade, adding more point to the grass court portion of the season, and the tennis this would should be an excellent appetizer for Wimbledon, which is just around the corner.
ATP London Queen’s
ATP London Queen’s Preview
ATP World Tour 500
June 15-June 21, 2015
Prize Money: €1,574,640
Top 4 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Andy Murray (3)
2: Stan Wawrinka (4)
3: Milos Raonic (8)
4: Marin Cilic (9)
The seed cutoff is the top 15 and a host of top 30 players are in action at this marquee grass event that was deservedly just boosted this year to a 500 level from a 250.
A matchup that could have taken place last week in Den Bosch, but did not as both Spaniards crashed out early. This time it will take place as both will look to ride their gifted forehands to victory, the h2h is split 1-1 but they have never met on a fast surface, I’m going with Verdasco in three, but it could go either way as both have been more cold than hot this year overall.
(4)Marin Cilic vs. Adrian Mannarino
Stuttgart semifinalist Cilic, one of the top 10 players in the draw, will be a deserved favorite in this one, but don’t count Mannarino, who reached the quarters in Den Bosch, out. Cilic has had success here before with a title and a final on his record, but since coming back from injury he hasn’t been the same reliable player he was last year, a rising Mannarino could sink his ship, though I don’t see it happening personally.
(7)Gilles Simon vs. David Goffin
Simon reached the second week at the French and is 6-4 on grass over the past two years, a record that is good enough for a player of his ranking. Goffin is 5-1 in his last six matches, and going for his first grass court title in Den Bosch on Sunday, both are undersized baseline ball strikers, and fatigue could play a factor for Goffin. This is a hard match to pick, but I see D Goff winning it if he’s fit as his form on grass seems to be good.
The marquee matchup of the first round, this match would be center court and primetime worthy at any tournament, and surface, but especially on grass. The Roland Garros champion Wawrinka is making his return to the tour as he preps for Wimbledon, while Kyrgios, a Wimbledon quarterfinalist last year, is making his 2015 grass court debut as well.
Stan the man is the favorite and he’s 11-4 on grass since 2013, but Kyrgios seems underrated in this matchup that should feature a lot of power hitting. Presuming NK can get his serve to click, I actually have him pulling off an upset, as Wawrinka tends to be streaky, and struggle after posting huge results, a second slam win being his biggest of course. Distraction and the change of surface will be his challenge, and Kyrgios, who plays fearless tennis, is not the best opponent to start with.
Three time Queen’s champion Andy Murray has had an excellent season thus far (36-6 overall), and will look to ride the momentum of a 15-1 clay court season, that featured a run to the French Open semis, into the grass court season, a surface he feels right at home on, given he’s a British player. The British counterpuncher will face either Bautista Agut or Verdasco in round 2, after facing a qualifier round 1, if he faces Verdasco it’ll be a rematch of their 2013 Wimbledon 5 setter, but I doubt a rematch will be as competitive as Murray should cruise through to the quarterfinals without dropping a set.
Opposite Murray in the quarterfinals could be the defending champion Grigor Dimitrov. Grisha has struggled in 2015 and he has lost two straight matches, but he’s a good player on grass as the aptly nicknamed “baby Fed” is 11-3 since 2013 on the surface. The good record works in his favor, and he should snap that losing streak against Sam Querrey, the mediocre American, Gilles Muller could be a tough out in round 2 though. Muller comes off the semis in Den Bosch, and he should slide past the disastrous Mikhail Youzhny in round 1. Muller with his throwback serve and volley can be lethal on grass when on, but Dimitrov should feature a more versatile game that will give him an edge to reach the quarters. The h2h is 1-1 as Muller upset Dimitrov in Rotterdam this year, but Dimitrov has the grass court h2h win here in 2012.
Dimitrov beat Murray last year Wimbledon without dropping a set, but Murray won their meeting this year at the AO and is 5-2 in the overall h2h, given how their results have diverged this season, Murray is the superior player at the moment and it’s hard to see him suffering another defeat to the Bulgarian on grass at Queens. Look for Murray to star in the semifinals in front of the home crowd.
Cilic/Mannarino will face Viktor Troicki/Qualifier in round 2, Cilic just lost to Troicki in the Stuttgart semis but fatigue should play a factor as Troicki will face Rafael Nadal in that Stuttgart Sunday final, given Cilic’s previous triumph here if he can get out of round 1 he should reach the quarters with his game improving.
Feliciano Lopez, last years finalist, has a slightly better draw than he had in Stuttgart where big serving Sam Groth slipped past him. Flopez has not been playing great as of late but he’s very comfortable on grass with his slice serve and volley and he should be able to defeat Joao Sousa in round 1. A round 2 match with John Isner, presuming the American #1 beats a qualifier, should be worth watching, and poses a similar problem matchup wise as Groth did, as Isner will hold nearly all of his service games, that said Isner is actually not at his best on grass, and Lopez won their Wimbledon 2014 meeting in 4 sets, overall winning the last two meetings. Isner winning isn’t out of the question at all, but I have Lopez into the quarterfinals in my own bracket against Cilic.
Cilic has never lost to Lopez on a fast surface (3-0), and he has a grass court h2h win (Queens 2013 3 sets), given Cilic’s recent form has also been slightly better, I’m going with a Murray vs. Cilic semifinal in the top half.
Wawrinka/Kyrgios is almost certain to decide the quarterfinalist at the bottom of the draw, as either player should defeat Lleyton Hewitt/Kevin Anderson in round 2. Hewitt is historically a great grass court player but he looked atrocious in Den Bosch, and it’s clear his career is just about done, Anderson is 7-3 on grass since 2013, and I actually have him pulling off a minor upset and getting past Hewitt before falling to Kyrgios in round 2.
How Rafael Nadal, a current finalist in Stuttgart, does in Queens will also be a topic of interest. Nadal opens with streaky shotmaker Alexandr Dolgopolov in round 1, it is their first meeting since Dolgopolov shocked Nadal at Indian Wells in 2014, but overall Nadal is 5-1 in the h2h, and given the Ukrainian is in the midst of a poor three match losing streak, Nadal should advance. Rafa has improved on grass with every match in Stuttgart, and perhaps the surface switch has revitalized his season. He’s a previous winner of this tournament (2008), and he should also beat his countryman, either Pablo Andujar, or more likely Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in round 2 to reach the quarters.
From that we should get either Nadal vs. Wawrinka, or Nadal vs. Kyrgios, a pair of titantic matchups. Kyrgios shocked Rafa at Wimbledon last year in an upset I was one of the few writers to call, it’s a tough ask to expect him to do that again, but I have a feeling fatigue may play a factor on Rafa, and I have Kyrgios as my semifinalist. For what it’s worth, I’d also pick Wawrinka over Nadal on grass right now, if he reaches the quarters he should be motivated and his form should be good. Still Nadal should have a good record going into Wimbledon and feel comfortable with his game.
Milos Raonic returns to the ATP tour, and to grass court tennis against the perpetual British wild card James Ward, a gutsy 28 year old underdog. Ward hasn’t posted a positive tour level record on grass in a few years, but he always puts his heart into UK matches, and if Raonic is unfit after an injury he could find Ward to be a meddlesome matchup. Raonic’s record on grass has been disappointing given his aggressive, serve centered style of play (14-11 since 2011), but he was 5-2 last year and he’s looking to improve on the momentum of reaching the Wimbledon semifinals in 2014. I’d presume Raonic to win his first match. Richard Gasquet, presuming he beats a qualifier, should be a tougher opponent in round 2, Gasquet hasn’t posted a below .500 record on grass in nearly a decade and he’s 8-5 over the past two seasons, he also has a prior h2h win over Raonic (2013 US Open). Given Raonic is coming off an injury, I have Gasquet pulling off a slight upset after reaching the second week in Paris, and making the quarterfinals here.
Simon/Goffin will face either Thanasi Kokkinakis or Jeremy Chardy in round 2. Chardy with his big forehand is a proven danger on grass (9-4 since 2013), while Kokkinakis is a bit of an unknown commodity, but being Australian with his versatile power game he should also be able to play well on the green stuff. I have Chardy sneaking into the quarters over Kokkinakis and Goffin, given his recent h2h win at the French over Goffin, but this is a hard section to predict overall, and all four players have a nearly even shot at the quarterfinals.
Look for Gasquet or Raonic to reach the semis with a win in the quarters, it’s not out of the question for any of the four others to make the semis, but I’d give them the best chance as experienced talents.
This tournament could be quite memorable for Kyrgios, if he is healthy, and can defeat Wawrinka, Nadal and Gasquet/Raonic/Some other player to reach the final. I’m predicting it in my own bracket, a gusty move to pick a non-seed in such a strong field, but his game is really well suited for grass, and he has previous wins on the surface over both Nadal, and Gasquet, as he famously saved NINE match points against Gasquet at Wimbledon. A year wiser, presuming the confident Australian is fit, it’s his time to shine on grass, as the young gun should not be a slept on this year. Winning the title is a bit of a leap, but I’m picking him to reach his second ATP final after reaching his first in Estoril where he lost to Gasquet on clay.
Semis: Murray d. Cilic Kyrgios d. Gasquet
It’s hard for me to see anyone stopping Murray this year, especially not Cilic who Murray has beaten three times previously on grass, including in the 2013 Queen’s club final. AM appears capable of losing only to Djokovic at the moment, and Djokovic isn’t in the field here.
I tend to favor the winner of Kyrgios/Wawrinka to decide the finalist from the bottom half, and we well could see two non-seeds in a tournament with a high caliber field in the semifinals. Gasquet has twice beaten Kyrgios on clay rather easily, including this year in Estoril, but Kyrgios was something else in their Wimbledon meeting that he saved all those match points in and eventually won 10-8 in the 5th. I look for the Aussie to conjure up that magic and win a slightly less important meeting this time to reach the final.
Final: Murray d. Kyrgios
Murray is 3-0 in matches and 8-0 in sets against the young Australian, as this h2h has gotten lopsided quickly due to the fact the defensively sound and fleet footed Murray is a bad matchup for the often rashly aggressive Kyrgios. I’m sure NK will put up a fight if he make it this far, but I don’t see anyone capable of stopping Magic Murray from his 4th title at London Queens.
Gerry Weber Open
ATP World Tour 500
June 15-June 21, 2015
Prize Money: €1,574,640
Top 4 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Roger Federer (2)
2: Kei Nishikori (5)
3: Tomas Berdych (6)
4: Gael Monfils (16)
Three top 10 players are in Halle, and five top 20 players overall, the seed cutoff is top 30, and though no quite as strong as Queens, Halle is also a strong event that was just boosted to a 500 from the 250 it was previously.
First round matchups to watch:
(1)Roger Federer vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber
Federer, a Halle standout (7 titles, including the past 2 trophies) who has adopted the tournament as much as any local, can’t be happy with having to face a solid grass court player like Kohlschreiber in round 1. Four previous times he has vanquished the German on the surface, three of those came in Halle, including the 2008 final, and just once as Kohli taken a set (Wimbledon 09). That said, it gets harder every year for Federer to amp himself up for opening round matches, and Kohlschreiber on home soil should feel comfortable, given like Federer, he has found success in Halle. We’ll see if Peppo can give the grass maestro any trouble in round 1 as he comes off of a quarterfinal in Stuttgart.
