Grass Court Season Concludes With ATP 250 Newport Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The ATP 250 in Newport at the Tennis Hall of Fame concludes the grass court season and begins the North American summer of tennis. Here is your look at all the action.
Adrian Mannarino will begin against James Duckworth or Jordan Thompson, Mannarino is a great grass court player so he should beat Thompson and Gilles Muller to reach the semis. Muller’s path is Marcos Baghdatis, then Marcel Granollers or a qualifier. While Muller is usually good on grass, his poor form means Mannarino has a decided edge.
Steve Johnson did not have a good grass court season, but back in the States he should get past a qualifier or Christian Harrison before running into Alex De Minaur, one of the breakthrough young guns this year and a player who did have a great grass season. De Minaur should eke past the big serving Ivo Karlovic, then defeat Dudi Sela or a qualifier, with De Minaur favored to emerge from this section.
Mischa Zverev should ease past Donald Young/Vasek Pospisil and then defeat Denis Kudla after Kudla defeats Ruben Bemelmans and Ramkumar Ramanathan/qualifier. Zverev has won a title on grass this year and he has a great shot to do it again if he can get past a tough grass court player in Kudla.
Matt Ebden faces Bjorn Fratangelo or Tim Smyczek then should run into Sergiy Stakhovsky in the quarters. Stako will face Jason Jung, coming off success on the challenger tour, then Nicolas Mahut or Ryan Harrison, with Harrison likely falling victim to a tough section full of good grass court players. Ebden vs. Zverev is my bottom half semifinal.
Garcia-Lopez Upset, Verdasco Advances, Tuesday at 2016 BB&T Atlanta Open Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic\
The Spaniards at the 2016 BB&T Atlanta Open, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, and Fernando Verdasco had mixed results on Tuesday when both were in action on stadium court. A lengthy rain delay made the match between Garcia-Lopez and Horacio Zeballos take most of the afternoon, as Zeballos prevailed in an upset victory 6-3 6-7 6-4 over the Spaniard in two and a half hours of match play.
Both players got off to a shaky start, but were able to hold their serves until the eight game of the match, where Zeballos broke Garcia-Lopez, and held the next game at love to capture the first set. Garcia-Lopez struggled mightily with his serve all match, his first serve percentage was under 50%, and the quality of his serves was lacking. Both players also hit a number of slow, and high spinners from their backhand side, as they didn’t seem entirely comfortable on hard court compared to clay. The hot conditions also took their toll on the volunteers, as well as the players, as a ball girl passed out in the first set, causing a delay.
Despite his troubles on serve, Garcia-Lopez didn’t waver in the second set, saving a break point in his opening service game, and breaking Zeballos, who also served poorly, but methodically, to go up 3-1. Zeballos would break back, but had to save four set points to send the match into a second set tiebreak. Zeballos lost three straight points from 5-4 up in the tiebreak, and the match was sent into a third set.
Garcia-Lopez played a poor third set however, as he was broken at love with a miserable game serving 1-2, and Zeballos would go 5-4 up, before rain came, and the Argentine had to wait over an hour to try to serve the match out. He was broken easily when the players returned to court, and Garcia-Lopez was given a second life, however, he was broken and lost the match in the next game serving 4-5, as Zeballos converted his second match point/break point opportunity. The frustrated Garcia-Lopez slammed his racquet on the ground, as Zeballos let out a roar of excitement. It was just not to be for GGL on the day. The win improves Zeballos to 11-5 in hard court matches this season, and he has reached the second round of an ATP main draw for the second tournament in a row.
Fernando Verdasco had better luck on the day against Dusan Lajovic, winning 7-6 6-4. A cagey match saw neither player earning a break point chance early and the first set going to a tiebreak. Verdasco took the initiative when needed, and then broke Lajovic midway through the second set, and held serve after facing two break points in the next game to go up 4-2. Lajovic was nearly ousted quicker than he was as he could have went down a double break, but he saved three break points to hold, and Verdasco went on to serve it out 6-4. Verdasco’s forehand was all he needed to dictate play on a hard court and smack winners when needed.
French veteran Julien Benneteau played his best match of the season to earn a 6-4 6-2 win over J.P. Smith. Benneteau has just two ATP main draw wins this year now, but his game has clearly picked up. Benny didn’t face a single break point, as Smith meekly conceded three breaks in total and was wiped off the court.
Lucky loser Tobias Kamke made the best of his luck after the withdrawal of Ivan Dodig, upsetting Sergiy Stakhovsky 7-6 7-6 to reach the round of 16 in two hours. Stako blew two set point chances in the first set tiebreak, and he faced pressure on his serve most of the day, as his serve and volley skills were lacking consistency, while Kamke was more consistent with his groundstrokes on the day. Stako’s struggles this season continued as his high risk style of play saw him getting passed at the net when it mattered. Stako was playing better in the second set and went up 4-2, looking prepared to force a third set, but he was broken back in the next game, and had to save break points serving 4-4 and 5-5 to eventually force a second set tiebreak. Kamke dominated that tiebreak, going 5-0 up, and he would eventually take it 7-2.
Yoshihito Nishioka showed signs of improvement in dealing with American heat, as he got past Dan Evans 6-2 6-7 7-6 in a match that also saw a lengthy rain delay late in the third set that paused play for over an hour. In Washington, Nishioka wilted in the hot conditions, but this time it was Evans struggling with his fitness, as the British man earned no break point chances in the first set, and was broken twice with relative ease, including at love serving 2-5. Evans went down a set and a break twice in the second set, and looked ready to hit the showers when he was 4-2, and 5-3 down.
Nishioka got tight serving the match out and after having to save three break point chances against Evans, he found himself dominated in the second tiebreak, going down 4-0, and losing it 7-2. Nishioka had two more bp chances early in the third, and rain came at 4-3 in the third. Nishioka found himself broken when he returned to court, and Evans had three match point chances from 40-15 up in the next game. However, Nishioka’s speed got him back into the match, and after saving a fourth match point chance in his next service game, Nishioka converted his second match point chance to take the victory in three hard fought sets to the delight of a few local Japanese fans.
Last, but certainly not least, Americans Taylor Fritz and Bjorn Fratangelo were big winners on the day. Fritz dominated college standout Austin Smith 6-2 6-2, despite loud chants for Smith throughout the match. The young American’s power from the baseline was too much for the Georgia Bulldog. Fratangelo rolled past Igor Sijsling 6-1 7-6. Early in the first he broke, and had to save six break point chances in an extremely long first service game, but Sijsling wilted from there. Fratangelo went a set and a break up, although he couldn’t serve it out, the Dutchman never really got a shot at a third set, as the American had the match in hand.
In the lone ATP doubles match on the day, Chris Eubanks and Zack Kennedy upset Thiago Monteiro and Nishioka in a narrowly fought third set tiebreak, as the pairing of local NCAA players produce some late magic to stay in the tournament.
Americans will feature in all of the four singles matches that are set to take place today at the BB&T Atlanta Open. Big men Kevin Anderson and Reilly Opelka will battle with their big serves, while Tim Smyczek and Donald Young fight it out for a much needed quarterfinal berth after that. In the night session, John Isner starts his quest for a fourth ATP Atlanta title against Adrian Mannarino, and Fritz will face Fratangelo in a battle of young Americans. Five ATP doubles matches will take place as well.
Ernests Gulbis Continues Resurgence By Triumphing In Qualifying At Halle; Sugita Qualifies Adam Addicott, Tennis Atlantic
Ernests Gulbis has continued his recent spike in form with a successful qualifying campaign at the 24th Gerry Weber Open.
The Latvian entered Halle with a fresh burst of confidence after reaching the fourth round of the French Open, his best grand slam performance for two years. Following his run in Paris, Gulbis returned to the top-60 for the first time since May 2015. Opening up his German campaign against home player Michael Berrer, Gulbis eased to a 6-4, 6-4, victory without being broken.
Next in Gulbis’ qualifying draw was another German, Peter Gojowczyk. The 26-year-old enjoyed a promising start to his grass season by reaching the semifinals at last week’s Manchester Challenger before succumbing to Dustin Brown. In what was a roller coaster meeting between both players, Gulbis overcame a second set blip to win 6-3, 1-6, 6-3. The victory elevates the world No.59 to his 13th ATP main draw of the year.
Gulbis was one out of only two seeded players to triumph in qualifying. The other was seventh seed Sergiy Stakhovsky. Since being troubled by a back injury earlier in the year, the 30-year-old won his first Challenger title in two years in South Korea last month. In his most recent tournament Stakhovsky reached the quarter-finals at the Manchester Challenger. Starting his Halle campaign with a 52-minute 6-3, 6-1, win over Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka, Stakhovsky faced tough opposition against fourth seed Rajeev Ram. 32-year-old Ram has won two ATP titles in his career, both of which were on grass (Newport 2009 and 2015). Despite converting only 3/11 break points, the world No.100 took the win 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-2, to book his place in the main draw in Halle for the fourth time in his career. Stakhovsky is yet to win a main draw match at the tournament.
The only home sucess story was for unseeded Benjamin Becker, a former top-40 player. Facing second seed Denis Istomin in the first round, the 34-year-old edged past the Uzbek player 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. It was only the second time that Becker has defeated Istomin in their eight encounters on the tour. The shock win set Becker up with a showdown against Robin Haase, a player who has reached two ATP quarter-finals this year. Despite being ranked 34 places lower, Becker sealed a main draw place by dismissing the Dutch player 6-3, 6-3, in less than an hour.
Finally, Japanese player Yuichi Sugita was the only player able to progress to the main draw without dropping a set. Kicking-off his Halle campaign with a 6-3, 6-1, win over Nikoloz Basilashvili, he faced compatriot Tatsuma Ito in the final round. Ito knocked out third seed Lukas Rosol in his opening match. Winning 74% of his service points, Sugita eased past Ito 6-2, 6-4. Focusing mainly on the Challenger tour this year, Halle will be Sugita’s first appearance in the main draw of an ATP event since the Australian Open.
2015 ATP Metz and St. Petersburg Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The ATP World Tour returns with the start of the European fall indoor hard court swing. A pair of 250s are up this week, one in Metz, France, and the other in St. Petersburg, Russia, as that event returns after being absent from the tour calendar last season.
ATP World Tour 250
September 21-September 27, 2015
Prize Money: €439,405
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Stan Wawrinka (4)
2: Gilles Simon (10)
3: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (17)
4: Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (31)
Two top 10 players, and three top 20 players gives Metz a quality field for a small indoor 250 at this point in the season.
Kohlschreiber had a successful outing in Davis Cup for Germany over the weekend as he went 2-0, but the former Metz finalist has had a down season at the ATP level thsi year. Additionally, he may have to fight fatigue and jet lag as he’s coming back from the Caribbean with Davis Cup duty. Millman is a talented underachiever who won a pair of challengers over the summer and can play solid tennis at times, Peppo is still the favorite, but this match has some upset potential.
(6)Martin Klizan vs. Paul-Henri Mathieu
PHM is playing on home soil, and veteran who relies on solid ballstriking is a relatively solid player indoors. He recently reached the final in Kitzbuhel on clay over the summer, beating his opponent Klizan in the process, and qualified for the US Open. Klizan comes off a 2-0 result in Davis Cup and has an indoor h2h win over Mathieu in Rotterdam (2013, 3 sets) but he’s a streaky player who can ball bash well, or struggle mightily. Depending on what version of Klizan will show up, he’ll either advance with ease or lose in an upset in this matchup of contrasting styles.