(7)Bernard Tomic vs. Steve Johnson
Tomic comes off the quarterfinals in Stuttgart, and he’ll be a favorite against the 25 year old American Steve Johnson, that said Johnson, who is building his ATP experience on grass seems to be no slouch on the surface, with a 13-8 record on grass since 2013. Johnson has shown signs of improvement this year, as has Bernie, who appears more focused than he has been in previous years, and this should be a high quality contest. I have Tomic advancing in my bracket.
(8)Ivo Karlovic vs. Santiago Giraldo
An interesting form test going into Wimbledon for the aging Karlovic, now 36, his serve still is a huge weapon, but the rest of his game appears to be in a bit of a free fall, as he won just 1 match in Den Bosch and is just 2-6 in his last 8 matches. Giraldo has struggled this year with a below .500 record, is an average grass court player at best, but if he can win this, it will be a sign that the party is going to be over soon for Karlovic. I still think Ivo wins but it could get messy.
Monfils has a h2h win (on clay) against Rosol, and he comes off the semis in Stuttgart, thus he should win this, but Rosol with his ball bashing could make things interesting if his game clicks. Lukas did not look good in Stuttgart, losing round 1, but you never know with both of these players, as they are quite streaky.
Federer/Kohlschreiber will face Ernests Gulbis or Sergiy Stakhovsky in round 2. Gulbis has a poor record on grass in his career and has been horrendous this season, while Stakhovsky is good on grass with his serve and volley game, but is nursing a back injury. It’s a tough pick but I tip Gulbis to oust his likely still injured opponent before getting blitzed by Federer, who should reach the quarters without dropping a set, or at least that’s what his fans would hope for. A healthy Stakhovsky serve and volleyed his way to a shocking upset of Federer at Wimbledon, but it’s quite likely Federer will get his revenge if that matchup takes place.
Tomic/Johnson will be the favorite to be opposite Federer in the quarterfinals, neither JL Struff or Florian Mayer, both Germans, are playing well at the moment as Struff was sick and Mayer has struggled in his return from injury. One of them will break a four match losing streak,and Mayer was previously decent on grass, I have Struff sneaking through only to lose to Tomic again, like he did in Stuttgart though.
Federer-Tomic has the potential to be a great match, and two, if not all three of Federer’s opponents early in Halle will be tough outs, that said Federer is 4-0 against the Australian and he has a grass court h2h win, Bernie could take a set, but Federer is comfortable at Halle, and barring a severe dip in form he should be a safe pick for the semis. Tomic can’t be happy with his draws in his first two grass court tournaments of 2015, as he lost to Nadal in the Stuttgart quarters, and he is likely to be stopped in the quarters yet again.
Tomas Berdych is a former Halle champion and given the Czech is 35-10 this year, with hardly only 1 loss to player outside the top 10 (Tsonga at the French Open), he should roll through to the quarterfinals. It’s also worth nothing Berdych is 10-4 since 2013 on grass, and he should pad that record with routine wins over non grass courters Victor Estrella and Borna Coric/Donald Young in round 2. Coric tanked hard in Stuttgart where he lost R1, and he has hardly any grass court experience, while Young is in poor form and may not be healthy at the moment (also 5-11 since 2013 on grass), so the winner of that is anyone’s guess.
The section below Berdych is quite weak, Karlovic/Giraldo and Alexander Zverev or a qualifier are the players it consists of. The teenager Zverev, who is just 18, was feisty in Stuttgart as he won a match, his first ever as a professional on grass, and took a set off of eventual finalist Viktor Troicki. That said the qualifier could be dangerous for a youngster who isn’t used to coming to net and plays a clay court oriented top spin defensive style. If Karlovic doesn’t fall apart, he should reach the quarters, but this is a difficult section to predict, and the qualifier will also have his chances.
Berdych is simply stronger than any possible opponent in the quarters and though he has a negative h2h against Karlovic (3-4 all hard court meetings), given the difference in form as of late, he should be on a collision course with Federer in the semifinals.
Kei Nishikori is slated to face Dominic Thiem, four years his junior, in the opening round. Thiem has not proven himself to be capable on grass yet as he lost badly to Mischa Zverev in Stuttgart, a player well below his ranking. Nishikori 32-8 in 2015, and coming off the RG quarters, should improve on his 7-4 grass record since 2013 and defeat Thiem and the winner of Dustin Brown/Andreas Haider-Maurer. Brown is a threat with his serve and volley game on this surface, though he lost round 1 as a qualifier in Stuttgart and Brown-Nishikori should be a great match, but Kei should be able to pass Brown enough, especially if the German slips up on serve to win, and reach the quarterfinals.
Dirtballer Pablo Cuevas is the #6 seed at this tournament, but he’s an underdog in round 1 against Jerzy Janowicz. The mercurial Pole beat Brown in Stuttgart but then choked against Kohlschreiber, and he’s had a mediocre and mentally weak 2015 season. Given Cuevas has played just one grass court match since 2010, JJ should win that match, and presumably beat a qualifier in the next round (qualifier vs. qualifier is that matchup). Perhaps the momentum of that weak early draw will inspire him in the quarterfinals.
With a Masters final and a Wimbledon semifinal on his resume, Janowicz has already proven he has the talent, especially on a fast surface where his heavy hitting power game can shine, but he’s struggled to put all the pieces together, thus Nishikori is the favorite to reach the semifinal in their first h2h meeting. It should be a fun match, but Nishikori has a mental edge and is much better in pressure moments than the Pole.
Monfils/Rosol is likely to decide the quarterfinalist in that section, as I wouldn’t expect much out of Jiri Vesely/Mikhail Kukushkin, the other options who meet round 1. The 21 year old Czech Vesely has limited experience on grass, but his game suits it reasonably well, while Kukushkin is poor on the surface. As long as Monfils is healthy and motivated, his talented shotmaking should place him into the semifinals. He looked awful in a 2014 Wimbledon match against Vesely, but that appeared to be more like a one off Clownfils performance than a sign of a matchup problem.
33 year old #5 seed Tommy Robredo could well go out to a qualifier in round 1, he’s 5-1 on grass since 2013, but has not played much on it, even with such a long career. The topspinning Spaniard has struggled to stay healthy this year, so we’ll see how this tournament goes for him, either way look for the quarterfinalist to be either Andreas Seppi or Tommy Haas, a match I thought about putting on my matches to watch, but decided against it after how poor Seppi played in his round 2 match in Stuttgart. Haas came back after a year off the tour due to injury and won a round (beating Kukushkin) before losing to Tomic, and their grass court h2h is split 1-1 (both meetings came in Halle) that said Haas has won the previous four meetings, and given this is grass, presuming he’s healthy I’d expect him to make it five straight. You’d expect Haas to improve with each match, and he has good history in Halle as the former Wimbledon semifinalist has took the title twice here. Haas is 4-1 against Robred and has a grass court h2h win as well, so expect him to survive two early matches against veterans who have a lot of variety with their strokes, as does Haas.
Monfils vs. Haas has great potential, the h2h is an even 2-2, and Haas won their 2013 Halle match, that said with Haas coming off of a long injury layoff, Monfils should be sharper and win by perhaps a very small margin to reach the semis.
It’s likely expecting too much from Haas this soon after his comeback to say he’ll reach the semis, but he has two previous titles here, and he’s a crafty veteran who tends to be able to find ways to win. His draw isn’t bad as he should at least make the semis, and Monfils is a player he’s beaten previously, so though unlikely don’t count the veteran with the one-handed backhand out of things.
Semis: Federer d. Berdych Nishikori d. Monfils
Berdych has been entirely impotent in their two matches this season, losing by a combined game score of 24-10, given his ranking you can’t count him out, but if Federer makes it this far he should reach the final.
Nishikori beat Monfils last year in three sets at this venue, and it has some great potential in terms of an exciting matchup, I could see Gael winning this but I feel Kei will be too strong for him and thus I have a Federer vs. Nishikori #1 vs #2 seed final picked out.
Final: Federer d. Nishikori
Federer beat Nishikori in Halle last year and he has won their last two meetings, after dropping the two before that (3-2 overall h2h), it’s a tough matchup to predict, but Federer loves Halle and seems to just about own the tournament, thus I have to pick him to win it, without reason not to do so.
2015 ATP Draw Challenge Week 18 (Nice and Geneva) Staff, Tennis Atlantic
The ATP Tour makes pit stops on clay in France and Switzerland with a pair of 250s before Roland Garros, and here are our expert picks.
Open de Nice Cote d’Azur Predictions
Steen Kirby’s picks
Round 2 matches: Simon vs, Kokkinakis, Coric vs. Tomic, Mayer vs. Pouille, Bemelmans vs. Monaco, Kyrgios vs. Thiem, Dolgopolov vs. Gulbis, Sock vs. Carreno Busta, Johnson vs. Isner
Quarterfinals: Simon vs. Coric, Pouille vs. Monaco, Thiem vs. Dolgopolov, Sock vs. Isner Semifinals: Coric vs. Monaco, Thiem vs. Isner Final: Monaco vs. Isner Champion: Isner
Niall Clarke’s picks
Round 2 matches: Simon vs, Kokkinakis, Coric vs. Tomic, Mayer vs. Pouille, Querrey vs. Paire, Kukushkin vs. Estrella, Dolgopolov vs. Gulbis, Sock vs. Carreno Busta, Johnson vs. Isner Quarterfinals: Simon vs. Coric, Mayer vs. Paire, Estrela vs. Dolgopolov, Sock vs. Isner Semifinals: Simon vs. Paire, Dolgopolov vs. Isner Final: Simon vs. Isner Champion: Isner
Chris de Waard’s picks
Round 2 matches: Simon vs, Kokkinakis, Coric vs. Tomic, Mayer vs. Pouille, Querrey vs. Paire, Kyrgios vs. Thiem, Dolgopolov vs. Gulbis, Sock vs. Carreno Busta, Johnson vs. Isner Quarterfinals: Simon vs. Coric, Pouille vs. Paire, Kyrgios vs. Dolgopolov, Sock vs. Isner Semifinals: Coric vs. Paire, Dolgopolov vs. Sock Final: Coric vs. Dolgopolov Champion: Dolgopolov
Opinions are very mixed on this tournament, though John Isner is presumed to do well. Benoit Paire already lost to Juan Monaco, who could have a good week, and Borna Coric and Gilles Simon should also challenge if healthy.