(WC)Pierre-Hugues Herbert vs. Sergiy Stakhovsky
The US Open doubles champion Herbert recently reached his first ATP title in Winston-Salem, and on home soil with a big serve, he’s a danger to the serve and volleyer Stakhovsky. Stako reached the third round of the US Open and a recent challenger final however (in Istanbul), so his form appears good. An inspired PHH could rock the boat this tournament, and with a recent h2h win over Stako, I have him winning against him again.
(8)Fernando Verdasco vs. Alexander Zverev
Verdasco is just 2-5 since Wimbledon, and he risks dropping that number to 2-6 at the hands of the young gun Zverev. The teenager had a successful summer and qualified for the US Open among other good results. His indoor game isn’t as good as his clay court game, but the big hitting Verdasco has struggled to find rhythm and I’m going to go with an upset and pick Zverev, who is on the upswing of his career, while Verdasco is clearly heading downhill.
Stan Wawrinka was pushed to five sets in his DC singles rubber against the lower ranked Thiemo De Bakker on Friday, but the Swiss #2 is unlikely to have much trouble getting past the first couple of matches in Metz. Wawrinka is 42-13 on the season and also reached the semis of the US Open most recently. Look for him to get past a serve and volleyer in his first match, either Rajeev Ram or the big serving Dustin Brown, who also comes off of DC duty, and then past Kohlschreiber for a spot in the semifinals. Stan the Man is 2-0 in the h2h, and should not only be in better form, but also be fresher than his German counterpart. Both players have elite one handed backhands and it’ll be a fun matchup if it takes place. The Kohlschreiber/Millman winner faces either Belgium’s Davis Cup hero Steve Darcis, or dirtballer Paolo Lorenzi in round 2 with the serve and volleying Darcis likely too tired to make much of an impact this tournament.
Two-time Metz champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was excellent at the US Open, where he reached the quarterfinals, and the aggressive Frenchman tends to play well indoors, and at home. The fan favorite is placed in a weak section that will feature either a qualifier or Pablo Carreno Busta in the round of 16, and by ranking #7 seed Adrian Mannarino in the quarterfinals. Nicolas Mahut, the other half of the winning US Open doubles team, could prove to be a bit of a dark horse if the serve and volleyer can get his game together and beat a struggling Federico Delbonis (a loser of 5 straight matches) and Mannarino, who has been streaky this season. All of the French players are fan favorites at home, but Tsonga is a clear favorite to reach the semis for a likely matchup against Wawrinka. I have Mahut slipping past Mannarino, though it’s hard to tell with Adrian.
Two-time Metz champion Gilles Simon, another of the French fan favorites at this tournament, will open with a qualifier and from there should advance to face the big serving and dangerous Gilles Muller in the quarterfinals. Muller opens with Aljaz Bedene as he looks to snap a 3 match losing streak. The serve and volleyer is at his best on fast surfaces and I see him slipping past the Verdasco/Zverev winner in a potentially close match. Simon beat Muller last year in Tokyo, and I see him earning a pair of wins to snap a four match losing streak and reach the semifinals.
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez won a pair of matches at the US Open to improve his form, but of the four top seeds, he’s still the most likely to exit before the quarterfinals, as the Herbert/Stakhovsky winner could stymie him with their unique styles of play. The Spanish veteran has won a title on indoor hard courts this season though and he has more experience than Herbert in a tough section. The other quarterfinalist will be one of Aleksandr Nedovyesov/Vasek Pospisil/Klizan/Mathieu, with Mathieu my favorite out of the section. Pospisil also has talent but he’s inconsistent, so look for Mathieu past Pospisil, and then Garcia-Lopez over Mathieu in a wide open section.
Frenchmen Herbert, Mathieu, and Mahut could all serve as unseeded dark horses this week, but with the #2 seed Simon struggling, if Muller serves well he could reach the semifinals, and potentially the final out of the bottom half. After gaining some rest, he should be fresh and he plays well on these types of surfaces historically.
Semis: Wawrinka d. Tsonga
Simon d. Garcia-Lopez
Tsonga has a h2h win in Metz (2007) but the previous few meetings have gone in favor of Wawrinka, and the Swiss has clearly outperformed his French counterpart this year, and in recent memory. Wawrinka simply should be a cut above his semifinal opposition.
Simon is in a slump but he’s 5-0 in the h2h against GGL, so if he gets this far, he should reach another Metz final.
Final: Wawrinka d. Simon
Presuming Wawrinka devotes effort to this 250 tournament he should win it, he’s the best player in the field by a considerable margin, and a player like Simon won’t be in the form to match him toe to toe right now.
ATP St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg Open
ATP World Tour 250
St. Petersburg, Russia
September 21-September 27, 2015
Prize Money: $1,030,000
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Tomas Berdych (5)
2: Milos Raonic (9)
3: Dominic Thiem (20)
4: Roberto Bautista Agut (22)
Even without the strong contingent of home players that Metz sports, St. Petersburg returns to the ATP Tour after funding problems last season with a strong field that features two top 10, and three top 20 players in what should be an entertaining edition of the tournament.
Their teams faced each other in Davis Cup over the weekend, with Bolelli and Italy emerging victorious, but now the young gun Rublev would like to extract some personal revenge for that loss at home in St. Petersburg, where he is one of the stars of the tournament, and the future of Russian tennis at the moment. The teenager qualified for the US Open, snapping a summer of struggles, but his loss in Davis Cup to Fabio Fognini should dent his momentum a bit. Bolelli, a solid player indoors, is also the loser of three straight however and the Italian veteran is looking to gain momentum himself. Look for big hitting in this matchup, and as celebrated as Rublev is, I have Bolelli grinding out the win.
(6)Benoit Paire vs. Jerzy Janowicz
Janowicz beat Paire in three sets earlier this year on indoor hard, but Paire has had a much better season than Jerzy and has been in excellent form since the summer. The French all-courter and his one handed backhand reached the second week of the US Open while Janowicz is 2-3 over his last five, which includes Davis Cup duty over the weekend. Janowicz with his power game is also solid indoors, but I have Paire winning this matchup of talented but often underachieving players.
Marcos Baghdatis vs. Ernests Gulbis
Two aggressive baseliners will face off in this one, Gulbis one the 2013 edition of St. Petersburg, while Baghdatis is 0-3 since suffering an abductor injury in the ATP Atlanta final back in July. Gulbis has lost four straight and, like Baghdatis, his last match ended in a retirement, as both guys have struggled to get healthy. A poor season for Gulbis is contrasted by a good season overall for Baghdatis, and I have the Cypriot notching the victory presuming his health has sorted itself out. Baghdatis is 3-0 in the hard court h2h.
Tomas Berdych had a poor summer by his top 10 standards, but the Czech is still 45-15 on the season and should have the inside track against Bolelli/Rublev. In the quarterfinals, look for him to face Australian young gun Thanasi Kokkinakis. Kokkinakis opens with pedestrian Spanish veteran Marcel Granollers, and then he’ll face either Joao Sousa or a qualifier in round 2. Both Sousa and Kokkinakis come off of Davis Cup play but Sousa is in poor form, and although he’s had a lot of success on indoor hard, I have Kokkinakis winning that matchup. Berdych should power past Kokkinakis at that stage however.
#3 seed Dominic Thiem reached the third round of the US Open in a decent showing for the Austrian, and he’ll look to continue to improve on fast surfaces with a routine win over Daniel Gimeno-Traver or newlywed Andreas Haider-Maurer in round 2, as both players much prefer clay. In the quarterfinals, Mikhail Kukushkin could prove to be the dark horse, as he opens with a relatively struggling Denis Istomin and then will face a qualifier or the mightily slumping Benjamin Becker in round 2. Kukushkin played well at the US Open and beat Istomin at the start of the season, his game tends to peak for these smaller 250 events. Thiem and Kukushkin have never played one another, but Kukushkin’s hard court form is arguably better right now, and I have him scoring the rankings upset and reaching the semis.
Milos Raonic has struggled since Wimbledon with a pedestrian 2-3 record. The Canadian #1 hasn’t been the same with his rocket serve since foot surgery, but he’s playing an easy match to open in St. Petersburg against either Evgeny Donskoy or a qualifier. Donskoy, a wild card, has been in excellent form at the challenger tour level this summer but Raonic should still prove too much for him. In the quarters he’s likely to face another player in a slump, as the Baghdatis/Gulbis winner or Tommy Robredo/Mikhail Youzhny are options. The 33 year old Robredo has had a far superior season to Youzhny, so though Youzhny is playing on home soil, Robredo should get through, and likely get past Baghdatis/Gulbis as well, as they may be rusty in their own right. Raonic is 4-0 against Robredo in the h2h with all wins coming since 2013, so with that in mind the Canadian should make the semifinals.
Roberto Bautista Agut is 29-23 this season and comes off a second week showing in the US Open that should give him some good momentum in what has been a rather average year by his standards. Russian Davis Cup participant Teymuraz Gabashvili, presuming Gaba beats a qualifier, should await him in round 2, and Gabashvili is a player capable of crafting upsets, like he did against Andy Murray this summer in Washington. RBA is the section favorite, but Gabashvili could find form and reach the quarters, though he’s not my pick to do so. Paire/Janowicz or Ricardas Berankis/Lucas Pouille will await most likely ether RBA or Gabashvili at that stage. Presuming Paire continues his run of form, which is always in question, I look for him to make it that far before falling to RBA. Berankis has also been in good form as of late with his undersized game. RBA is 7-0 in the h2h against Paire.
If a non seed is going to reach the semifinals or better, Berankis is the player to watch, he’s just 5-8 but he’s always been talented and he’s one of the better pure baseline ball strikers on the ATP tour. He reached consecutive quarterfinals on the US Open Series this summer and he plays well on fast indoor surfaces. Paire/Janowicz are streaky, and RBA/Gabashvili are beatable, so it’s far from out of the question that the Lithuanian will do well at a tournament that is close to home for him.
Semis: Berdych d. Kukushkin
Raonic d. Bautista Agut
Berdych is simply better than Kukushkin and has a h2h win, so like Wawrinka in Metz, if the top seed puts his efforts into this tournament, he’s the favorite. Raonic has a h2h win over RBA last year in Paris, an indoor tournament, and he should be motivated to fight hard this fall on fast surfaces to gain some ranking points after a slow Summer.
2015 ATP Nottingham Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The final ATP grass court tune-up before Wimbledon 2015 will take place in Nottingham, rather than Eastbourne this year, as the former challenger was upgraded to an ATP event by the LTA. After two full weeks on grass, many top ATP players are taking advantage of a final chance to get grass court matches and here is a preview.
2015 ATP Nottingham Preview
Aegon Open Nottingham
ATP World Tour 250
June 21-June 27, 2015
Prize Money: €589,160
Top 8 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses) (top 16 seeds receive first round byes)
1: David Ferrer (7)
2: Gilles Simon (13)
3: Feliciano Lopez (14)
4: Leonardo Mayer (22)
5: Pablo Cuevas (23)
6: Viktor Troicki (25)
7: Dominic Thiem (29)
8: Adrian Mannarino (32)
The top 16 seeds are all top 50 players, and three of the top 20 are here for this solid 250 level event with a larger field than most.
Another chance for the young gun Korean Chung to get ATP match experience, and perhaps an upset win, as Ramos is a clay courter, and his high spinning game is not well suited for grass. Chung has struggled mightily on grass this year with two losses to beatable opponents, and he’s currently on a three match losing streak. Ramos is debuting on grass this season, I’d still expect him to win this, but we’ll see what Chung can do with his ball striking oriented game.
Sergiy Stakhovsky vs. Steve Johnson
Johnson notched a win over Stakhovsky this year at Roland Garros, and he’ll try to earn another in Nottingham. Stakhovsky has been struggling, in part due to a back injury, and he’s on a three match losing streak, while Johnson upset Bernard Tomic in Halle, before losing in round 2. I’d give Johnson an edge to advance in this one due to Stakhovsky’s poor form and possibly health.
Pablo Carreno Busta vs. (WC)Taylor Harry Fritz
This is a great opportunity for young American wild card Taylor Harry Fritz to get experience on grass and he’s facing a beatable opponent in Carreno Busta. Fritz, 17, is the current world junior #1, and he was a recent runner-up for the French Open junior title. His ATP main draw debut will take place against a dirtballer, who struggles to find wins on fast surfaces. Though Carreno Busta has more experience, I expect him to at least be in for a challenge.
David Ferrer could be in for a tough opening match, presuming Marcos Baghdatis can dispatch Victor Estrella in round 1. The pair of veterans last met in 2013, and Ferrer has a 4-1 h2h advantage. That said, Baghdatis has played four matches in recent weeks on grass, while Ferrer is making his season debut on grass, a surface he has gone 5-3 on over the past two seasons. Given his superior play on the season, Ferrer, a French Open quarterfinalist, should advance, and regardless I expect the Baghdatis/Ferrer winner to reach the quarters, perhaps by beating seed Thomaz Bellucci. Presuming Bellucci defeats Alex Zverev/Mikhail Kukushkin. Bellucci hasn’t won a match on grass in 5 years, while Zverev has performed decently well thus far on it, thus in my own bracket I have Zverev into the round of 16.
Adrian Mannarino will open with Diego Schwartzman or Aljaz Bedene in round 2, give Mannarino is the better grass courter I’d expect him to win that match, though Simone Bolelli should test him in round 3. Bolelli opens with a qualifier, and then will face the seed Martin Klizan, who has never had much success on grass. Mannarino and Bolelli have never played, nor has AM played Klizan. Given the questionable form of either player, I’d favor Mannarino to reach the quarters, Bolelli was very poor after qualifying in Queens.
Ferrer beat Mannarino last year in four sets at the AO, Mannarino could pull off the upset, but Ferrer seems like a trusty pick to reach the semis in my mind.
Leonardo Mayer will face the Chung/Ramos winner, Chung would have a great shot at scoring two ATP wins if his form wasn’t poor right now. Mayer actually went 3-1 on grass last year, and thus almost by default of being the only decent player on grass, he should reach the third round. Jiri Vesely should challenge him at that stage though, presuming the young Czech can defeat the winner of James Ward/Tim Smyczek. Given Wardy is a good grass court player, he should beat Smyczek, and perhaps upset Vesely. In a weak, and rather open section, I’m going with Vesely to reach the quarters over Mayer, but this section is hard to predict.
Viktor Troicki, currently in the Queens semifinals, and a finalist in Stuttgart, opens with the Stakhovsky/Johnson winner. Presuming he doesn’t withdrawal after playing so many matches in recent weeks, I’m going with Johnson to upset him. Troicki is great on grass, but after so many matches, he should want to rest up so he can do his best at Wimbledon, where he could serve as a dark horse. The third round opponent for Johnson/Troicki could be Nicolas Almagro. Almagro, an aggressive grass court player when he wants to be, opens with a struggling Denis Istomin, and he should be able to beat Juan Monaco in round 2, a player he has beaten on grass before, and faced many times, losing both of their matches this year. It’s hard to predict the outcome of Johnson/Almagro, but I’m going with Johnson to reach the quarterfinals in the leadup to Wimbledon.
Johnson and Vesely have yet to play, tt’d be interesting if they do face off and I’d give Johnson the slightest edge to advance given this is grass. A Ferrer vs. Johnson semi is my pick for the top half.
Gilles Simon, who played well in Queens, will open with the Marcel Granollers/Vasek Pospisil winner. Vashy is 2-2 on grass in 2015, while Simon is 3-1, coming off of a semifinal in Queens. Presuming fatigue doesn’t play a factor, look for Simon to even his h2h to 1-1 against Vasek and reach the third round. Simon could be troubled by a big server at that stage, Sam Groth needing only to beat a qualifier, and ball striker Joao Sousa. Sousa isn’t great on grass, and Groth has already won a challenger on it and reached the quarters in Stuttgart. Groth’s serve and volley can be lethal on a low bouncing, and fast surface, and though servebot matches tend to be notoriously hard to predict, often coming down to tiebreaks, I’m going with Groth to reach the quarters again in Nottingham with three wins.
The #5 seed is Pablo Cuevas, he’s not great on grass, and if the right qualifier is placed here, he could well reach the third round win wins over dirtballers Daniel Gimeno-Traver and Cuevas. Without knowing who that qualifier will be, I’ll hedge and say either Cuevas or the qualifier into the third round, with either Sam Querrey or Santiago Giraldo having a strong edge to reach the quarters. Giraldo will face Andreas Haider-Maurer round 1, and should snap a two match losing streak in that one. Querrey has lost three straight, but his game is well suited for grass, and thus I have him defeating Giraldo and Cuevas/Qualifier for a spot in the quarters.
Groth vs. Querrey would be a great grass court match, Given his better form as of late, I’d go with Groth to advance, perhaps in two tiebreaks, as Querrey isn’t a very clutch player.
Feliciano Lopez is one of the best grass court players, if not the best, in the field this week, and he’ll open with the Fritz/Carreno Busta winner, if Fritz pulls off an upset in round 1, Lopez will be a huge step up for him, and I expect him to be overmatched and overwhelmed by his slicing serve and volely game. Lopez should next face Andreas Seppi, a current Halle finalist, in round 3, presuming Seppi isn’t fatigued, after facing Rendy Lu or a qualifier. Seppi has a 3-1 advantage in the h2h against Lopez, but Lopez is the better grass court player, his 1-2 record on the surface this year not withstanding, as he has lost two third set tiebreaks in those matches. I’d be shocked if Lopez doesn’t reach the quarters out of this section, as he badly needs to do so to keep his ranking up where he wants it to be.
#7 seed Dominic Thiem gets a bye, but I’m not sure if he really wants one after struggling on grass this year. The young Austrian doesn’t seem comfortable on the surface, and wild card Kyle Edmund is a threat to reach the third round, presuming he’s healthy. Edmund was injured at the French Open, and has missed the first two weeks on grass to his chagrin, while Jaziri is 1-2 on the surface. Thiem is the better young gun, but a healthy Edmund would have a great chance against him. I have Thiem into the third round myself, but we’ll have to see what happens. In that third round, the erratic vanquisher of Rafael Nadal from Queens, Alexandr Dolgopolov, is a likely opponent. Dolgo showed his shotmaking prowess as he beat Nadal yet again in Queens, but he lost in the next round, which pretty much explains his career thus far. With Donald Young in awful form round 1, Dolgo should have an easy start, and the same can be said about dirtballer Pablo Andujar in round 2. I don’t trust Thiem on grass, or Edmund’s health, so Dolgopolov is my pick for the quarters.
Dolgoplov, Baghdatis, Johnson, and possibly Pospisil are all dark horse threats this week, but Groth, if his serve is on, could win the title this week, which would be a first for him on the ATP tour. The Aussie has a massive serve and his volleys have certainly improved, but his groundstrokes remain futures level, and his backhand is quite poor. With that in mind their little margin for error, and Gilles Simon, along with most likely Querrey, Lopez could all doom him before he reaches the final. It’s tough to know how things will go, but he has the highest ceiling of any player in this draw.
Ferrer d. Johnson
Lopez d. Groth
Ferrer should find himself to simply be the better, and more complete player against Johnson, in shot selection, defense, movement, and most things except forehand. Lopez and Groth played in Stuttgart, and Groth pulled out a three set win, we could see the same result again, but I’m going with Lopez to reach the final.
Final Ferrer d. Lopez
Ferrer and Lopez have yet to meet on grass, and that surface would give Lopez a great chance, that said, he hasn’t defeated Ferrer since 2009, and has lost the last five meetings against his countryman. With that being the case, Ferrer should be the favorite to take the title in Nottingham this week, and capture a title in 2015 on every surface.
Tomic Back in the Groove, Coric Shelled Tuesday at ATP Stuttgart 2015 Andreas Thiele for Tennis Atlantic
Tomic back in the groove (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
It was the fourth day of this year’s ATP Stuttgart tournament and it was the coldest and windiest day yet. It’s always the worst what can happen here in Germany in terms of weather, with dark clouds, strong winds, and no rain: A winter day during summer. Many players had problems today, especially muscular problems. We witnessed the first retirement in a main draw match and many tennis players moving poorly. Conditions were a challenge today, but matches were completed in full.
Difficult wind created the highest amount of unforced errors per match today, yet very beautiful winners which were powered by the wind. Even in the press centre it was quite cold. In the cold, fans gathered around Rafael Nadal, Gael Monfils and Dustin Brown seeking an interaction with their favorites. Nadal had to call the security team to get through the crowds, when he played doubles with Feliciano Lopez.
Main Draw Round 1
The schedule looked promising on Tuesday, especially for the German crowd. as German was featured in 8 out of 11 matches. Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki led off the day.
Borna Coric’s father was quite optimistic this could be the day he wins his first match on grass, before the match began. With Croatian journalists in the stands Borna just absolutely disappointed his countrymen and couldn’t end his negative run of four losses in a row on grass (0-4 career record). His first service game looked promising, though he had problems holding it. He still doesn’t know how to move on grass and gets too passive during rallies. Troicki was the way more aggressive player and hit some great winners, but some funny unforced errors. While the beginning of the first set was competitive, Borna lost his second serve with a fight, it seemed he wasn’t up for the match entirely. The second serve game he lost was on him and Troicki didn’t even have to play well.
The second set was just pathetic, Coric only won nine points out of 36 and just won a lone return point during the whole set. I stopped watching it after the first break which was very hard-fought (three times deuce) and Troicki won it a few minutes later. Troicki’s forehand didn’t look that bad at all, in contrary to Coric’s which can’t be even called a weapon. Given he’s a young gun, Coric will have the time to develop his game on grass, but in the present day Troicki rolled 6-2 6-0 in a blowout.
Jan-Lennard Struff struggled on the day, though he offered some great forehand-shots and even nicer volleys. Bernard Tomic was out of his league, he offered up great variation in his serve and delivered what he needed, to win, throwing in some great winners. The first set was very one-sided, Tomic won the very first game which was a break to love and broke him at the end of the first set again. However, like is often the case with his matches. Bernie wasn’t consistent enough to close out the match routinely, leading a set and a break ahead.
Struff started to hit one good return after another, and dictate the rallies – He almost always won the point at the net and almost always lost the points on longer rallies, as he hit many forehand unforced errors under pressure. After Tomic broke his serve with a fantastic forehand down-the-line winner, he immediately was broken bakc after serving two double faults and committing a very easy backhand ue after a poor return. The set built up its tension because of the fact both served very well till the second set breaker, when the Borussia Dortmund-fan suddenly led 3-0. Two long forehands later, and Tomic took a decisive advantage, eventually closing out the breaker 7-5 for a 6-3 7-6 victory. Tomic’s game looked quite sharp today, although there was room for improvement. Bernie has to face now another German he lost to in Halle three years ago, Tommy Haas.
Another German moving on here is Mischa Zverev who’s showing great grass tennis as a veteran. The underrated grass specialist had many problems at the beginning against Dominic Thiem and lost even his serve, but he managed to catch himself and rebroke, converting his first break point of the match. As the match progressed, both started to serve better and the breaker had to decide the set. After three consecutive mini-breaks Zverev held his serve to get set point and Thiem failed to save another set point, as he didn’t serve well under pressure. Zverev looked fresher, though he played every day in the last three days, and could break him again. Thiem broke himself with a lot of unnecessary errors. The German served well in set 2, broke Thiem again returning and moving very well to hit one forehand after another in his last service game to close the match 7-6 6-2.