Round 2 matches: Wawrinka vs. Rosol, Gabashvili vs. Haider-Maurer, Andujar vs. Berlocq, Dzumhur vs. Sousa, Bellucci vs. Tipsarevic, Ramos vs. Becker, Struff vs. Giraldo, Rublev vs. Cilic Quarterfinals: Wawrinka vs. Haider-Maurer, Andujar vs. Sousa, Bellucci vs. Ramos, Giraldo vs. Cilic Semifinals: Wawrinka vs. Andujar, Bellucci vs. Cilic Final: Wawrinka vs. Bellucci Champion: Wawrinka
Niall Clarke’s picks
Round 2 matches: Wawrinka vs. Lu, Delbonis vs. Haider-Maurer, Andujar vs. Berlocq, Dzumhur vs. Sousa, Bellucci vs. Tipsarevic, Ramos vs. Becker, Youzhny vs. Giraldo, Rublev vs. Cilic Quarterfinals: Wawrinka vs. Haider-Maurer, Andujar vs. Berlocq, Bellucci vs. Ramos, Giraldo vs. Cilic Semifinals: Wawrinka vs. Berlocq, Bellucci vs. Giraldo Final: Berlocq vs. Bellucci Champion: Bellucci
Jeff McMillan’s picks
Round 2 matches: Wawrinka vs. Rosol, Gabashvili vs. Haider-Maurer, Andujar vs. Berlocq, Dzumhur vs. Sousa, Bellucci vs. Tipsarevic, Ramos vs. Becker, Youzhny vs Giraldo, Rublev vs. Cilic Quarterfinals: Wawrinka vs. Gabashvili, Andujar vs. Sousa, Bellucci vs. Ramos, Giraldo vs. Cilic Semifinals: Wawrinka vs. Andujar, Bellucci vs. Giraldo Final: Andujar vs. Giraldo Champion: Giraldo
Chris de Waard’s picks
Round 2 matches: Wawrinka vs. Rosol, Delbonis vs. Haider-Maurer, Andujar vs. Berlocq, Dzumhur vs. Sousa, Bellucci vs. Tipsarevic, Ramos vs. Becker, Struff vs. Berankis, Rublev vs. Cilic Quarterfinals: Wawrinka vs. Haider-Maurer, Andujar vs. Sousa, Tipsarevic vs. Ramos, Struff vs. Cilic Semifinals: Haider-Maurer vs. Andujar, Tipsarevic vs. Cilic Final: Haider-Maurer vs. Cilic Champion: Cilic
Surprisingly, four different champions were picked this week by our analysts, and the top seed Stan Wawrinka was only picked by Steen. It really seems to be a toss-up in Switzerland this week as to who will claim the inaugural title at this tournament.
Week 17 Standings
Rome 1: Steen (270 points) (+1000 overall)
2: Chris (269 points) (+600 overall)
3: Niall (262 points) (+360 overall)
4: Joe (247 points) (+360 overall)
5: Jeff (244) (+180 overall)
In our narrowest margin of the season, Steen edged Chris by just a single point, and everyone did well this week given Djokovic was a consensus pick for champion, and took the title.
2015 ATP Madrid Preview, Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Tennis Atlantic’s Niall Clarke, and Adam Addicott will both be in Madrid this week as credentialed members of the press, and they will be providing us with fantastic onsite coverage of the second clay court Masters event of the season, this one of course at the Magic Box in Madrid. As an appetizer for that, here is a preview, and some predictions for the men’s draw.
2015 ATP Madrid Open Preview
Mutua Madrid Open ATP World Tour Masters 1000* Madrid, Spain May 3-May 10, 2015 Prize Money: €4,185,405
*denotes joint ATP/WTA event
Top 8 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Roger Federer (2)
2: Andy Murray (3)
3: Rafael Nadal (4)
4: Kei Nishikori (5)
5: Milos Raonic (6)
6: Tomas Berdych (7)
7: David Ferrer (8)
8: Stan Wawrinka (9)
Novak Djokovic is the notable absence here, as the world number 1 cited fatigue in skipping Madrid, and he’s never liked playing at the venue anyway. In addition, Gilles Simon, Tommy Robredo and Andreas Seppi are the only other notables missing from the draw.
First round matchups to watch:
Nick Kyrgios vs. (Q)Daniel Gimeno-Traver
Both players are in great form going into this match, Kyrgios raced to the Estoril final in a surprise, though he lost rather routinely to Richard Gasquet, and DGT was a finalist in Casablanca, a semifinalist in Bucharest, and most recently a quarterfinalist in Istanbul before qualifying for Madrid with a pair of routine wins. They have never met before, and DGT has more experience on clay, while Kyrgios has more talent, and both should be about equally fatigued. I have Kyrgios winning, but it should be close, and it’s an interesting match.
Sock and Andujar have a split hard court h2h, while Andujar won a round in Munich, only to retire in his next match (previous to that the Spaniard reached the 500 series final in Barcelona on home soil with a shock run). Sock is playing his first tournament since taking the title on har-tru clay in Houston. The outcome of this match likely hinges on Andujar’s health, but it still presents a good opportunity for Sock to beat a solid clay court opponent, who is in some level of good form. If Andujar is healthy, he’s the favorite given his experience on the surface, but Sock has plenty of potential and he could well get this win, as it’s always notable when an American can win a match on European clay.
Fabio Fognini vs. Santiago Giraldo
This time last year, Giraldo was on-fire but he’s struggling now, and he will face off with the unpredictable Fognini who crashed out in the quarterfinals of Munich last week. Giraldo beat Fognini in Sao Paulo this year, and that evened their clay court h2h 3-3. Giraldo likewise won a round in Istanbul and then lost in an upset, and over their past two tournaments Giraldo is 2-2 and Fognini is 3-2, thus everything on paper makes this seem like an open match. It’s a hard prediction to make, but when Fognini isn’t facing Nadal (who he has beaten twice this year), I don’t trust him, and thus I have Giraldo winning.
Fernando Verdasco vs. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez
Verdasco is 3-0 at the ATP level on clay against GGL, but he’s lost two straight matches on clay, while GGL won Bucharest, and then comes off a semifinal result in Estoril. Over the past two weeks, Garcia-Lopez has beaten notable names Gael Monfils, Kevin Anderson and Borna Coric, however he may be fatigued from playing so many matches. Both are home players so they should feel comfortable with the home cooking in Madrid, and it’s hard to predict, but you have to go with Garcia-Lopez’s form at the moment and I have him advancing in the battle of talented shotmakers.
(9)Marin Cilic vs. Jiri Vesely
The Croat Cilic has never faced the Czech Vesely, and it’s an interesting matchup, as both are lanky hitters with a good amount of power but questionable movement. Cilic reached the quarterfinals in Monte Carlo with a pair of wins, but cooled off and was upset in Barcelona, while Vesely has been in good form on clay, reaching the final in Bucharest, and also a semi in Casablanca already this clay court season. He hasn’t beaten any top names on the surface this year, and he struggled in Munich, but I’d still give him an outside shot to upset Cilic if the Croat continues to be rusty coming off of injury. Cilic is the favorite, but watch out for Jiri here.
Juan Monaco vs. (WC)Nicolas Almagro
Monaco beat Almagro in a high quality contest in Buenos Aires this year, but he’s just 2-5 overall on ATP clay against the Spaniard, who will be playing on home soil of course. Monaco is 2-2 on European clay in his past four matches, while Almagro reached the quarters in both Casablanca and Estoril. Almagro has not been quite up to par with his former self, but neither has Monaco, as both were formerly reliable top 20 players who maximized their games, now with their current versions it’s a 50/50 matchup, and I’m going with Monaco as I felt Almagro did not play that well in Estoril.
3 time Madrid champion Roger Federer, who won the Istanbul title, will open with either Kyrgios or DGT and NK could catch Federer on the downswing and pull off a huge upset, though he may be too fatigued from Estoril. Federer has struggled in Istanbul, dropping a pair of sets to much lower ranked players, and those are worrying signs for the Swiss champion. That said, given this is clay, I don’t have the confidence to pick Kyrgios, and he could even lose to DGT as mentioned. Federer beat DGT in three sets in Istanbul.
Look for Federer/Kyrgios to advance to the quarters over John Isner most likely, as the American has a weak draw of Adrian Mannarino, and a qualifier Thomaz Bellucci/Jeremy Chardy. Chardy is struggling, and the qualifier Bellucci may have a shot here as well. Isner is actually 0-2 against Chardy, and they have never met on clay. Isner won a pair of matches in Monte Carlo to reach that same R16 stage though. Bellucci has beaten Isner before on clay, and he comes off quarterfinals in Istanbul.
Tomas Berdych has been on fire this year, the Monte Carlo finalist (most recently), is most likely to face Richard Gasquet, who he is just 1-2 against on clay in his opening match. Gasquet is a current finalist in Estoril, and he’s playing well, though his back has been giving him problems. Presuming he stays in the draw, Gasquet will need to defeat non-clay courter Ivo Karlovic to reach the second round. Given how well he’s played all season, Berdych should be safe to reach round 3, where he will face either Andujar/Sock or Lukas Rosol/Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The Munich and Bucharest quarterfinalist Rosol has played decently well as of late, while Tsonga has lost two straight. He still should win the mathc against Rosol as he beat him last year on clay, and I’ve picked him to do so, before falling to Sock in an upset, as I feel Sock is playing well enough right now to pull off a pair of upsets, before falling to Berdych in round 3. No matter, a Federer vs. Berdych quarterfinal is the most likely outcome of this interesting section of the draw.
Four time and defending champion Rafael Nadal has been struggling this season, but he still should be safe against Steve Johnson/qualifier Alejandro Gonzalez in his opening match. In the third round, his opponent is uncertain, the seed Kevin Anderson lost early in Estoril and is not a clay court player, later falling to Simone Bolelli in Sunday action. Bolelli is an unpredictable player who is decently good on clay (a quarterfinalist in Bucharest) just below Anderson in the draw. Also here is Bernard Tomic who has lost two straight on clay, but has the talent to excel in theory. I look for Tomic to beat a qualifier, and then Bolelli to beat him. Nadal should then beat Bolelli, as he has done four times previously.
8 seed Stan Wawrinka, a former finalist here, is struggling mightily and appears dazed and confused on tour right now, still Jerzy Janowicz is the type of opponent he’d like to start with, as he’s a high risk power player, not a reliably smooth ball striker, and thus should spew enough errors to give Wawrinka a chance to get his footing in the match. Janowicz will need to defeat lucky loser Joao Sousa and end a two match losing streak on clay to get the Wawrinka matchup. Wawrinka is just 3-4 since winning Rotterdam, but he’s beaten JJ on clay before and more likely I see Wawrinka going out to either Grigor Dimitrov, who beat him in Monte Carlo, or the Fognini/Giraldo winner in round 3.
Dimitrov is an interesting case, he will open with Donald Young, who is poor on clay, and he should be favored against either Fognini or Giraldo. He beat Fogna in Monte Carlo, and he’s simply better than Giraldo, that said, he lost in the semis of Istanbul in an upset, and was poor in that match, so his form is a question mark. That said, given the h2h, Dimitrov should be motivated at the Masters level to also beat Wawrinka and setup a quarterfinal against Nadal.
Andy Murray, in the hunt for his first ever clay court title in Munich still, where he is a finalist, could very well face his opponent in that Munich final, Philipp Kohlschreiber in a rematch, presuming Kohli stays in th draw coming off a busy week of long matches in Munich, and beats qualifier Alejandro Falla In that rematch, I have Murray winning, given fitness, and the fact I have him winning in Munich too. Murray could be posed with trouble in the third round as Gael Monfils lurks. Monfils pulled out of Munich, citing a knee injury, but he’s been playing well when healthy and will open with the struggling Viktor Troicki before facing Martin Klizan or Marcel Granollers. Klizan is also in good form, as the Slovak reached the semis in Barcelona, and won Casablanca (Monfils reached the semis in both Monte Carlo and Bucharest). With both players coming off a break, I’m favoring Klizan to advance, but that match could very well go either way with such unpredictable players, and I’d favor Klizan or Monfils over Murray in round 3. Murray is 2-1 on clay against Monfils but they have always battled on the surface, and Murray played a lot of tennis in Munich. Klizan and Murray have never played, but I favor the clay court form of the big hitter. Klizan is the quarterfinalist in my draw.