Marcos Baghdatis vs. Lukas Rosol looked like a great match on paper, but Rosol played poorly on the outer court. Baghdatis lost the first game and his serve, but Rosol couldn’t maintain the advantage and ended up losing the first set with a double break. Rosol moved poorly and showed signs of rust. He didn’t have the fortune to trust in his first serve, it was either too long or into the net in big moments and Baghdatis even started to return well when given the chance. The veteran Baghdatis had very good and strong groundstrokes, made Rosol run, and in this way the Cypriot hit many winners. His form looked excellent, throwback in a way and could have some great results in the next week overall like today where he won 6-3 6-4. Depending on Rafael Nadal’s form on the day he could come even through in their match.
Baghdatis was smooth in Stuttgart (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
Benjamin Becker came back to Germany in good form after some wins at Roland Garros, and was excited to start the grass court season, his best surface, but unfortunately the shoulder-problem he had in Paris discomforted him again and he was in pain. Therefore he slumped in defeat against Andreas Seppi. After the first set he asked for a medical timeout and it went better afterwards. He held twice his serve, and he had signs of a comeback, but after Seppi served again his should flaired up once more. The German let the match slide and wants to focus now on getting completely recovered again. Wish you all the best, Benjamin, and a speedy recovery! Seppi defeated injured Becker 6-1, 6-2.
Similar to Becker Sergiy Stakhovsky had medical problems against Sam Groth. The first set Stakhovsky won with a classic grass court serve and volley game, often chipping and charging with brilliant volley winners. Groth, famous for his fastest serve ever recorded at a Challenger in South Korea, served again very well, but was too slow to reach Stakhovsky’s volleys. Especially the second serves were attacked by Stako, till the Australian let off steam and yelled
“he always gets my 2nd serve” after 0-30, *3-5 in the first set. Bit by bit Stakhovsky started to play more passively and gave Groth some opportunities at the net that he could approach.
Groth and Stakhovsky volleyed away (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
Nothing changed in the second set and Stakhovsky’s serve lessened in effectiveness, he had to save seven break points in the second set alone, as Groth wasn’t always attentive at his chances. On the eight break point chance in set 2, a set point as well, Groth finally won it. Stako lost his serve at the beginning of the third set, and then retired 5-3 down in the third. At the end his serves were a shadow of the his serving in the 1st set, so Groth won it 4-6, 7-5, 5-3. Wish you a speedy recovery as well, Stako!
Matthias Bachinger again displayed great tennis against Peter Gojowczyk. Gojo dictated with his forehand in very good rallies and the Bavarian Bachinger ran left and right to get the balls. Both were serve-and-volleying very well and little things decided this match. One of these things was Bachinger’s fighting spirit, and his poison slices which were a hazard for Gojowczyk. He committed unforced errors and many forehands landed at the net after Bachinger’s slices.
Bachinger was very clutch on important points and didn’t give up any game. Gojowczyk was leading in his last service game in before a theoretical breaker 40-0, but many forehand unforced errors and an incredible forehand smash into the net after a long slice-rally and a well played lob gave Bachinger a break. The Bavarian served the match out, just like in the first set he did after winning the break and will face #2 seed Marin Cilic. Bachingers win was 7-5 7-5.
Alexander Zverev was the better player against Mate Pavic and deservedly won after losing the first set 3-6, 6-2, 6-3. It was a bad start at the beginning facing a break point, and he eventually got broken and lost the first set. In the second set the young German improved his serve on break points, and his forehand was very sharp against Pavic, who likes to attack at the net with his backhand volley. Zverev was aware of that and could read his serve-and-volleys, as he stood meters behind the baseline and didn’t give Pavic many free points.. All in all Zverev played with a very good strategy and kept his head cool, against a nervous Pavic. He finally won the match with a very strong forehand triggering a Pavic error.
Both Zverev brothers advanced on the day (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
The old German master Tommy Haas returned finally to the tour! His win over Mikhail Kukushkin was a graet match, based on good serve and offensive forehands. Kukushkin didn’t have any clue how to react and it says a lot about his tennis on grass when he gets dominated by the rusty Haas. In the second set Haas lost his rhythm and started to gift Kukushkin games he never would have been able to win. Giving that Kukushkin at the end couldn’t hold the break and Haas was able to raise his level again to finished it in two 6-4 7-5.
The last German who played today, Dustin Brown lost in three to Jerzy Janowicz. Both were rock solid on serve, and Brown lost some points due to easy unforced errors he hit. The first set went quickly as Dreddy took it in a tiebreak but Janowicz was able to break him in the second and third sets, while Brown wasn’t able to convert break points. Janowicz completed the comeback 6-7 6-4 6-3. It was still a successful tournament for Brown as he qualified for an ATP event for the first time since Munich.
Janowicz vs. Brown was a quick match (photo credit: Andreas Thiele)
In the other singles match on the day, Andreas Haider-Maurer dashed the hopes of young German wild card Max Marterer 7-6 6-3.
Tuesday Doubles Scores
Lopez/Nadal d. Junaid/Shamasdin 7-6 6-2
Cabal/Farah d. Rosol/Thiem 7-6 7-6
Matkowski/Zimonjic d. Monfils/Simon 6-3 6-4
2015 ATP Stuttgart and Den Bosch Previews and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The grass season begins anew for 2015 with a pair of 250 level events. Stuttgart is switching to grass from clay this year, and Den Bosch in the Netherlands is a joint ATP/WTA event again this year. After a spring on the dirt, ATP World Tour stars will feel the blades of green grass under their feet. Stay tuned to Tennis Atlantic for on-site ATP Stuttgart coverage all week.
ATP World Tour 250
June 8-June 14, 2015
Prize Money: € 574,965
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Rafael Nadal (10)
2: Marin Cilic (9)
3: Feliciano Lopez (14)
4: Gael Monfils (16)
Stuttgart switching to grass gave them a stronger field than usual, Nadal is the top seed because he was ranked higher than Cilic at the time the seeds were drawn, though that has changed now with the new rankings. The seed cutoff is 28, as this is a strong field for a 250.
Rosol has a h2h win on grass in this matchup, Queen’s 2012, but that was a three set match. Rosol comes off a third round showing in Paris, while Baghdatis won a round at the grass Manchester challenger. Both of these guys are solid on the green stuff, as Rosol famously ball bashed to beat Nadal on this surface, and Baghdatis with his aggressive ball striking has shown his prowess before as well. I’d give Rosol a slight edge to advance with his power, but this one probably goes three sets again.
(WC)Tommy Haas vs. Mikhail Kukushkin
Tommy Haas is making his return from shoulder surgery one year since he last played a match on the ATP tour. The 37 year old remains an ageless wonder, and it was surprising after he elected to come back after another injury, in a career marked by injuries, rather than retiring. On home soil, and on grass, a surface his all court game is well suited for, he should feel comfortable, but one has to wonder how much he has left in the tank at this point in his career, coming off an injury. Kukushkin is struggling mightily, and has for most of the season, so he’s a beatable round 1 opponent.
Brown has a 2-1 h2h over the higher ranked Janowicz and he qualified without dropping set here, well recognized as a solid grass court player, as he beat Rafa Nadal on this surface in Halle previously. Janowicz, a former Wimbledon semifinalist has been struggling this season, but he will look to grass to kickstart his game. This should be a close match, but I’m going with Brown in an upset victory.
Stakhovsky with his serve and volley game can be lethal on grass, as his famous Wimbledon win over Roger Federer proved, Groth comes off of a title in the Manchester challenger, and with his massive serve, he’s likewise a dangerous player on a quick surface. This is their first meeting, and it’s a hard match to pick, I give Groth a slight edge to advance.
Rafael Nadal, struggling this season by his standards, will open with the winner of Baghdatis/Rosol in what could be a tricky opening round test on the heels of his quarterfinal defeat at the French Open. Nadal’s worst surface is grass, and he hasn’t played well on it since 2011. Rafa has a strong h2h record, including a grass win over Baghdatis (06 Wimbledon semis), while he is 1-1 on grass against Rosol, losing to at Wimbledon 2012, but winning in four sets in 2014 at the same venue. Rosol is likely to be a tougher opponent, but either way I could well see Nadal losing that, the winner is likely to face the Bernard Tomic/Tommy Haas winner in the quarterfinals. Haas/Kukushkin will face Tomic or JL Struff. Tomic is an excellent grass court player who was having a great season before he hit clay, his worst surface. I expect grass to be a rebound for him as he should beat Struff, Haase, and then Nadal to reach the semis. Nadal is not trustworthy on grass right now if you ask me, and Haas is just coming off of injury, so Tomic doesn’t seem like that bold of a pick to me.
4 seed Gael Monfils will open with Andreas Haider-Maurer or Max Marterer a 19 year old German wild card. Marterer will have a shot at a win if he can play on grass, as AHM is a clay courter, either way, Monfils should cruise into the quarters, but he will get a tough opponent there. Philipp Kohlschreiber routined Alex Dolgopolov today, and he will face the Janowicz/Brown winner. All three of these guys are dangerous on grass and given given Kohli has a 2-0 h2h over Brown, I have him facing Monfils in the quarters. Kohlschreiber has a poor h2h against Monfils overall, but one of his two wins came on grass, meaning this meeting should be exciting if it takes place. Monfils has been in pretty good form as of late, and I’m going with him to advance to the semis.
Marin Cilic will open with either Peter Gojowczyk or Matthias Bachinger in the opening round, both Germans enter via qualifying, Bachinger was a lucky loser, and Gojowczyk qualified without dropping a set. Gojo has always been a talented underachiever in my mind but Cilic, who is improving in form and reached the second week at the French, will be a strong favorite to reach the quarters. There he probably faces the Benjamin Becker/Andreas Seppi winner. 7 seed Dominic Thiem is the seed, and opens with qualifier Mischa Zverev. Thiem is extremely inexperienced on grass, and prefers clay, thus the veteran Zverev will have a shot in that one. Becker is an excellent grass court veteran, while Seppi’s all court game can be dangerous as well, I’m going with Becker to beat Seppi, and Zverev to reach the quarters, where he will likely fall to Cilic.
3 seed Feliciano Lopez, who had a remarkable season on grass last year and is at his best on the surface opens with the Groth/Stakhovsky winner, a difficult task. Lopez has been in very poor form on clay, and he’ll be under pressure to preserve ranking points now, I still think he wins that match, and beats Viktor Troicki or Borna Coric in the quarterfinals. Wild card Alex Zverev, the younger brother of Mischa and an ATP young gun more suited for clay, opens with qualifier Mate Pavic. Look for Pavic to beat Zverev, and Troicki to slip past the inexperienced young gun Coric on grass, then beat Pavic to reach the quarters.
The German with American ties, Becker, reached a grass court final last year in Den Bosch (a tournament he won in 2009), and if he can get past Seppi, Cilic could slip up in the quarters, and he could upset him as well for a spot in the semis. He’s not the only possible dark horse in the draw, but with his good serve and quality baseline game, the crafty veteran could impress.
Semis: Monfils d. Tomic Cilic d. Lopez
Tomic vs. Monfils could go either way, I’m going with Monfils based off of form though, Tomic winning this title wouldn’t surprise me. Cilic has a h2h win on grass over Lopez, his form is better, and he’s done better on fast surface h2h meetings.
It’s been a slow road back for Cilic, and Monfils has struggled to stay healthy as well. I’m finally comfortable picking Cilic to perform like the top 10 player he is capable of as he seems fit, and the rust is starting to fade. Look for him to win in Stuttgart this week.
ATP World Tour 250*
s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands
June 8-June 14, 2015
Prize Money: € 537,050
*denotes joint ATP/WTA event
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga*/(5) Ivo Karlovic (27)
2: David Goffin (15)
3: Roberto Bautista Agut (21)
4: Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (34)
*Top seed Tsonga pulled out after a run to the French Open semis, thus the 5 seed Ivo Karlovic becomes the 1 seed in terms of the draw.
Den Bosch isn’t as strong of a field as Stuttgart, but it’s not bad for a 250, the lack of a top 10 player makes this an open draw.
First round matchups to watch:
(WC)Lleyton Hewitt vs. (Q)Nicolas Mahut
A pair of veterans who are retiring soon, Mahut, the champion of this tournament in 2013, qualified with relative ease and he’s a solid grass court player with his serve and volley skills, while Hewitt is of course a legend who counterpunches at his best on grass, though he has played an extremely light schedule so far this year. These players met in the 2013 Newport final on grass, and Mahut prevailed in three sets, prior to that Hewitt won a pair of h2h meetings on other surfaces. It’s a tough pick in regards to the winner of this, Mahut has played more recently, and Hewitt is in serious decline at this point in his career, thus I’m going with Nico, likely in three sets.
(6)Adrian Mannarino vs. Rendy Lu
Mannarino’s versatile game is well suited for fast surfaces like grass, while Lu is a steady flat hitting baseliner who excels on fast surfaces, especially hard courts. Mannarino beat Lu this year in three sets at Delray Beach, and as the higher ranked player, he should be the favorite, having performed well on hard courts this year, that said, Lu can rise to the occasion at times though he lacks weaponry, and this should be a good match. I have Mannarino winning it.
The big serving Karlovic will face Ricardas Berankis or Tatsuma Ito in round 2, Ito qualified with ease, so I’d expect him to win that round 1 match, before falling to Karlovic who has been struggling mightily for a while, but should find some form on grass. 7 seed Fernando Verdasco should be the favorite in the top section, he opens with dirtballer Daniel Gimeno-Traver and I’d also expect him to get past Robin Haase, who beat Blaz Kavcic in straights today. Haase beat Verdasco at Wimbledon 2011, but he’s not exactly a top player these days, plus he tends to struggle on home soil under pressure. Verdasco has lost twice to Karlovic on grass, but given recent form, this time I’m picking him to advance to the semis.
Defending champion Roberto Bautista Agut will get a tough R2 match against Hewitt/Mahut, if Mahut advances, RBA should still have an edge, as he beat him in Den Bosch last year (in 3 sets). RBA hasn’t been a world beater as of late but I favor him to reach the quarters. The Mannarino/Lu winner should also reach the quarters, unless Benoit Paire or Marco Chiudinelli, one of the qualifiers, is a surprise. Chiudinelli qualified in just his second tournament of 2015, while Paire has limited abilities on grass, though his form has been improved as of late. I have Mannarino over Paire, and then RBA over Mannarino for a spot in the semis.
David Goffin will face the winner of Kenny De Schepper/Jurgen Melzer in round 2. De Schepper is a lucky loser, but he still should defeat Melzer, the struggling veteran, and he’ll have a good chance against Goffin as well, given his game isn’t as well built for grass, while De Schepper’s big serve should help him find success. The section above De Schepper/Goffin is interesting, Joao Sousa/Denis Istomin is a toss-up match, while Mikhail Youzhny was formerly good on grass, and will open with qualifier Illya Marchenko who has been in good form as of late. Sousa has been better than Istomin this year, but Istomin has a better record on grass. I have Sousa beating Youzhny in the second round, Youzhny has been in awful form this year, and even with that previous success on grass I don’t see him getting far. Goffin over Sousa is my pick in the quarters, he has a 2-1 h2h edge.
4 seed Guillermo Garcia-Lopez will face Marius Copil, the Romanian wild card defeated Jarkko Nieminen in 3 sets on Monday. GGL should defeat Copil, though he comes off an opening round shock defeat at the French, but the winner of Vasek Pospisil/Gilles Muller could trouble him in the quarters. Pospisil routined the poor playing Marinko Matosevic in straights on Monday, while Muller blitzed Turkish #1 Marsel Ilhan with a bagel. Muller with his big serve is a threat on grass, as he also volleys well, and I see him defeating both Pospisil, and Garcia-Lopez to reach the semis. GGL has been a streaky player but I don’t feel his game is clicking right now.
The veteran serve and volleyer plays some of his best tennis on grass, and he looked strong today in his match. He has a draw that should open up if he can defeat Garcia-Lopez, and he well could win this tournament, as I have him reaching the final at a minimum with wins over Pospisil, Garcia-Lopez, and Goffin.
Semis: Bautista Agut d. Verdasco
Muller d. Goffin
It’s a coin flip between RBA and Verdasco if they meet in the semis, a 1-1 h2h and both have been streaky on grass before, RBA is higher ranked, both have huge forehand, and I’m going with RBA in my own bracket. Muller should defeat Goffin given this is grass.
Going with a non-seed to take the title in Den Bosch, it’s happened previously and RBA lost to Muller in the AO this year. On a slick fast surface, Muller’s serve and volley should be a deadly combination, and I have the veteran winning a title this week.
Tipsarevic upsets Tomic, Pospisil comes up short against Thiem 2015 ATP Munich Tuesday Marc Imperatori for Tennis Atlantic
Photo Credit: Marc Imperatori
In my report yesterday I mentioned the great weather in Munich. Somehow I officially jinxed it. Originally, play was scheduled to begin at 11 AM but the rain made it impossible to start until 3 PM. Thereafter it was still pretty cold which is why you´ll hear a lot about the conditions in the paragraphs below.
At 3 P.M. local time, four Singles main draw matches were played simultaneously. On centre court Lukas Rosol dismantled Florian Mayer 6-2, 6-2. Even though his season was average at best so far, the Czech played a fantastic match. He was very aggressive from the beginning (an early break certainly helped) and never let Mayer come back in the match. The body language was pretty obvious in this case. While Rosol seemed as focused and concentrated as against Nadal in his breakthrough win in 2012 at Wimbledon, Mayer looked like he didn´t really want to be out there in the cold. In the post match-interview Rosol revealed that he liked the conditions since it suits his big-hitting style. Also kudos to him for just wearing a t-shirt when the crowd was full of winter jackets! In R2 he will meet Sergiy Stakhovsky who beat lucky loser Mikhail Ledovskikh 6-0, 6-0 in 36 minutes.
Rosol was a cool customer (photo credit: Marc Imperatori)
Florian Mayer explained in a short press conference that he was very happy with the way he played in Monte Carlo & Bucharest after his long injury time-out. He stated that he´s absolutely pain-free at the moment and elaborated why he didn´t commit to the Madrid Masters next week. He´s not willing to waste his protected ranking for a tournament that´s pretty bad for him anyway because of the altitude.
On Court 1 Dominic Thiem beat Vasek Pospisil 5-7 6-4 7-6(9). In the first set Pospisil broke for the set by playing a very good return game. In the second set Thiem broke at 3-3 and never gave it back. In the third set Thiem broke Pospisil in the opening game and had break points to go up a double break. However, he got tight as he admitted in the post-match presser, failed to convert them and eventually lost his serve, too. In the decisive tie-break both player saved match points until Thiem hit a great backhand down the line passing shot to finally win the match.
Pospisil played a great clay match but still came up short (photo credit: Marc Imperatori)
In R2 his opponent will be “Nadal-killer“, and defending finalist Fabio Fognini. The Italian later won against Bastian Trinker, an Austrian lucky loser, 6-2 7-6. In yesterday´s report I claimed that Trinker lacked experience against ATP level players and that he had troubles when constantly set under pressure. After watching today´s match against Fognini I stand by my opinion. After less than 30 minutes Fognini was up 6-2 2-0. Trinker broke back from 40-0 down in the fourth game of the set because Fognini was a bit more sloppy and Trinker himself started to be more confident. Yet, the Italian was too good for him and was never really in trouble.
Fognini scored a comfortable result (photo credit: Marc Imperatori)
On court 2, Janko Tipsarevic won a close encounter against Bernard Tomic 5-7 6-1 7-6(3). After being a break down in the second set Tomic more or less tanked the rest of set 2 including a beautiful monologue in which he promised to himself to never come back to this “fucking town“ of Munich again, even if they offered him money. Apparently he didn´t like to play in the cold. In the third set Tomic showed how much he changed in 2015 by upping his level again to play as well as in the opening set. At 5-4 he even had match point on Tipsarevic´ serve though the Serbian saved it with a great backhand winner down the line. Tomic may be upset now for staying too passive in this point. In the tie-break Tipsarevic got an early mini-break and dominated from then on. Tipsarevic´ opponent is Victor Estrella Burgos who already won his R1 match yesterday.
On court 3 Radek Stepanek defeated Farrukh Dustov by retirement. It must be said that Stepanek was leading 6-1, 4-1 anyway. With Roberto Bautista-Agut waiting in the next round, Stepanek will need to play his very best in R2.
In the next match on centre court (after Rosol vs. Mayer) we experienced another Germany vs. Czech Republic battle. Even though”battle“ might be slightly exaggerated. This time the German, Philipp Kohlschreiber, outplayed the Czech, Jiri Vesely, 6-1 6-2. In the post-match press conference Kohlschreiber said that he was surprised by how well he played today. Additionally, he admitted that the conditions favoured him a lot more than Vesely. Kohlschreiber´s tactical approach to use angles instead of power and to keep the ball in play instead of going for too much worked out very well. When asked about his next match against Alexander Zverev, Kohlschreiber praised Zverev´s talent and game.
Kohli was positive in press (photo credit: Marc Imperatori)
In another R1 match of the day Mischa Zverev (Alex´ older brother) edged his fellow countryman Jan-Lennard Struff out 7-6, 3-6, 6-4. In opposite to yesterday Zverev had to play with more depth and be more aggressive than against Gombos. From what I saw he still played consistent tennis from the baseline with some variety and also he attacked in the right moment. Apparently this was enough to win the match. Mischa Zverev´s next opponent is no other than Andy Murray.
Zverev had a strange return position against Struff (photo credit: Marc Imperatori)
In the remaining R1 match between Simone Bolelli and Dustin Brown, Bolelli won 6-1 7-6(2). The Italian will now face David Goffin, a player who impressed me very much in the training sessions and is my pick for reaching the final from the bottom half.
Pablo Andujar vs. Joao Souza as well as all doubles matches were shifted to tomorrow.
2015 ATP Barcelona and Bucharest Preview/Prediction Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The European spring journey continues for the players of the ATP world tour with clay court events in both Barcelona, Spain, and Bucharest, Romania, with Barca a 500 series event, and Bucharest, one of the few ATP events in Eastern Europe, a 250.
2015 ATP Barcelona Preview
Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell
ATP World Tour 500
April 20-April 26, 2015
Prize Money: €1,993,230
Top 8 seeds (top 16 seeds receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Kei Nishikori (4)
2: Rafael Nadal (5)
3: David Ferrer (7)
4: Marin Cilic (10)
5: Feliciano Lopez (12)
6: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (14)
7: Roberto Bautista Agut (16)
8: Ernests Gulbis (18)
Four of the top 10 will be playing in Barcelona, and the top 8 seeds are all top 20 players for a strong 500 level field.