5 seed Milos Raonic will have a tough match right away and is in danger of exiting the tournament at the hands of the Almagro/Monaco winner. Monaco has beaten Raonic on clay (and is 2-0 in the overall h2h), while Raonic has beaten Almagro on clay, and is 2-0 against him. Raonic reached the quarterfinals in Monte Carlo before retiring in that match, and he’s deceptively a quality player on clay, that said, the retirement is a question mark, and I’m going with an upset with Monaco reaching the third round over Raonic. Raonic/Monaco/Almagro would all have the edge to reach the quarters, the seed Feliciano Lopez is struggling mightily on clay, as he’s suffered early exits as of late, though his first round opponent Benjamin Becker is not a clay courter either. Leo Mayer could be the round 2 opponent of Lopez/Becker, but he’s been pedestrian this season, and has lost two straight on clay after a great run on the surface last year. Gilles Muller reached the quarters of Estoril, winning two matches on clay for the time in multiple seasons, and Muller/Mayer is a harder match to pick than one would think. Still I have Mayer reaching the third round in a very weak section, and then falling to his countryman Monaco.
Defending finalist Kei Nishikori will face David Goffin or Ernests Gulbis in his opening match. Gulbis has lost four straight matches and has been in free fall this season, while Goffin reached the quarters in Munich but has been pedestrian as well as of late. Nishikori, the Barcelona champion, should frankly demolish either player (most likely Goffin), and he dismantled Goffin in Miami 6-1 6-2 not too long ago. Nishikori will also be a strong favorite over most likely Roberto Bautista Agut in round 3. RBA has a weak draw of Marius Copil, a wild card, and Sam Querrey/qualifier Thanasi Kokkinakis. Nishikori won a 3 setter against RBA in Barcelona and RBA comes off the semis in Munich. Nishikori, the more complete player, is likely to face David Ferrer in the quarters.
Ferrer, who has only reached the semis in Madrid (twice), opens with either qualifier Albert Ramos or current Istanbul finalist Pablo Cuevas, Cuevas is in great form but could be tired, while Ramos has been unpredictable. Ferrer is 2-0 against Cuevas and he was a semifinalist in Madrid, after previously reaching the quarters in Monte Carlo. Ferrer could have a tougher matchup against either Verdasco/Garcia-Lopez or Cilic/Vesely, in round 3. GGL, presuming he beat Verdasco, just beat Vesely in Bucharest, and he’s 1-1 against Cilic. Given current form, I’m going with Garcia-Lopez into the third round before falling to Ferrer, who has beaten him three times previously on clay.
Dark Horses: Nick Kyrgios, Fabio Fognini, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, Martin Klizan
Jack Sock should do well in the top half, but Kyrgios has the most upside potential, if he does play his best, he could shock Federer, and run all the way to at least the quarterfinals, on the heels of his run to the final (and perhaps a title) in Estoril. Clay is not his best surface, but the Aussie young gun is on the rise, and there is little doubt he has top 10 ability, and will eventually get there, perhaps sooner rather than later, the Madrid draw gives him a chance to notch another remarkable result for his age.
Fognini is incredibly unpredictable, and likely loses in round 1 to Giraldo, but he still has great upside potential. If he catches fire, he could beat Giraldo, upset Dimitrov and then defeat likely Wawrinka to setup another rematch with Nadal, who he has beaten twice this year (most recently in Barcelona). It’s not likely any of that happens, but he has the clay court ability if he can keep his head on straight and put in the effort to get it done.
Garcia-Lopez may be fatigued but he’s been in great form on clay as of late, and if he beats Verdasco and Cilic/Vesely, he could also upset Ferrer and reach the quarters, on home soil, anything is possible if he finds his inspiration and is fit enough to get it done.
Klizan will have tough tests in Monfils, and likely Murray in order, but if he gets past that murderers row, the draw opens up with a winnable quarterfinal against Monaco/Almagro/Raonic waiting in the wings, and a chance to reach his first ever Masters semifinal. He could even reach the final, though Nishikori/Ferrer/other would of course be the favorite.
Federer d. Berdych
Nadal d. Dimitrov
Klizan d. Monaco
Nishikori d. Ferrer
Federer has never lost to Berdych on clay, thus even though he’s playing so well this season, I don’t feel like he’ll get over the hump. Nadal is 5-0 against Dimitrov, so again I feel like he gets lucky and reaches the semis, Klizan just beat Monaco in sets in Barcelona, and Nishikori beat Ferrer in their only meeting on clay here in Madrid last year.
Federer d. Nadal
Nishikori d. Klizan
Nadal should have the edge, but I feel Federer is an actual superior player right now, and he’ll expose and take advantage of a weak Nadal, Nishikori should beat Klizan again or any other player to each the final.
Nishikori d. Federer
Nishikori won the only clay court h2h meeting against Federer, and I feel no matter who his opponent it is, be it Federer, Nadal, Berdych or another player, that he will win this title. He was solid in Barcelona, and he would have won last year if he hadn’t injured himself. Clearly it’s a venue he enjoys and he’s rising overall, so a maiden Masters 100 title would be well deserved.
Federer, Dimitrov, Schwartzman, and Cuevas reach Istanbul Open 2015 semifinals Ahmet Fevzi Guclu for Tennis Atlantic
Federer won a thriller (photo credit: Ahmet Fevzi Guclu)
It was sunny day at the Istanbul Open today. Due to May day demonstrations against the government, police bottlenecked public transportation, which resulted in difficulties for fans trying to reach the venue, Still, that didn’t prevent thousands of them thronging to see Federer, and Dimitrov among the big names in action.
The day started with impressive youngster Diego Schwartzman facing 4th seed Santiago Giraldo. The Colombian stormed past the first set in 20 min, and stunned both Schwartzman and the crowd. The second set, again saw a break by Giraldo in the very first game, as he capitalized to make it 2-0. Suddenly, Schwartzman raised his level, and began to play much more aggressive with the perfect movement. The Argentine won six games in a row, and made it to final set. For a third consecutive time, Giraldo broke in the first game of the set, but got broken thanks to his silly mistake, and a good fight by Schwartzman. Giraldo was serving abysmally at this point, and the first hold came for 2-2. Schwartzman saved three break points with wonderful shotmaking and point constructing as we are used to seeing from him this week. Giraldo threw his racket at this point, and started whine about crowd, resulting in him getting booed for around 2 minutes. The set was basically decided at this point, and Giraldo lost five straight games to drop the match. Giraldo was the favorite but he missed his chances, and DSS reached his first ever ATP semifinal.
Schwartzman d. Giraldo 0-6 6-2 6-2
Schwartzman reached his first ATP semi (photo credit: Ahmet Fevzi Guclu)
The packed stadium was ready for Roger Federer meeting No: 62 Daniel Gimeno-Traver for the second QF. Federer after winning his service game, broke the Spaniard only to get broken back in following game. Then, an even set started, both players cruised in their service games with the help of their opponent putting up a multitude of unforced errors. Federer couldn’t get the break in the 4-3* game where he missed three break point chances. The set was decided by TB, which was entertaining. Federer finished it winning with beautiful points.
Federer won a tough first set (photo credit; Ahmet Fevzi Guclu)
DGT was the better player in the second, with deep shots often on his forehand side, and wonderfully executed drop shots, troubling Federer unexpectedly. Federer made many mistakes when returning, also his BH didn’t work as he wished. The Spaniard despite losing the break advantage when serving for *5-3, still won the set in the TB. The Third set started tense, Federer had to save four break points in the opener with a lot of “Komm Jetz” from the world No:2, which was crucially important for both side. After Fed’s surviving, the match balanced out yet again into a classical clay court battle. Eventually, Federer broke DGT in the 4-3* game with great crowd support on his back, and served out without any incident. Swiss was the second semifinalist of the day, after the long struggling match lasted 2 hours and 27 minutes.
Federer d. Gimeno-Traver 7-6(3) 6-7(5) 6-3
During the first match of the night session, there were around 300 Bulgarian fans with their flag in the stands, to support their countryman Grigor Dimitrov for his match against Croatian veteran Ivan Dodig. The world No:11 was far superior as expected, Dodig played some good points here and there, but his level was never catching Dimitrov’s high quality. The Bulgarian played very aggressive, and made Dodig run a lot, benefiting from the No:107’s poor movement. Despite the unnecessary amount of UE’s from Dimitrov, his performance was enough to routine Dodig without much trouble. Dimitrov seemed very motivated to reach the SF at the Istanbul Open, in front of the fans from his homeland.
Dimitrov d. Dodig 6-4 6-3
Bulgarian fans were excited to see Grisha (photo credit: Ahmet Fevzi Guclu)
In the final match of the night session, which was another late nighter, Thomaz Bellucci couldn’t continue his fairytale run against Pablo Cuevas, and let his opponent revenge the loss in Miami.The Brazilian played a high-risk match as his forehand was again very powerful, same as his shotmaking capability, but the Uruguayan grinded through the many games, while getting almost every ball back, especially after he was down 3-1 in the first. Cuevas played solid, and broke again the Brazilian in the last game, to win the set 7-5. In the second, Bellucci broke himself twice, and lost the match, despite the fact that he was the one who offered enjoyable tennis most of the time. Cuevas didn’t make many unforced errors, started to serve wonderful after the middle of the second set, and never gave a chance to lefty again. Cuevas was the last semi-finalist of the day and received standing ovation from around 100 people left in the stadium.
Cuevas d. Bellucci 7-5 6-3
Cuevas was less exciting but more effective (photo credit: Ahmet Fevzi Guclu)
Tomorrow, the semi finals day, the first match starts at 3:30 pm local time, where Federer will be the obvious favourite against Schwartzman, who he has beaten this season. Then Dimitrov faces Cuevas, a match match which is expected to be a close battle with Dimitrov the favorite.
In Mens doubles, Lindstedt/Melzer beat Daniell/Grialdo 6-2 6-1, to reach the final, with Guccione/Sa and Albot/Lajovic playing the other doubles semi on Saturday.
Federer, Gimeno-Traver setup quarterfinal clash at 2015 Istanbul Open Wednesday Ahmet Fevzi Guclu for Tennis Atlantic
Federer captivated crowds in his Wednesday victory (photo credit: Ahmet Fevzi Guclu)
Day 3 at the Istanbul open, saw only four men’s singles matches.
Spaniard Daniel Gimeno-Traver beat 6th seed Kukushkin, in straight sets, and made the QF of ATP 250 tournament three times in a row. The Kazakh was helpless and Gimeno-Traver was effective with his forehand.
Gimeno-Traver d. Kukushkin 6-3 6-3
Second match on the Center Court, was a beatdown, between the undersized Argentine Diego Schwartzman and veteran Jurgen Melzer. It was one of the best matches I have seen Schwartzman play, great shot-making with also enormous foot work. Melzer, on the other hand, was poor throughout the match. He earned a couple of break point chances early in the second, but failed to take it, thanks to aggressive plays from the 8th seed on those points. 52 min was enough for Schartzman for the in the end.