First round matchups to watch:
Alex Dolgopolov vs. Joao Sousa
Dolgopolov has played relatively well in the past few weeks, but he remains a streaky highlight reel generator, he’s the favorite against the streaky Portuguese player Joao Sousa, who can struggle for weeks, but puts together a great tournament from time to time. Both these players hit the ball relatively hard from the ground, and they are solid movers, thus creating an interesting matchup, I have Dolgo winning in straights but upset potential is there.
Thiem is the favorite without a doubt, but don’t count the veteran Estrella out, as he’s known for the ability to put up the occasional heroic performance. He’s a great mover, while Thiem, though he rounded into form in Miami, lost his opening match in Monte Carlo on clay, and has been unpredictably poor this year. Estrella retired in his last match in Monte Carlo against David Ferrer, so his physical condition is in question. As I said, I expect Thiem to prevail, but it’s still an interesting matchup.
Benoit Paire vs. (Q)Jaume Munar
Benoit Paire, who used to be considered a young gun, will take on one of the unheralded young guns coming onto the tour slowly but surely, 17 year old Spaniard Jaume Munar, who qualified to reach the main draw. Munar just recently turned pro, and was a former top 5 junior who reached the French Open Junior final in 2014, I’m interested to see what he can do against the technically talented but mentally weak Paire, who has a world class backhand, but a futures level forehand. It’s a winnable matchup for sure, though Paire has played well on the challenger tour in 2015.
Fernando Verdasco vs. (Q)Andrey Rublev
Former Barcelona champion Fernando Verdasco will take on the player Munar lost to in that RG junior final in 2014, Andrey Rublev, a more recognizable young gun who won ATP matches in both Delray Beach and Miami, and then qualified to reach the main draw here. At 17, the combustible Rublev may be less mentally stable than even Verdasco, but he has all the weapons to make this a match, and he could at least take a set. Verdasco of course has the world class forehand and he reached the semis in Houston, along with a round 1 loss to Grigor Dimitrov in Monte Carlo. Once again, look for the favorite to win but the challenger to put up a more competitive contest than expected.
Kei Nishikori snapped Rafael Nadal’s chokehold on this tournament last year, as the defending champion, who is also ranked higher than the king of clay, will begin his clay court season in Barcelona and work on keeping his ranking trending upwards. It should be a relatively easy start for Nishikori, who went 10-2 on clay last year, as he will open with Pablo Carreno Busta or Teymuraz Gabashvili, both of whom have struggled in 2015. After that, Nishikori could get a shotmakers match with Alex Dolgopolov in the round of 16.
Dolgo will need to beat Sousa, and then defending finalist Santiago Giraldo, who has struggled in 2015 to set that up. Giraldo has their lone clay h2h win, but is 1-3 in the overall h2h, and he comes off quarterfinals in Houston, while Dolgopolov won a round in Monte Carlo before losing to the in-form Gael Monfils in a close contest. Regardless, Nishikori beat Giraldo in the final here last year, and he is a perfect 3-0 with no sets dropped against Dolgopolov, including a win this year in Acapulco against the man from Ukraine.
In the quarters the road is unlikely to get easier for Nishikori to defend his title, as Pablo Cuevas and Roberto Bautista Agut are the primary contenders in the section below. Cuevas won an ATP title on clay in Sao Paulo earlier in the year, and is making his European debut this year, he should be able to ease past either the struggling JL Struff or the struggling Roberto Carballes Baena, a wild card in the second round. RBA won a pair of matches in Monte Carlo, and appears to be playing a bit better than he was earlier this year, where deficiencies in his game were evident. He will open with most likely Thomaz Bellucci, one of the dangerous non-seeds in this draw who beat RBA on clay in Davis Cup last year.
Bellucci will need to beat qualifier Yuichi Sugita in round 1, and is a poor 3-6 on clay in 2015, that said, hes a streaky player who can catch form, so though I picked RBA to face off with Cuevas, Bellucci has a chance here. In that match between Cuevas-RBA, I’m going with an upset and have Cuevas into the quarters, he makes his living on clay and his game has steadily been improving over the past few months.
As for the match between Cuevas-Nishikori, Nishikori has a h2h win on clay, and he’s the better player, nothing indicates to me he will struggle presently, even though he hasn’t been red hot, and I don’t think Cuevas will have the weapons and skill needed to win that matchup, thus putting Kei into the semis.
4 seed Marin Cilic, who reached the quarters in a Monte Carlo surprise, will open with the Estrella/Thiem winner, if he struggles, Thiem could very well pull an upset and give him trouble, however his solid play in Monte Carlo gives me the confidence to say he will win that, given Thiem has likewise been erratic this season, and one would have to think Cilic, who is coming off of injury, can only improve as he gets more matches under his belt.
Casablanca champ Martin Klizan could stop Cilic in his tracks in the third round though, Klizan will need to beat Juan Monaco, who cooled down in Monte Carlo, and lost in the second round after previously showing good form. Monaco should defeat the struggling Alejandro Gonzalez however in round 1. What bodes well for Cilic’s chances is he’s 3-0 against Klizan, but they have never met on clay, and that’s a swing matchup to me, but I’m picking Cilic to go into the quarters.
Cilic/Klizan/Monaco/Thiem are almost certain to face either Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Tommy Robredo in the quarters, as the section below Cilic is a weaker one. Robredo will face either Joao Souza or Mikhail Kukushkin, neither of whom are in good form, in round 2, while Tsonga has Marinko Matosevic or Marcel Granollers, two more out of form players. Tsonga is 3-2 this year, while Robredo won a pair of matches in Monte Carlo but has overall not played that great this year, it’s a hard match to pick, but Tsonga has more upside potential, and thus I’m going with him to reach the quarters and face Cilic in a rematch of their Monte Carlo match that Cilic won, given that result, a Nishikori vs. Cilic semifinal seems most likely in the top half.
Rafa Nadal is the undisputed king of Barcelona with a 42-2 record at the tournament, and 8 titles, but he lost here last year and right off the bat he has a chance to get revenge against the player he lost to, Nicolas Almagro, who opens with journeyman Paolo Lorenzi in round 1. Nadal comes off the semis in Monte Carlo, where he did well against all of his opponents except the world number 1 Djokovic, while Almagro was last a quarterfinalist in Casablanca. Nadal beat Almagro in Miami 4 and 2, and as I said should be hungry for revenge, so I really don’t expect that to be much of a match, given that the performance Almagro turned in 2014 was once in a lifetime.
Look for Nadal against Verdasco/Rublev in round 3, the seed is Fabio Fognini, but his singles game is challenger level right now (1-6 since reaching the Rio final), and Verdasco is solid enough to win especially given the 3-1 h2h. Verdasco of course shocked Nadal in Miami, and he will do his best to try do it again, however, on clay the advantage should swing further towards Nadal, and thus he should be able to reach the quarters at one of his best events.
Feliciano Lopez will player either qualifier James Ward or Marsel Ilhan, though he’s not elite on clay, he still should be good enough to win that round 2 match and setup a match with either Leo Mayer or Albert Ramos/Pablo Andujar. Ramos has been in good form in the past few tournaments, while Mayer has been struggling. Ramos leads the h2h with Mayer 3-2, but Mayer beat him in Sao Paulo this year.
Andujar has beaten Ramos before as well and they are similar ball spinning dirtballers as an aside and Ramos has been in better form, giving him the edge. I have Ramos beting Mayer, and then Lopez to reach the quarters, Ramos has a 2-0 h2h edge with Lopez, and he is a better clay court player, so given the surface, the lower ranked Spaniard has to be the favorite. Nadal has beaten Ramos twice before in Barcelona, and he should do so again to reach the semis.
David Ferrer will face wild card Albert Montanes, a journeyman veteran, or Ricardas Berankis, a former top junior turned journeyman, in the opening round. He has never won in Barcelona but he’s reached the final four previous times, and he comes off a quarterfinal loss to Nadal in Monte Carlo. Ferru has been peak this season and I expect him to blow past Montanes/Berankis and also Nick Kyrgios, the 16 seed, to reach the round of 16. Kyrgios is returning to tour from a back injury, and has limited experience on clay. In fact, the young gun may well lose to qualifier Thiemo De Bakker, or fellow young gun wild card Elias Ymer in round 2, De Bakker has been reliable in ATP qualifying this season an seems breakthrough ready. I have Ferrer beating Montanes, and De Bakker to reach the round of 16.
12 seed Philipp Kohlschreiber is the favorite for the quarterfinals in the weakest section of the draw. The wheels have come off for the 8 seed Ernests Gulbis, who badly needs to be back gaining confidence and form with his new coaching team on the challenger tour, rather than continuing to self-destruct at the ATP level. He was a cacophony of errors in a blowout loss in Monte Carlo, and I don’t see the bleeding stopping against the Munar/Paire winner, though it could. The 17 year old Munar actually has a realistic path to the third round, but I have it Paire vs. Kohlschreiber, after Kohli beats Andrey Kuznetsov, who will face Marton Fucsovics, a qualifier, in round 1. Kuznetsov qualified in Monte Carlo, while Kohli is 2-2 in his last four matches, and won a round in Monte Carlo.
Paire and Kohli have a 2-2 h2h, though Paire won the last two meetings, and Paire has a dark horse chance to reach the quarters if his game is on, he qualified in Monte Carlo and has played well at the challenger level, as mentioned. No matter if it’s Kohlschreiber or Paire in the quarters, Ferrer should reach the semis, he’s 2-0 against Kohli on clay (8-2 overall), and 3-0 overall against Paire.
Dark Horse: Benoit Paire
Albert Ramos, who I have reaching the quarters, is another dark horse candidate, but Paire gets the official designation because his run would be less likely, but more interesting. He has all the talent and the tools, but with his weak mental approach to the game, he slipped down the rankings, and now newly focused he seems to be working his way back, a run to the quarters in a weak section would be a great way to announce to the rest of the tennis world that he’s back in the game.
Cilic famously won the US Open final over Nishikori, but Kei won their clay court meeting in Barcelona, and he’s an overall 5-3 h2h leader, given the fact Nishikori is stroking the ball, while Cilic is just returning from injury, Kei is the fave.
Nadal just beat Ferrer in Monte Carlo, and almost always has, so again he’s the pick.
Nadal d. Nishikori
This is the matchup just about everyone wants this week, and I have a feeling they will get it, Nadal has a 7-0 h2h on his side, though their only clay court meeting was basically a draw as Nishikori took the first set and then hurt himself and had to retire midway through the third set in Madrid. He also has all the positive history in Barca on his side, and home fans, but Nishikori has been rising while Nadal has been in decline over the past 18 months, and Nishikori is now ranked higher than the Spanish veteran. Both players are pure ball strikers, while Nadal hits with tons more spin of course, and both fly movement wise, it’s a more even matchup than the h2h would suggest, but I feel like Nadal, who showed signs of improvement in Monte Carlo, will find a way to get it done and take the title this week.
Troicki is more accomplished than Gimeno-Traver, who just reached his first ATP final in Casablanca and he has a 5-0 head to head edge (3-0 on clay including 2-0 last year), but still DGT playe some surprisingly good tennis to reach that Casablanca final, and should have some positive momentum. Troicki is an even 2-2 in his last four, and that pretty much sums up his 2015 season thus far, some good results with losses mixed in, and he’s still looking to do better. He should win, but an upset is possible.
Borna Coric vs. Sergiy Stakhovsky
Stako crushed a listless Coric in Zagreb 2 and 4 earlier this season, but Coric has been improving since that loss, and he comes off a tough loss to Alex Dolgopolov in 3 sets in Monte Carlo. Stako lost to Tomas Berdych and is 1-3 in his last four, though he was playing some of the best tennis of his career earlier in the year. Given this is clay, Coric should win, but who knows if that h2h will hang over his head.