Schwartzman d. Melzer 6-0 6-2
In the first match of the night session, 4th seed Santiago Giraldo prevailed over Andrey Rublev in a very tight 3 setter. In the first set, after two breaks from the each, The Colombian broke again in a long game at 2-2, which decided the set. Rublev, after losing the first set, went to bathroom break, and came back calmly. The world No: 292, cruised in the second, breaking the 4th seed two times, and won the set pretty comfortably. This effort from the Russian teenager, set the first ever 3 setter at the Istanbul Open main draw. In the third set both players got chances for early breaks with, No further break point chances occurred until the 6th game of the set, where Rublev made some unforced errors, and Giraldo won the game with his experience. Then the Colombian served out and won the third set, while Rublev whined a lot to himself, and threw his racquet Still, it was a good showing from the youngster. Crowd adored the effort that the young gun put in.
Giraldo d. Rublev 6-4 1-6 6-3
The scene for Giraldo-Rublev (photo credit: Ahmet Fevzi Guclu)
In the last match of the night session, 1st seed Roger Federer routined Jarkko Nieminen,with the mostly packed stadium cheering him on. The Swiss maestro started his first ever match in Turkey with a break, while the Finnish played poorly in the first, Federer was good enough to win the set 6-2 in a very shot time. The second was a bit tricky, with both players raising their level. Nieminen fought well with his limited game, Federer looked good on forehand, and also served worked great. It was an even set, the Finnish escaping his every service game, but he couldn’t make it to tiebreak, where he may have had a chance to force a third, and lost the 5-5 game despite having a game point.
Federer served out comfortably afterwards, and made it to QF at the Istanbul Open. The crowd went crazy with the joy of seeing him play for the first time. Federer said, it was slow and humid out there, as expected for night clay match, regarding the surface at the press conference.
Wednesday Doubles Scores:
Bury/Gabashvili d. Martin/Raja 6-2 6-3
Golubev/Istomin d. Kukushkin/Nedovyesov 6-3 6-4
Guccione/Sa d. Altuna/Basilashvili 6-3 6-2
Albot/Lajovic d. Marach/Oswald 6-7(9) 6-2 10-8
2015 ATP Istanbul Preview Steen Kirby and Ahmet Fevzi Guclu, Tennis Atlantic
Tennis Atlantic is pleased to have credentialed media coverage of the inaugural ATP Istanbul tournament, held in the suburbs of diverse, and modern city of Istanbul, Turkey. For years, Turkey has done the tennis world a service by having a variety of futures and challenger tour events, and now they have the ATP event they deserve, and this one of course is on clay, part of the European spring clay court season. We will have daily reports and interviews from the tournament all week long.
2015 ATP Istanbul Preview
TEB BNP Paribas Open
ATP World Tour 250
April 27-May 3, 2015
Prize Money: € 439,405
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Roger Federer (2)
2: Grigor Dimitrov (11)
3: Pablo Cuevas (23)
4: Santiago Giraldo (31)
Istanbul has two top players, and the seed cutoff is 61, not bad for a maiden ATP event.
Ilhan, the top Turkish ATP player, who reached a career high ranking this year inside the top 80, has a chance to score a win against Nieminen, an accomplished but struggling veteran at the moment. Ilhan reached a clay court final at a challenger in Turkey, and also won a round in Barcelona before losing to Feliciano Lopez in a third set tiebreak. He has a positive record on clay at a lower level than ATP, and also reached the quarters in Dubai this year on hard court. Nieminen has lost two straight, and has yet to win consecutive matches since the AO. Given his experience, Nieminen is a slight favorite, but he’s not at his best on clay, and Ilhan should have home support that should be a boost to him.
Damir Dzumhur vs. (WC)Andrey Rublev
A battle of young guns, the 22 year old Dzumhur was a semifinalist in Casablanca, and also has a challenger title on clay this year. Rublev shocked Fernando Verdasco as a qualifier in Barcelona and is in good form, he also pushed Fabio Fognini to 3 sets in the next round. This year, the 17 year old already has 3 ATP main draw wins, and he’s rising up the ranks. Dzumhur has more experience, but Rublev has a higher ceiling, and I see him advancing from this matchup.
AHM just beat Dodig in 3 sets in Bucharest (6-4 in the third), and they will get a rematch a few days later. As expected, their matchup in Bucharest was quite the battle, and both guys should be itching to go at it again. AHM has seen some of the best results of his career this season, while Dodig continues to struggle, though he’s foguth hard in most of his matches this season. AHM should be the fave but I again expect it to be close.
Roger Federer is a strong favorite here, even though he lost in Monte Carlo to Monfils, and he will open with the Ilhan/Nieminen winner. If Ilhan wins, our on-site reporter Ahmet Fevzi Guclu expects the crowd to be split between the home favorite Turk and the fan favorite Federer, that said, Federer should ease into the quarters, and also dispatch most likely Daniel Gimeno-Traver to reach the semis.
DGT opens with 19 year old Turkish wild card Cem Ilkel, and similar to the journeyman Haider-Maurer, he’s had a surprise career year, late in his career. He reached the final in Casablanca, and the semis in Bucharest, and has wins over Jiri Vesely, Viktor Troicki, and Gilles Simon in the past few weeks. After Ilkel, his opponent will be either Mikhail Kukushkin, or a qualifier, and Thanasi Kokkinakis is lurking in the qualifying draw. Kukushkin is just 2-3 in his last five matches on clay, so he’s vulnerable to a defeat, DGT has won their last two meetings on clay, and hence he’s the favorite for the quarters, in this weak section.
4 seed Santiago Giraldo will be vulnerable to defeat against the Dzumhur/Rublev winner, after a career year last year, he’s been average at best this season, even on clay. I still have him going through in my own bracket, but that round 2 match should be competitive. 8 seed Diego Schwartzman will open with a qualifier, and then the Steve Darcis/Jurgen Melzer winner. Neither Melzer nor Darcis are in good form, Darcis may have the slightest of edges though as Melzer has struggled for quite a while. Schwartzman qualified in Monte Carlo but has been forgettable on clay this year, with just 1 main draw win on the surface (1-6), again he may be vulnerable to being upset by a qualifier. Giraldo may well make the semis if he can survive his round 2 match, simply because the section below is so unreliable, thus I have him in the semis over Darcis.
2 seed Grigor Dimitrov has not had a good season in 2015, but he still should be good enough to beat Nikoloz Basilashvili or Andrey Golubev in his opening match. Golubev is on a three match losing streak, and Basilashvili, who won his first ATP match earlier this year, has lost two straight, he’s primarily a challenger player though he’s been rising onto the fringe of the ATP level. Golubev is a slight fave to win that match, but should have little chance against Dimitrov. Look for Andreas Haider-Maurer to reach the quarters, with wins over Dodig and Dusan Lajovic/qualifier. Lajovic is 5-5 on clay this season, but he’s just 1-2 in his last three matches on the surface. AHM and Dimitrov have never played before, but the Monte Carlo quarterfinalist Dimitrov should advance to the semis given the talent discrepancy.
Pablo Cuevas will face Andrey Kuznetsov or a qualifier in round 2, he lost in round 2 of Barcelona, as did Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov, who qualified in Monte Carlo as well, should beat the qualifier, but Cuevas will be the favorite in their first head-to-head meaning, again given the difference in ranking and ability. In the quarters, Cuevas could face a difficult opponent, either Thomaz Bellucci or Benoit Paire. Bellucci will open with Mikhail Youzhny, who won a match in Bucharest before falling in round 2. Bellucci has won their last two meetings, and given how poor Youzhny has been this season, I expect him to do so for a third consecutive time. The Brazilian also won a round in Barcelona. Benoit Paire, who qualified in Monte Carlo, won a round, and then won two matches in Barcelona as well, will open against the struggling Denis Istomin. Bellucci and Paire have never met, but given current form, I have Paire winning to reach the quarters, and then upsetting Cuevas to reach the semis. They have never met before.
Dark Horse: Benoit Paire
Paire has always had the talent, and he’s reached two previous ATP finals (former top 30), however his mental side has been what is unreliable, along with a poor forehand. He’s rounding back into form this year and is nearly back in the top 70, with recent improvement in results, this 250 level event is where he can finally shine and announce his return to the main tour spotlight. Istomin, Bellucci, and Cuevas are all beatable in order, and Dimitrov is a weaker seed than Federer, in the bottom half. That would be a monumental upset ranking wise, but Paire has beaten Dimitrov twice before (2-1 h2h), giving him a dark horse shot at an ATP final.
Semis: Federer d. Giraldo
Dimitrov d. Paire
Federer is 2-0 against Giraldo, though they have never met on clay, and as mentioned, Dimitrov has a negative h2h against Paire, but still has to be the favorite to prevail, as he’s developed better in the past couple of years.
Final: Federer d. Dimitrov
Fed routined Dimitrov in Brisbane this year, and is 3-0 against him, Dimitrov has never taken a set against a more accomplished player of a similar style, and thus he should take this 250 title.
ATP Houston Thursday, Sock upsets a struggling Bautista Agut, Giraldo outlasts Tipsarevic Jeff McMillan, Tennis Atlantic
Photo Credit: Jeff McMillan
Another warm day in Houston at the US Men’s Clay Court Championships began with an intriguing matchup between Jack Sock and the #2 seed Roberto Bautista-Agut. Sock had won the previous meeting between these two players just a few weeks ago in Indian Wells and he was looking to make it two straight vs the top 15 player but this time it would have to be on the Spaniard’s favorite surface.
His quest to do just that began positively with a break in the 3rd game of the match to go up 2-1. Sock kept his advantage all through the 1st set despite Bautista-Agut’s chances. The Spaniard was able to get into Sock’s service games, often getting to 0-30, 15-30, deuce and even had a few break points here and there but was unable to ever even the match. RBA seemed to be a tad timid on his footwork and was arriving to balls late, causing them to go into the net or go long. Killing his usual strength of consistency. Sock on the other hand was hitting his forehand hard and reliably which contributed to RBA’s lateness of getting to the shots. Sock served out the first set in style with some big serves and a rocket forehand winner to take it 6-4.
At the start of the 2nd set Sock hit a rough patch. He double faulted a couple times (9 times in total in the match, he would later say that the wind was an issue all match long) and had a very easy putaway forehand go into the net. Despite these hiccups he did not concede serve and that ended up being the key to the match, holding despite not serving or playing his very best at the beginning of the 2nd set. At 2-2 in the 2nd set there was a slight controversy with a ball mark and Bautista-Agut said something across the net to Sock and Sock said something back. Right after that Sock served two huge service winners and let out a loud bellow of “Yeah! Come on!” after each serve right at the direction of Bautista-Agut. This seemed to amp up Sock even more as he quickly got to 3 break points in the very next game on RBA’s serve. He did not convert on any of the 3 but at deuce RBA made a lazy backhand error and threw in a double fault on the 4th break point to give Sock a break, which he would not relinquish.
Determined to punch his way to the quarterfinals. Sock held serve the rest of the match with very little drama until 30-30 5-4 with Sock serving for the match. On that crucial point Sock hit a risky forehand chip and charged the net, the chip barely clipped the line on the sideline and he was able to finish the point off at the net. One more millimeter to the left and Sock would have faced a break point right there, but instead he had a match point, which he converted with a good kick serve. The young American will now go on the quarterfinals where he will face Santiago Giraldo who defeated Janko Tipsarevic.
Speaking of Giraldo vs Tipsarevic, that was the next match on center court. This was a highly anticipated match as everyone was very curious to see how Tipsarevic would fare vs. a top 40 player in Giraldo after his long layoff and how well he would respond after his long match on Tuesday. He answered the early questions very positively looking like he hadn’t missed a beat, playing aggressively and hitting the ball heavily. He broke early and took a 4-2 lead in the set. Giraldo would not back down however, He unleashed two consecutive rocket backhands in the next game, using his trademark easy power to set up a couple of break points of his own. Giraldo converted on the break and evened the set. From this point on in the set it was a very good back and forth battle with both players trading blows until the tiebreak. In the tiebreak a key point was at 2-1 with Giraldo up, a slice took a terrible bounce and Tipsarevic could not hit it back and Giraldo took the 3-1 mini-break lead. From this point on Giraldo played great and did not let Tipsarevic back into the tiebreak and took it 7-2 to the delight of a small section of Colombian tennis fans who screamed out “Santi!!” after every one of his positive points.
Giraldo rallied past Tipsarevic (photo credit: Jeff McMillan)
Early in the 2nd set Giraldo showed visible signs of frustration despite his lead. He sensed an opportunity to put Tipsarevic away early but until that point was not able to completely put the nail in the coffin. Tipsarevic’s level dropped considerably in the 2nd set, whether it was stamina related or not (after the match he would discuss his focus waning in the 2nd set). A weak forehand error into the net followed by a double fault gave Giraldo a break, one that he would not relinquish. Giraldo continued to connect sweetly on the backhand side, sending his laser shots to each corner of the court and Tipsarevic was unable to keep up and unable to make an impact of his own on Giraldo. The match came to its conclusion with a 7-6(2) 6-3 win for Santiago Giraldo. After the match I was able to catch up with Janko Tipsarevic.
Tipsarevic performed well in his comeback tournament (photo credit: Jeff McMillan)
In the first match of the evening session Fernando Verdasco defeated Hyeon Chung 7-6(5) 6-2. This match was my personal favorite of the day. It pitted a 31-year-old veteran vs. an 18 year old up and comer.
Chung and Verdasco thrilled fans with their match (photo credit: Jeff McMillan)
Chung’s game was impressive in person. His anticipation instincts are very apparent when you first watch him. Several times in the match he read Verdasco’s intentions perfectly and thwarted the Spaniard’s attempts at being wily. In the first set Verdasco appeared to have the game plan to make Chung play as he hit several balls back with little pace simply content to keep the rally going, seemingly testing the 18 year old’s ability. Chung was up for the challenge as he bossed several of the rallies, hitting winners down the line from both wings and keeping Verdasco scrambling. Verdasco did win his fair share of long rallies as well to counter Chung but it was very impressive that Chung was able hold his game and be so evenly matched with the Houston defending champion for so long. Chung also showed signs that he truly believed he could win. However late in the first set Verdasco changed tactics slightly, going for more on his shots and using his big forehand. He also started to bomb serves more often, two serves at 137 mph and one at 138 mph. Verdasco won the long titanic first set battle 7-6(5), one of the most enjoyable sets of tennis I have seen in person.
In the 2nd set Verdasco used his new tactics effectively, being more aggressive and keeping Chung more off balance. The Korean’s game dropped slightly as well which allowed Nando to dictate play more and more as the 2nd set went on. One tactic he was able to use effectively was drawing Chung out wide to his backhand side with the crosscourt lefty forehand, Chung had shaky footwork to that side and slipped often, almost guaranteeing the point for Verdasco each time he used that tactic. Verdasco cruised to a 6-2 2nd set which was a mild letdown after the high quality of the first set, but regardless the young Korean can be very proud of his efforts in Houston.
In the nightcap John Isner was stunned by Teymuraz Gabashvilli 6-2 7-6(2) in a result that almost nobody saw coming. This capped what was an amazing day for Gabashvilli as earlier in the day he paired with Berankis in doubles to stun the Bryan brothers. That opens up the draw significantly and it makes the rest of the tournament very very interesting. Huey/Lipsky beat Brunstrom/Young in the other doubles match on the day.
The Bryans were shocked in doubles (photo credit: Jeff McMillan)
2015 ATP Houston and Casablanca Preview/Prediction Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
After a pair of Masters level events, the ATP will return to regularly scheduled programming with a pair of 250s, as the clay court season kicks off with the event in Houston, where we will have onsite midweek coverage from our staff writer Jeff McMillan, and in Casablanca, the lone stop for the ATP World Tour on the African continent.
2015 ATP Houston Preview
Fayez Sarofim & Co. U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship
ATP World Tour 250
Houston, TX, USA
April 6-April 12, 2015
Prize Money: $488,225
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Feliciano Lopez (12)
2: Roberto Bautista Agut (15)
3: Kevin Anderson (16)
4: John Isner (19)
Houston has four top 20 players, and the seed cutoff is the top 45, making it a solid 250 level event, as many players are delaying traveling across the pond and opting to stay in the states for an extra week.
First round matchups to watch:
Steve Johnson vs. Donald Young
Many consider this match to be a battle for the second slot on the US Davis Cup team, as Johnson has steadily been on the rise, and for that matter Young has had a good season himself. Their h2h is split 1-1, but they have never met on clay before. Young earned 3 wins in the two hard court masters events, and only lost to top 5 players Nadal and Murray, while Johnson won two matches in Indian Wells, but was ousted by Mikhail Kukushkin in Miami. On clay, this match is very much a toss-up, and I give the slightest edge to Young, though I would give Stevie J the edge on a hard court right now, Young has played relatively well all season against all but the top tier of players, while Johnson has been a bit more up and down.
Joao Souza vs. Jack Sock
In-form American Jack Sock will have an interesting test with Brazilian dirtballer Joao Souza. He’s higher ranked, and has greater raw talent than Souza, but as with almost every American male tennis player, he’s far more comfortable and better on hard courts and fast surfaces, compared to clay, a surface he only plays minimally on. Since turning pro, Sock is 7-5 on clay on the main tour level, which of course most notably points out he’s only played 12 ATP matches on clay in the past two seasons, for contrast, Souza has already played 8 matches on clay at the ATP level just this year, and if you include the challenger tour his total is 12.
In 2013 he went 35-24 on clay between ATP and challengers, and in 2014 he went 45-24 as the world number 70 is much more comfortable moving on the dirt. Sock is 5-2 since returning from hip surgery as he played quite well in the Masters events but his loss to Dominic Thiem in Miami exposed problems with his game, and given Souza already has an ATP semi and a quarterfinal on clay, I have him pulling off an upset ranking wise.
Feliciano Lopez reached a clay final earlier this year in Quito, but for a Spaniard, he’s never come close to being a clay court master like some of his peers. That said, Feli has cemented himself as a top 15 player these days and his game is overall dangerous with his slice serve and ability to cause his opponents trouble at the net. Lopez was upset in his opening match in Miami, but he didn’t play poorly in that one per say, and he also reached the quarterfinals in Indian Wells. Right off the bat, Lopez is likely to get a rematch of his opponent in the Quito final, Victor Estrella. The speedy Dominican will need to defeat big server Sam Groth, who is playing on his worst surface, in the opening round. The veteran Estrella is an inspiring story, and he outlasted Lopez in 3 sets in that Quito final, but he’s currently riding a three match losing streak, and all of his losses came to players ranked outside the top 40, thus I have Lopez through to the quarters in a match that should be easier than in Quito where history was on the line for Estrella.
Sam Querrey, who has reached a final here before, opens with Marinko Matosevic, a relatively poor clay court player. Matosevic has been awful all year (3-9 with four straight losses), so Querrey, who has continued to struggle with his mental toughness this season, should be safe for round 2 where Young/Johnson will present a challenge. I have the winner of Young/Johnson getting into the quarters from that match, so thus in my own bracket it’s Donald Young to face Lopez in the quarters. Young actually upset Lopez at the French last year (overall the h2h is 3-2 Young), but Feli seems to be the safer pick regardless to reach the semis.
4 seed John Isner comes off playing one of the best tournaments of his life in Miami, very much out of the blue, and the former champion is likely to be a threat in the lone star state. Since Davis Cup play, Isner is 6-2 with his only losses coming to the world number 1 Djokovic, and in Miami he beat top 15 players Dimitrov, Raonic and Nishkori in consecutive matches to reach the semis, a remarkable streak of wins. Isner played one of the best ATP matches of his career against Nishikori, and it seemed the disaster that was Davis Cup lit a fire under him and recommitted him to tennis. Isner should have little trouble with either Tim Smyczek or Temyuraz Gabashvili in round 2 (Gabashvili recently snapped a losing streak, while Smyczek is struggling but seems to play well in Texas), but Fernando Verdasco, the defending champ, and a streakily dangerous player, is going to be a tough opponent in the quarters. Dasco will need to defeat Paolo Lorenzi and an unnamed qualifier to get that far.
Verdasco and Isner have a 1-1 h2h on hard courts, and have never met on clay, Verdasco of course upset Nadal for a huge win in Miami, but then meekly bowed out to Juan Monaco in the next round, and his consistency is all over the place, with that in mind, Isner actually seems like the more reliable pick right now, and thus I have him into the semis, both players have big weapons to bring to the table, as Verdasco has his world class forehand and Isner continues to have one of the best serves in the game, that said I see Isner frustrating Verdasco with said serve, and Verdasco is known to have slip ups on his own serve that Isner can capitalize on.
Should Sock beat Souza, Roberto Bautista Agut will be his opponent, an opponent he just beat in Indian Wells in a three setter. RBA is just 2-3 in his last five and is struggling at the moment, thusly he seems to be the top seed most likely to be upset, by either Sock or Souza. RBA went 12-5 on clay last year at the ATP level, after going 8-7 in 2013, seemingly improving on the surface. With a limited sample to size to gather from, I’m picking Souza in an upset myself and have him into the quarters.
The section above RBA/Souza/Sock is most interesting, the seed is Santiago Giraldo, who has been unreliable this year after a career year in 2014, and the other spots are taken by a pair of unnamed qualifiers, and Janko Tipsarevic, who after making his doubles debut in Miami with Djokovic last week, is now returning to the ATP World Tour on the singles side. Tipsarevic has been out for over a year due to a tumor on his foot that was removed, and though he’s sure to be rusty and has aged, he still has the talent deep down of a top 10 player, as he used to play remarkable tennis against the best players in the world across surfaces. Giraldo, who had his best result of 2015 in Sao Paulo on clay (semifinalist) is the odds on fave to reach the quarters from here, though a qualifier or Tipsarevic could make a run, and in such a wide open section, it’s hard to pick who will reach the semis, but I have Giraldo over Souza myself (Giraldo 3-1 h2h edge, all matches on clay).
Kevin Anderson, another big server in this draw, will open with Federico Delbonis or Ricardas Berankis in his opening match, most likely Delbonis. Anderson is 2-0 against Delbo and beat him on clay in 2012 (along with a close win in Indian Wells a couple of weeks ago). That said, Delbonis is at his best on clay and will have a punchers chance. Delbonis has two clay court quarterfinals already on his resume this year while Anderson has played well this year, but has, as to be expected, never been a top tier clay court player. Similar to the Souza/RBA situation, given the sample size, I’m going with Delbonis in another upset over a seed as the Argentinian will be aiming for his third quarterfinal of the season.