(7)Jiri Vesely vs. Diego Schwartzman
Vesely and Schwartzman, two young guns, have never met, and both can play their best tennis on clay. Vesely snapped an atrocious losing streak an reached the semis in Casablanca, but he promptly lost in Monte Carlo to Juan Monaco, while Schwartzman qualified and lost to Jeremy Chardy in the opening round. Vesely is favord, and more accomplished, but DSS has a great chance and I have him winning this matchup personally.
Ivan Dodig vs Andreas Haider-Maurer
AHM is nearly a top 50 player now, as the Austrian journeyman has been outdoing himself, primarily on clay, this year. Dodig, who has won twice, and lost twice to the Austrian, is still languishing just inside the top 100, though he has the skill to be much better than that. AHM is 4-2 in his last six, while Dodig is playing his first tournament since a gut wrenching loss to David Ferrer in an Indian Wells thriller. Dodig showed flashes of renewed top 50 ability in that match, and it will be intriguing to see if that shows up in Bucharest,even with AHM the favorite.
Three time champ Gilles Simon is likely to get an interesting opening match with Janko Tipsarevic, who gets a wild card for this tournament, his second since returning to the tour after a lengthy injury layoff. Tipsarevic will need to beat a qualifier, but if the reaches the second round, just as he did in Houston, he’ll have a shot at upsetting Simon for just the third time in what would be their eleventh meeting. The clay h2h is 1-1, but Simon leads 8-2 in the overall h2h, and given form, Simon will be a strong favorite. Simon is 6-3 in his last three tournaments, and has only lost to top 10 players (Ferrer x2 including Monte Carlo, and Nadal) in that span. Look for Simon to beat another Serb, Viktor Troicki, who he has a 5-0 h2h with, in the quarters. Troicki will need to beat DGT and the struggling Denis Istomin or a qualifier.
3 seed Ivo Karlovic isn’t the favorite to reach the semis in his section, that would be Borna Coric most likely, presuming he can beat Stakhovsky. While he isn’t going to be used to the Karlovic serve, as one would expect, clay slows it down to some extent, and thus it’s Dr. Ivo’s worst surface, and the one Coric is most likely to beat him on. Below Coric/Stakhovsky/Karlovic is Vesely/Schwartzman, along with former champ Florian Mayer, and Malek Jaziri. Mayer won his comeback match against Mikhail Youzhny in Monte Carlo before losing to Marin Cilic in 3 sets, and given he played pretty well, I have him beating both Jaziri an Schwartzman to setup a quarterfinal with Coric. It will be youth and form against experience, and wit, as funky flo is a difficult player to deal with given his wonky, tactically smart gamestyle. I’m going with the youth and talent of Coric to shine through at this 250, and have him reaching the semis.
Monte Carlo semifinalist Gael Monfils, who beat both Roger Federer and Grigor Dimitrov in the rich man’s paradise will start his Bucharest campaign against a player in terrible form, either the should be retired Mikhail Youzhny, or the challenger player Marius Copil awaits. Even if he’s fatigued, as it seems he was in his Monte Carlo semi, I still expect him to win that. Either AHM/Dodig or Simone Bolelli/Andrey Golubev await in the quarters. Given this is clay, Bolelli should prevail over Golubev. Bolelli and AHM have a 1-1 h2h, but Bolelli lost to Victor Estrella in Monte Carlo and is playing poorer than AHM at the moment, so I have a Haider-Maurer vs. Monfils quarter, with Monfils advancing unless he injures himself or is too tired to stand.
Former champ Lukas Rosol will open against Dusan Lajovic or a qualifier, with Guillermo Garcia-Lopez likely in the quarters. Rosol beat GGL in the 2013 final and he comes off a round 1 loss in Monte Carlo. GGL was shocked by Lamine Ouahab in Casablanca and is on a two match losing streak, in fact hes just 2-5 since winning the Zagreb title. GGL will need to snap that losing streak an beat a qualifier, then Steve Darcis/Marcos Baghdatis to reach the quarters. In an interesting stats note, Baghdatis hasn’t won a clay match since 2012, and Darcis, though he’s a serve and volleyer, is actually relatively solid on the surface. GGL is 3-1 against Darcis, and thus he’s still the fave even with his struggles. Rosol is streaky and very unreliable, but I’m going with the h2h and have him beating GGL for a spot in the semis.
Coric could take the title this week, Stakhovsky, a serve and volleyer, Karlovic, a big server, and possibly Mayer, a funky finesse technician all present unique matchup challenges, but Coric has a well rounded game, and the youthful energy to confront ech challenge and at least reach the semis. The reliability, yet blandness of Simon, is its own frustrating challenge, and he’s had such success at the tournament before, but you never know with Gillou, and likewise, Monfils, or anyone else on the bottom half is beatable if Borna plays well and his opponents do not, we could well see a teenage ATP champion this week.
Simon d. Coric
Monfils d. Rosol
As mentioned, Coric will need to be patient against Simon, and I’m not sure he can manage that quite yet, in their Marseille h2h meeting, Coric struggled at the start, took the second, but then lost in three, plus he should be more fatigued, thus I give Simon the edge.
Monfils won a Davis Cup match against Rosol, and this tournament is on his racquet given how well he played in Monte Carlo, if he shows interest, he should be a near lock to reach the final, as nobody is near his level on the bottom half.
Simon d. Monfils
Simon beat Monfils in Marseille this year, and also won their clay court meeting (5-1 h2h), they play what is one of the highest average rally length matchups in tennis, and though Monfils should win Bucharest this week given his level, I don’t trust him enough, and I’m going with the more reliable Simon, especially given the h2h, and the win this year.
2015 ATP Miami Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Tennis Atlantic is pleased to have credentialed onsite coverage of the Miami Open all week long from our correspondent Esam Taha who will be reporting from the grounds of the Miami Open on all of the happenings. As an appetizer to that coverage, here is a preview of the Men’s draw.
2015 ATP Miami Preview
Miami Open presented by Itau
ATP World Tour Masters 1000
Miami, FL, USA
March 25-April 4, 2015
Prize Money: $5.381,235
Top 8 seeds (All 32 seeds receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Novak Djokovic (1)
2: Rafael Nadal (3)
3: Andy Murray (4)
4: Kei Nishkori (5)
5: Milos Raonic (6)
6: David Ferrer (7)
7: Stan Wawrinka (8)
8: Tomas Berdych (9)
Two-time Miami Champ and Indian Wells finalist Roger Federer opted to skip Miami to spend time with his family, Marin Cilic is out with a shoulder injury, and Richard Gasquet (back) and Nick Kyrgios (ankle) join Cilic on the list of injured players out of Miami. Veterans Philipp Kohlschreiber, Julian Benneteau, and Andreas Seppi are also out, but the rest of the top 50 will be playing this Masters event.
The more accomplished Dolgopolov should be favored against Berankis, but he will be under great pressure in Miami, as he’s defending quarterfinalist points, his ranking already having dropped out of the top 60 due to his failure to defend his semifinalist points from Indian Wells. Berankis meanwhile is one of the biggest underachievers on tour, as he was a former top junior and now at 24 is still ranked outside the top 70. That said, the undersized ballstriker Berankis is in relatively good form as he reached a semifinal at a challenger in Poland, and the quarterfinals in Zagreb in his last two events. Dolgopolov meanwhile isn’t playing that poorly, even with his ranking having dropped, as he won two matches in Indian Wells, and prior to that reached the quarters in Delray and Acapulco, all outdoor hard court events. Dolgo has a prior win over Berankis at the Australian Open, and I still expect him to win but this match could be closer than expected between talented shotmakers.
Steve Johnson vs. Mikhail Kukushkin
Johnson, who is on the verge of reaching the top 40 and hasn’t lost a match in the opening round at any tournament this season, is favored, and should beat the top Kazakh player Kukushkin, but expect a competitive contest. Johnson is 2-0 against Kukushkin in his career, with both meetings taking place on outdoor hard, but Kukushkin has been streakily good at points this season, including in Davis Cup play, and in Sydney where he reached the final as a qualifier. Johnson comes off the third round in IW and has three ATP quarterfinals, all on hard courts, as his best results on the year, while Kukushkin was injured in his last match, an opening round exit in Indian Wells. This is another good form test for Stevie J.
Marcos Baghdatis vs. Simone Bolelli
A battle of talented veterans with big hitting groundstrokes, Bolelli has a lone win over Baghdatis years ago but that was on clay, and Baghdatis may have the inside track to even up the h2h and win this match, given his superior recent form. The Cypriot veteran reached the quarterfinals in the stacked Irving Challenger in between IW and Miami, with two wins over quality ATP players and has an ATP semifinal (Zagreb) and a third round showing in Melbourne on his resume. Bolelli has a pair of quarterfinals on his resume but he’s a pedestrian 2-3 in his last 5 matches, though two of those losses were to top 10 players (Tomas Berdych and Milos Raonic). This match should be enjoyable as both players can really work the ball into tight spaces and are tactically smart.
Del Potro is playing his first match since Sydney, having rehabbed his injury again, and he will face off with the IW doubles champion Pospisil, who has yet to reach even a quarterfinal at any tournament in singles this season. 4 of Pospisil’s 7 losses this season have come against top 10 players, including his most recent one in Indian Wells to Andy Murray, and with that in mind, unless fatigue is an issue, I still expect the Canadian to beat the rusty Argentine, though with time Del Potro can return to being a top 20 player on the tour.
Pablo Carreno Busta vs. (WC)Andrey Rublev
17 year old wild card Rublev, the top Russian young gun on the tour, will be playing his second ATP event of the season, as he was also granted a wild card in Delray Beach just up the road from Miami. In that tournament, he reached the second round as he beat Dudi Sela in his opening match, and he has a nice chance to score his second ATP win over the dirtballer PCB. Carreno Busta is just 2-7 this season and he’s lost three straight matches, on top of that, he’s not a quality hard court player. That said, Rublev may not be his best either as he lost in qualies to Kyle Edmund in Irving. Though I doubt he will dominate, I do have Rublev winning this match in an upset ranking wise, though his future is much brighter than Carreno’s.
Stakhovsky has been in good form this season, while Almagro is 0-2 on hard courts, and will be playing his first match since January on the surface. Almagro does have a lone h2h win on hard courts over Stakhovsky in 2011, and he played relatively well on South American clay but he’s still finding his feet having come off an injury and Stako should be a small favorite over the fan-favorite Spaniard. While Stako is just 2-2 on his last four, prior to that he had two quarterfinals and a semifinal showing all at the ATP level post Australian Open, and neither of his losses, to Tomas Berdych in Indian Wells, and Tim Smyczek in Irving were bad, so I have him getting through this with his serve and volley style in 3 sets.
The four-time, and defending champion Novak Djokovic, who also triumphed in Indian Wells on Sunday, will open his Miami Open campaign against most likely Martin Klizan, assuming Klizan defeats clay courter Paolo Lorenzi. Though Klizan hits a heavy ball, and has the ability to trouble top players, I don’t see him giving Novak much trouble. In the third round, Djokovic, who tends be bothered by big servers, could be in for a struggle against 30 seed Gilles Muller however. The Luxembourger will face Malek Jaziri or qualifier Steve Darcis in his opening match. Jaziri broke a 5 match losing streak by winning a round in Indian Wells, and his h2h is 1-1 with Darcis, the serve and volleying veteran. Muller comes off the semis in Irving, so his serve and volleying appears to be clicking, thus I expect him to beat either Darcis or Jaziri. Djokovic beat Muller in 3 sets at the AO this year, so he should still be favored, not to mention he handled the big serving of John Isner well in Indian Wells.