Above Anderson/Delbonis is the section featuring Jeremy Chardy as the seed, and also Lleyton Hewitt, a former champion in Houston, as a wild card. Hewitt continues to struggle in his final season on tour, as the magic, and more seriously the reliability, appears to finally be fading for the former world number 1. Still, he should beat Go Soeda, a hard court player, in the opening round. I see Chardy going out to another unseeded player, Dusan Lajovic. The Serb has two clay court quarterfinals this year on his resume at the ATP level, and though he has lost three straight and retired in Miami, he again, much prefers clay. Chardy has not had a good season as he’s just 2-3 in his last five matches. Though he’s French, Chardy has never been better than a 50/50 proposition on clay. Look for Lajovic to beat Hewitt to reach the quarters and face Delbonis. Lajovic beat Delbonis at the French last year, but Delbonis is 3-1 overall in the h2h (the other three meetings on hard court) and I trust his tennis more at the moment, thus I have Delbonis in the semis.
I have Delbonis reaching the final as an unseeded player this week, and thus he gets the dark horse designation. He played well against Anderson at IW, and if he gets through that Lajovic/Hewitt/Chardy are all beatable, likewise in the semis, any of RBA/Souza/Giraldo/Tipsarevic are beatable. Given this is clay, he’d also have a shot to take the title in any hypothetical final that could be drummed up. The Argentina is unlikely to be a world beater, but at events like this he is perfectly talented enough to do well if he can keep his error count down and stay aggressive.
Isner d. Lopez
Delbonis d. Giraldo
Isner has been so impressive in IW and Miami that I have to pick him to beat Flopez if they meet, he scored a h2h win in their lone match on clay here in 2012 in three sets, and though Lopez has a 3-2 overall h2h lead, the matches have been relatively close. Given form, and the fact Isner plays his best on clay in Houston, this tournament setups up nicely for him.
Delbonis and Giraldo have never played before, Giraldo has tons of talent but something has been off with him this year and his game doesn’t seem reliable enough to reach an ATP final right now.
Isner d. Delbonis
Delbonis will get a test run for facing Isner with a match against Anderson in round 2, and that should help prepare him, should he reach the final and face the American #1, that said, Isner is playing great right now and thus I have him winning this match. Delbonis won a 3 setter against Isner on clay in France in their lone meeting last year but Houston clay is very different from European clay.
2015 ATP Casablanca Preview
Grand Prix Hassan II
ATP World Tour 250
April 6-April 12, 2015
Prize Money: €439,405
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (24)
2: Martin Klizan (41)
3: Jiri Vesely (49)
4: Marcel Granollers (50)
With only 1 top 40 player, Casablanca is almost certain to be one of the weakest ATP tour events this season, which is quite a shame given African, and Arab tennis in general could use a boost.
First round matchups to watch:
(WC)Lamine Ouahab vs. Robin Haase
This is quite an interesting round 1 matchup, Ouahab, who, no offense intended, is known to be one of the most physically out of shape players on tour (career high ranking 114 in 2009), but has plenty of skills with a racquet, will take on Haase who is the favorite. Haase had a terrible start to his season (0-7) but the Dutchman who is relatively adept on clay is 5-2 in his last 7 matches and seems to have turned the corner as he beat Stan Wawrinka in Indian Wells. Ouahab is also in good form, in fact he’s on a 15 match winning streak as he won three consecutive futures titles on clay in Morocco (F1, F2, F3). Though he failed to face any player to the level of Haase, that still bodes well for him, and of course the home fans will be behind the wild card, it’s worth watching no matter what happens, though I have Haase advancing.
(6)Andreas Haider-Maurer vs. Jan-Lennard Struff
Two unpredictable players will meet in this round 1 match, AHM, who lost to Struff on clay last year in Gstaad, has lost three straight but he was a surprise semifinalist on clay in Rio. and it’s by far his best surface. Struff is more versatile but has failed to catch fire at any tournament this season and is looking to break a pedestrian run of results. Both have enough clay court prowess to make this a quality match, and I give AHM a slight edge to advance.
PCB beat Berlocq in Rio this year, but overall the Spanish seed is very much struggling in 2015. He is reeling from four straight losses presently, including 2 on clay. Berlocq reached the semis on clay in Buenos Aires, and has had an up and down season. In theory, this is a great chance for PCB to kickstart his season, but I’m not sure that will happen, and Berlocq has at least even odds to advance into round 2.
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, the defending champion, will face off with the Haase/Ouahab winner. GGL is struggling with just two wins in his six matches, and this presents an opportunity for Haase to reach the quarters, I’m not picking it myself, but Haase vs. GGL strikes me as a 50/50 match. Albert Ramos is the main threat in the quarters, Ramos will need to beat Mikhail Kukushkin in the opening round, and then Daniel Gimeno-Traver/Malek Jaziri. Ramos is 4-3 in his last seven matches and is playing relatively well at the moment, given he’s a clay courter, he should be happy to return to his surface of choice. Kukushkin is inconsistent, thus I have him as unlikely to advance from that one. Jaziri is a local favorite from neighboring Tunisia but he prefers fast surfaces to clay, and the veteran DGT is favored, though he’s not playing that well either.
I have Ramos beating GGL in the quarters. He has a lone clay h2h win and he’s in better form at the moment.
3 seed Jiri Vesely is another player in poor form, but luck has shone on him, as he is likely to face a player in even worse form, Mikhail Youzhny, in his opening match. The declined Youzhny, who is nearing retirement, will face wild card Yassine Idmbarek, who is 28 and has never been ranked in the top 600. Honestly, if Youzhny loses that match, he should be announcing his retirement that very night, because that would be rock bottom. Even with Vesely on a seven match losing streak, I see clay treating him better than Youzhny, the streak has to end at some point, and Youzhny is the type of player to end it against. That said, it’s a great chance for a qualifier or Diego Schwartzman to reach the semifinals under the radar. DSS opens with a qualifier, and then Maximo Gonzalez or a qualifier. Though the young Argentine went just 1-3 on clay during the Golden Swing, I see him having a nice run, pending the qualifier, and reaching said semis, as Vesely is playing so poorly at the moment (Youzhny as well). DSS is a young gun and he’s due for a big result.
Martin Klizan will open with Andrey Kuznetsov or Dustin Brown, Kuznetsov has turned into a disappointment with his career thus far after showing signs of promise in years prior. Look for Klizan to reach the quarters, he’s had an up and down year and has failed to get much of a rhythm going, but even still he should be able to earn a win, he hasn’t lost an opening match a tournament since Sydney at the start of the season, but he’s never won consecutive matches in 2015. The Berlocq/PCB winner will play a big part in what happens with this section, but wild card Nicolas Almagro also lurks. Almagro is by far the most talented non-seeded player in the draw and it’s bad news for Klizan and also PCB/Berlocq he’s buried in this section, after opening with a qualifier. Almagro, a semifinalist in Buenos Aires and a quarterfinalist in Sao Paulo on clay, is 2-0 against Berlocq on clay and he beat Klizan in Barcelona last year on the surface. Thusly, Almagro should be one of the semifinalists this week if he plays up to par.
Marcel Granollers will open with Damir Dzumhur or a qualifier, even though he’s not playing well (5 straight losses), Granollers should still be able to win that and setup a possible meeting with Pablo Andujar, his countryman, in the quarters. Andujar, a two time champ here, opens with veteran journeyman Tobias Kamke of Germany, and then will have to face the Struff/AHM winner. Both of those players are threats, but given his previous Casablanca success Andujar is the favorite. Andujar retired in his last match at a challenger however and he has a six match losing streak ongoing (two of those losses coming on clay), thusly I have Haider-Maurer into the quarters myself, and I also have him defeating Granollers for a spot in the semis.
It’s quite strange to see Almagro as an unseeded wild card at a 250 level event, and I don’t see that situation lasting long. He should be the favorite to take the title this week quite honestly, as he is the most talented player in this field on clay, and the most accomplished, at a minimum he should reach the final out of the bottom section.
Semis: Ramos d. Schwartzman
Almagro d. Haider-Maurer
The two more accomplished players, in better form, should make the final, and Ramos-GGL in the quarters may well be the best match of the tournament.
Verdasco rises to defeat Nadal, Murray, Monfils advance, while Wawrinka is ousted (Miami Open Sunday Recap) Esam Taha for Tennis Atlantic
(Photo Credit: Esam Taha)
Yesterday was a thrilling day at the Miami Open, as once again the ATP side of the action stole the show, with a mix of upsets, and quality performances by some of the top players in the men’s game. The biggest story of course is Fernando Verdasco’s massive upset of #2 seed Rafael Nadal, but Nadal wasn’t the only top player to fall, as Stan Wawrinka suffered another early exit at the hands of Adrian Mannarino. From the first ball struck on the day, to the match point of the final match, Miami brought the spice on Sunday, and here is a review.
Fernando Verdasco d. Rafael Nadal 6-4 2-6 6-3
The Miami crowd was in for a huge upset on Sunday when they took their seats in the main Stadium to watch fan favorite Nadal take on veteran Fernando Verdasco in a battle of Spanish lefties. As subpar as Nadal has been this season, he showed glimpses of his old self in Indian Wells and a good showing in Miami would have a huge confidence boost going into the clay season. However the 31 year old Verdasco would be the one who find his form, and boost his confidence going into the clay court season.
Nadal’s compatriot is on the down side of his career steadily falling off the ranking the past few years, but has still been consistent enough to hang around in the top 50. The only good run he had this season was in Quito where he lost to Feliciano Lopez in the semifinal.
Both players held serve rather comfortably in the early proceedings quickly getting to 3-3 in the 1st. At 3-3 with Verdasco on serve, Nadal would be the first to threaten generating the match’s first break point. Verdasco however would keep his composure to win 3 straight points and hold. Verdasco was playing some inspired tennis, really getting into a good rhythm with his groundstrokes. Rafa on the other hand was on and off. Verdasco would capitalize on the very next game, getting the break thanks to an uncharacteristic Rafa double fault on break point to the shock of the crowd. At 5-3 Rafa needed to break back right away if he didn’t want to give up the set, and the crowd was right there behind him, the “VAMOS RAFA” chant could be heard a mile away. The world #3 would respond breaking at 30-40. Fernando wouldn’t be denied however, he would set up break point by winning 3 straight points on Rafa’s serve. Nadal would let his nerves get to him again as he shanks at set point to lose the 1st set to Verdasco on his own serve.
Verdasco might’ve been a little hung over on the first set falling to a 0-40 hole rather quickly on his opening service game in set 2. The veteran would keep his calm and eventually avoid the early break. Rafa seemed more focus now, starting to reduce the errors and hit his spots. At 2-2 with Fernando serving Rafa would really start to take control breaking the world #31 at 15-40. Nadal continued to build momentum closing out his service game with an ace to consolidate the break and go up 4-2. The crowd was starting to sense the pendulum swing and the “VAMOS RAFA” chants were becoming more and more frequent. Verdasco wasn’t playing his best stuff, not nearly the level of tennis that earned him the 1st set. He’d face a double break point at 2-4. Fernando would gather some of that 1st set form to rip a forehand cross court winner and save both BPs. However Rafa was on a mission, he’d win the next 2 points and put a firm grip on the 2nd set as he lined up to serve it out. He would easily hold to even things up at a set a piece as the crowd left their seats in jubilation.
Rafa improved his form to level the match up in set 2 (Photo Credit: Esam Taha)
Everyone was sensing the pull of the pendulum in full swing as Verdasco committed back to back double faults to put himself under pressure on his service game. However after a couple of deuces the veteran would find his form once again murdering the ball with a DTL forehand winner to pull off the tough hold. Nadal was looking particularly in the zone ripping inside out forehands winners routinely to hold. Verdasco answered with an impressive hold including an ace and an inside out winner of his own, he was toe to toe with the world #3. Fernando seemed to be dominating court position and taking advantage of the open court as he created a break point on Rafa’s serve. He’d hit another inside out screamer to convert and go up 3-1. The trend seemed to continue with Rafa starting to fade and Verdasco hitting his spots with ease as he consolidated to go up 4-1. Nadal was feeling the pressure as he double faulted on the next service game but eventually held to keep it at a single break. At 2-5 Nadal comes out to serve to stay in the match, the crowd goes absolutely berserk to get behind Rafa. Nerves would show themselves as Rafa double faulted and faced a match point on his serve. However a couple of nervy returns from Fernando would bail him out, Verdasco would have to do it the hard way and serve the match out. The 31 year old would keep his calm as he comfortably held to complete the upset over the fan favorite Rafa Nadal. Nadal had two chances to win a second serve point, and failed to convert, as that was the story of the match. Verdasco held his nerve, but Nadal failed to maintain a consistent level when given opportunities, and thus he will find his feet back on clay sooner, rather than later.
Verdasco was swinging Thor’s hammer from the forehand side (Photo Credit: Esam Taha)
Andy Murray d. Santiago Giraldo 6-3 6-4
Murray put up a solid performance (photo credit: Esam Taha)
Andy would kick off the day session in Miami by taking on the world #31 Santiago Giraldo. The Colombian enjoyed an excellent 2014 propelling him into the top 50. He had one good run this season making it to the Semifinal in Sao Paulo before losing to Cuevas in straight sets. Murray on the other hand has enjoyed a solid season thus far highlighted by his Australian Open final appearance. However his last loss was a humbling one to the world #1 Novak Djokovic in Indian Wells.
The condition were windy again on the day, but that didn’t seem to bother Andy one bit, as wind has always helped his counterpunching game. Murray attacked Giraldo’s serve well early in the set, and eventually would strike first to get the break. Andy was feeling little pressure on his serve and would hold to love and take a 5-2 lead. Giraldo would face a set point in the following game but battle through to force the Scot to do the job himself. He would, and with ease to claim the 1st 6-3. There were a strong Colombian presence in the crowd who were trying to get behind their guy but it didn’t seem to be working. Santiago would get broken to love to start off the 2nd, not the way he wanted to begin a comeback.
Giraldo didn’t have much mojo on the day (photo credit: Esam Taha)
Giraldo would actually play better the following game but Murray had really hit his stride, an exquisite drop shot sealed the game to consolidate the break. Murray was more consistent with his groundstrokes, Giraldo was able to keep up with the pace but he always seemed to blink first. As a result the Scot would get his 2nd break and seemed well on his way to a routine victory. Murray would take a commanding 4-0 lead in the 2nd, and despite the Colombian’s back being against the wall the crowd had not thrown in the towel just yet cheering “Santi” on. The Colombian would respond by getting on the board for the 2nd set but he still had a mountain to climb. At 2-5 Giraldo had to come up with something special to avoid getting served out. He’d take the first point to the delight of the crowd. He really rode the crowd’s support that game as he saved 2 match points and broke the Scot to extend the set. Giraldo followed that by a convincing hold, Murray’s would get another chance to advance to the next round. This time he’s succeed in an anticlimactic fashion as the net cord drop the balls too short for Giraldo at a 40-30 match point. Murray however was the better player by far, was very impressive with his groundstrokes and movement out there.
Gael Monfils d. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-4 7-6(4)
Gael’s defense won the day (Photo Credit: Esam Taha)
The anticipated match between the two friends was finally here, and there was not an empty seat to be found in the Grandstand. Monfils was coming off a tough three set grindfest with Filip Krajinovic was looking to put in a better performance today. Tsonga on the other hand is coming off a roller coaster match with the American Tim Smyczek where we saw a mixed bag of a rusty Tsonga and classic Jo-Willy. This encounter began with the sloppy version of Jo, as double faulted and looking out of sorts, however he’d eventually find a way to hold. Gael’s defense was on display early on as he produced a sweet dipping cross court pass that Tsonga would only punch wide, 1-1 1st set. The sloppy Jo would continue to show up as he couples another double fault with a forehand UE to practically gift his friend the break, Monfils went up 2-1. Gael meanwhile had begun to find his groove, looking the sharper of the 2 as he consolidated to go up 3-1. This time the Tsonga we’re all used to would finally make an appearance with better serving and aggressive play to hold to love. He carried that over to Monfils’ service game coming close to breaking him but Gael kept his composure to hold after facing the double breakpoint.
Monfils started strong early (photo credit: Esam Taha)
The world #19 was playing exceptional defense while still going for his shots when an opportunity presented itself. Forcing Jo to hit that once extra shot really seemed to take its toll on the Frenchman. Jo meanwhile would continue to serve well as he held easily to keep the lead at a single break, 4-3 in the 1st. As the match passed the 30 minute mark both players did little to threaten their counterpart’s serve. Monfils would therefore get his first chance to serve out the set. He went for a vintage Monfils nonchalant forehand on a short ball which he missed but fortunately for him it didn’t cost him. He made amends with a clean cross court forehand winner to claim the 1st as the crowd roared him on.
There would be a bit of a lull in the beginning of the 2nd as both players held, but Tsonga didn’t not look sharp, mixing in a few lame returns. That would carry on to his 2nd service game, the rusty groundstrokes would not go unpunished by Gael as the latter broke to go up 2-1. That lead would be short-lived however as Monfils was going through a bit a funk too gifting the break right back to his friend tying things up at 2-2. The dip in Gael’s performance was noticeable now as he stuck a couple of ground strokes right into the net. At 2-3 he would tough out what would prove to be a pivotal hold for the Frenchman. Tsonga continued to display inconsistency as he followed an ace with a double fault, a microcosm of his performance thus far. The crowd would then get treated to a trademark Monfils moment. The Frenchman went for a jumping air-smash only to blast the ball into the stands, he proceed to look down at the racket that had broken, before sending it flying into the crowd turning it into a souvenir for a lucky fan, who was seen waving it around to his friends and family in celebration.
Tsonga struggled with Monfils athleticism and defense on the day (photo credit: Esam Taha)
Despite the broken racquet, Gael would avoid being on the receiving end of a similar outcome on court, as he held to even things up at 4-4. With both players serving well, the Frenchmen would continue to trade blows sending the set to within a game of a tiebreak as we passed the hour and a half mark. Tsonga would play an aggressive excellent game generating a double set point. However he’d proceed to bail Gael out by overcooking a forehand to the open court, the missed chance was crucial, as the crowd started to sense that that missed opportunity might prove costly. The tiebreak would begin with both player sticking forehands into the net to trade mini-breaks, going into the changeover at 3-3. Monfils would get the 2nd mini-break by once again playing some incredible defense and following that with a stunning DTL backhand winner. With the match on his racket at 5-4, he would create 2 MPs right away. Tsonga would save one but followed it with a very narrow miss as he went for it all on the cross court forehand return. The good friends would embrace at the net, it was a close battle but Gael was the deserving winner of the duel.
Photo credit: Esam Taha
Mannarino ousts Wawrinka, Berdych completes comeback against Tomic
Mannarino shocked Stan (Photo Credit: Esam Taha)
Adrian Mannarino scored a big upset over Stan Wawrinka 7-6(4) 7-6(5). Mannarino has markedly improved in his consistency and has turned himself into a top 30 player, after previously toiling away on the ATP Challenger Tour. Wawrinka was again sloppy and inconsistent, just as he was in Indian Wells, and against Carlos Berlocq in his opening match in Miami. Mannarino broke in the opening game, though Wawrinka broke back, and then he won the tiebreak with solid play compared to his opponent. In the second set Stan threw away breaks of serve twice, to be forced into a tiebreak, as he failed to level the match. Late on, Wawrinka had lost focus and was shanking returns, overall he put up a horrific 46 unforced errors compared to just 19 winners, as Mannarino proved to be a grinding, brick wall of defense. Though his game was bland, it was less porous than Wawrinka, who displayed limited shotmaking ability on the day, and finishes the opening two Masters tournaments of the year with an abysmal 1-2 record.
Wawrinka slumps to 1-2 in the first two Masters events of 2015 (Photo Credit: Esam Taha)
Tomas Berdych came back from the dead to defeat Bernard Tomic for the fourth time in his career. Tomic was 7-6 4-0 up, after coming back from a break down, and facing set points in the first set, and blitzing the Czech #1 in the second. However, Berdych fought hard in this one, and the wheels came off for Tomic, Tomic had four match points in the second set, including 1 serving at 5-4, but couldn’t convert any of them. Berdych’s power begin to bother him, especially when the Czech moved forward towards the net, and though Tomic’s junkballing was making Berdych have to bend and adjust his body into uncomfortable rally positions, it still didn’t seem like a good matchup for Tomic by the time the third set came around. Berdych blasted him off the court with heavy groundstrokes and clutch serves, and Tomic eventually slumped to a 7-6 6-7 1-6 defeat.
Dominic Thiem won a battle of the young guns with Jack Sock 6-4 6-3, the Austrian extended his winning streak and posted his best tournament result of the season already by defeating Sock. He pressured the American on his serve, while Sock was not a worthy foil when returning serve, eventually Sock collapsed under the weight of Thiem’s pressure, and solid baseline play.
Sock didn’t handle the pressure of Thiem well (photo credit: Esam Taha)
In the late match, Juan Monaco put his shotmaking prowess on display 7-5 6-4 over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. GGL got disheartened by the time it got late into the second, and seemed to lack the will to want to force a third set. Monaco moved well and was solid from both wings, as he tactically moved Garcia-Lopez about, and rushed forward at the right time.
Lisicki topples Ivanovic, Serena dispatches teen Bellis
Sabine Lisicki continued her good recent run of results, defeating a frustrated Ana Ivanovic 7-6 7-5 in the night session WTA match. Earlier in the day, Serena Williams destroyed 15 year old Cici Bellis 6-1 6-1, Simona Halep had a bit of trouble with Camila Giorgi’s power hitting but prevailed 6-4 7-5. Flavia Pennetta beat a struggling Victoria Azarenka 7-6 7-6, Belinda Bencic beat the qualifier Tatjana Maria 6-4 7-5, Sloane Stephens won again 6-4 6-4 over Johanna Larsson, and in the two three setters of the day on the WTA side, veteran Svetlana Kuznetsova beat Angelique Kerber 6-3 3-6 6-3 and Sara Errani upset Garbine Muguruza 4-6 6-4 6-1.