16 seed Tommy Robredo found some form in Indian Wells as the veteran rejuvenated himself in the desert and reached the third round with a top 15 win over Grigor Dimitrov. That said, I have Dolgopolov advancing over him as long as he beats Berankis, in what would be their first career meeting. Look for the Dolgopolov/Robredo winner to have an inside track to meet Djokovic in the round of 16, as veterans Lleyton Hewitt and Thomaz Bellucci, along with 19 seed Pablo Cuevas are either out of form, or poor on hard courts. Even without having played a singles match since the AO, Hewitt, in his final season, has to be somewhat of a favorite to reach the third round with Bellucci and Cuevas both struggling on hard courts.
David Ferrer, a former finalist, will open with Jiri Vesely or Federico Delbonis. Ferrer lost to Bernard Tomic, earlier than he would have liked, in Indian Wells, but he always tends to play better in Miami, and he can’t be expected to have a hard time with his draw in the early rounds. Delbonis prefers clay and Vesely was sick in Indian Wells, after that, Lukas Rosol, who reached the round of 16 in Indian Wells and broke a lengthy losing streak, is likely opponent. The seeded Rosol will have to deal with the big serving Sam Groth or young gun qualifier Alex Zverev in round 2. Ferrer is 3-0 on hard courts against Rosol with just 1 set dropped.
12 seed Gilles Simon has a rather difficult draw, if he is to reach the round of 16. First up will be the Kukushkin/Johnson winner, and though Simon reached the round of 16 in IW, he didn’t beat any top players to do so, and Johnson is playing well right now, on home soil I’d give the American a great shot at the upset and have him through in my own bracket. Simon/Johnson is likely to face Ivo Karlovic in round 2, assuming Karlovic beats a qualifier (either Michael Berrer or Alejandro Falla both veterans), as he’s a seeded bye. Johnson just beat Karlovic in Indian Wells, and I have him doing so again to reach the round of 16 as an unseeded player.
Kei Nishikori, who exited in the round of 16 in Indian Wells, likewise with Ferrer earlier than he would have liked, gets his own section of the draw this time and will look to do his best with it. The Japanese should dispatch either Andrey Golubev or slumping veteran Mikhail Youzhny in the second round, and then get a more stern test against the Baghdatis/Bolelli winner or 32 seed Viktor Troicki in round 3. Troicki shockingly exited in the first round in Indian Wells and will look to do better in Miami. That said, Baghdatis is 4-1 against him, with all their matches taking place on hard court, while Bolelli is 2-2 on hard courts, though Troicki won their meeting this year in Sydney. I have Baghdatis into round 3 in my own bracket, and again the h2h favors him, as he’s 4-1 against Nishikori. Even more shockingly, all of those matches came on hard courts, and his four wins were all in straights. Even with that h2h it’s hard for me to pick against this top 5 version of Nishikori, but it does create an interesting upset opportunity for those bold enough to pick it.
Nishikori or another player should be on track for a round of 16 meeting with Roberto Bautista Agut, the 13 seed, if the seeds hold true to form. RBA, who hasn’t had the best of seasons, but is still a top 20 player, exited in his second match in Indian Wells, and will open with Jerzy Janowicz or qualfier Edouard Roger-Vasselin in round 2. RBA beat JJ in Miami last year and he’s in awful form, going just 1-3 since retiring in the Montpellier final. The qualifier ERV may even have a chance of advancing given clay courter Diego Sebastian Schwartzman beat JJ in Indian Wells. That said, JJ is 5-0 against ERV in the h2h and beat him last week in Irving. In the third round, Borna Coric or 18 seed David Goffin are the most likely opponent for Bautista Agut. Goffin, who just 2-3 since Melbourne, may have trouble with Coric, who has played well this season, and qualified in Indian Wells. Though Goffin beat Coric in Basel last year, that match went 3 sets and the young gun is improving all the time. He will have a repeat of his round 1 in Indian Wells against Andreas Haider-Maurer in round 1. RBA-Coric is intriguing matchup, and I’m going bold and putting Coric into the round of 16 myself.
9 seed Grigor Dimitrov continues to play below his ranking, he will get the Pospisil/Del Potro winner in the opening round, and if he gets through that, John Isner could prove to be trouble in the third round. Isner played his best tournament of the season as he reached the round of 16 in Indian Wells, and on home soil he should defeat the Golubev/Carreno Busta winner to setup a meeting with Dimitrov. They have never met before, but I have Isner through, as I feel he’s rounding into form and Dimitrov has performed below expectations all season.
5 seed and Indian Wells semifinalist Milos Raonic will look to remain immune to upsets against lower ranked players. His first match will be against Pablo Andujar or Teymuraz Gabashvili, with both players in poor form, and Gabashvili having failed to win an ATP match this season. Raonic has a good draw, as he should also dominate with his big serve against Jeremy Chardy/Ryan Harrison/Jurgen Melzer in the third round. Melzer qualified for IW, and Harrison is playing reasonably well this year and Chardy is just 7-8 on the season, though he’s the seed, I have Melzer or Harrison through to the third round, and in my own bracket I have Harrison, who will then fall to Raonic almost certainly.
Two-time champion and last year’s finalist Andy Murray, who also reached the semis in Indian Wells, in a good week for him, will open with Donald Young or Rendy Lu. Young should beat Lu on home soil, given he’s playing well against all but the top players, but Murray dominated him in Davis Cup and I expect the same again. In round 3, Murray will also have a relatively easy draw, as the seed is the 27 Santiago Giraldo, while Kyle Edmund or qualifier Robin Haase are the other options. Edmund reached the semifinals in Irving, and with Giraldo struggling, he has a nice shot at the third round, as does Haase who played well in qualifying and shocked Stan Wawrinka in Indian Wells, That was just his second main draw win of the year in IW, and he’s 4-1 in his last five matches. Giraldo is just 1-4 in his last five. I have Haase into the third round to face Murray, who will then reach the round of 16.
15 seed Kevin Anderson is the seeded favorite for the round of 16, Victor Estrella or Sam Querrey will be his first opponent, and neither of whom are in great form, though Anderson lost early in Indian Wells. Big Kev, like Murray, has a good draw, as his round 3 opponent will be Leo Mayer/Jarkko Nieminen/Marinko Matosevic. Mayer much prefers clay, Matosevic is struggling, and Nieminen is a fading veteran to some extent, though I have the Flying Fin into the third round, Anderson should handle him to reach the round of 16 given the 3-0 h2h record.
7 seed Stan Wawrinka was shocked by Robin Haase in Indian Wells and will look to recover in Miami. His first match could doom him to another opening match defeat as wild card Thanasi Kokkinakis is likely to be his first opponent, assuming the teenage Aussie beats Carlos Berlocq, a clay courter. Wawrinka is on a two match losing streak, and Kokkinakis has won 6 of his last 8, including a round of 16 showing in Indian Wells, where he beat three ATP caliber opponents before losing to his countryman Bernard Tomic in 3 sets. Given fatigue may be somewhat of a factor, I favor Wawrinka to recover and beat Kokkinakis, but that one could very well go three sets as the Aussie is a warrior who doesn’t go out easy in his matches. Wawrinka/Kokkinakis have the inside track for the round of 16, as 28 seed Adrian Mannarino, who is at a career high ranking after reaching the round of 16 in IW, is the likely third round opponent, assuming Mannarino beats Joao Sousa/Albert Ramos. Ramos won two matches in a row on hard courts in Indian Wells, and may upset Sousa who is struggling. Wawrinka and Mannarino have never met.
10 seed Feliciano Lopez, a quarterfinalist in IW, will face Dominic Thiem or Diego Sebastian Schwartzman in round 2. DSS is 2-2 on hard courts this year and Thiem has really struggled this season (4-7 on the year), thus I have DSS through in an upset. Lopez should face Indian Wells doubles champion, and round of 16 participant Jack Sock in the third round. Sock, who won three matches from a set down in his first tournament back since a hip injury, faces Go Soeda in his first match, and then 21 seed Fabio Fognini would be his round 2 opponent. Sock beat Fognini in the doubles final, and Fognini has struggled in singles all season, especially on hard courts. Given how well he played in IW, improving throughout the tournament, Miami should bode well for Sock, having knocked off the rust off his game. Lopez has a 1-0 h2h record against Sock, and he’s playing well, so that should be enough to get him through to the round of 16, though it should be a quality match.
A four-time finalist, though he has never won the Miami Open, Rafa will open with the Stakhovsky/Almagro winner, which is not the easiest opening match to have. Still I’d expect the IW quarterfinalist to prevail and setup a third round meeting with Fernando Verdasco. Verdasco has a qualifier, either James Duckworth or Damir Dzumhur in round 2, and given Nadal is 6-0 against him on hard courts, Nadal should reach the round of 16.
14 seed Ernests Gulbis continues to struggle, and Juan Monaco should give him the boot in round 2. Monaco opens with qualifier Ruben Bemelmans and is playing well at the moment as he’s 8-3 in his last three tournaments, he beat Marin Cilic in Indian Wells. Gulbis is just 1-6 in his 7 matches this season and their h2h is relatively even. Benjamin Becker/Jan-Lennard Struff and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez all have relatively equal odds to reach the third round. Struff and Becker, Davis Cup teammates, meet in the opening round, and I have Struff winning that one, and then I have GGL advancing and snapping a two match losing streak in round 2. Struff does have a lone h2h win over GGL last season, but the Spaniard is slightly more talented. Monaco and GGL have a 2-2 hard court h2h, and I have Monaco reaching the round of 16 given his good form, the Miami crowd should also be behind him.
8 seed Tomas Berdych played well in Indian Wells, except for the semifinal, and he should get through his first match against either Hyeon Chung, a young gun wild card, or Marcel Granollers. Berdych should also be favored over Bernard Tomic, though the 25 seed has had an excellent season. He withdrew from the IW quarterfinals with tooth and back problems, and he could lose to qualifier Austin Krajicek or Denis Istomin in round 2, but no matter, Berdych, who beat him in Melbourne, has the inside track to reach the round of 16. I have Krajicek upsetting Tomic in my own bracket. Istomin just beat Krajicek in IW, but I also see that result reversing, as it was a close match and AK played well in qualies.
11 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and 17 seed Gael Monfils are both back on tour this week. Tsonga opens with qualifier Adrian Menendez-Maceiras or American Tim Smyczek. Smyczek was a finalist in Irving, and Tsonga hasn’t played a match this year, so with rust playing a factor, I’m going with Smyczek in a big upset. With Monfils 9-3 on the season, he should have a better run than Tsonga, his first opponent will be non-hard courter Dusan Lajovic or qualifier Filip Krajinovic, a Serb like Lajovic. After that expect him to defeat Smyczek/Tsonga for a spot in the round of 16.
Dark Horses: Steve Johnson, Borna Coric, Jack Sock, Juan Monaco
Johnson will likely need to beat Kukushkin, then seeds Simon and Karlovic but he has a shot at reaching the round of 16 and facing Ferrer. He would be an underdog there, but as Tomic showed, Ferrer is beatable.
Coric must beat Goffin and likely RBA to reach the round of 16, but it would be massive result for the young gun who has already reached a pair of 500 level semifinals in his career, including in Dubai earlier this year.
Sock, presuming he beats Fognini and upsets Lopez, would have a winnable match with Wawrinka/Kokkinakis likely on his plate in the round of 16, and could reach the quarterfinals on home soil.
I have Monaco reaching the round of 16 with wins over seeds Gulbis and Garcia-Lopez, though he will have little chance against Nadal, his best pal, at that stage.
Round of 16: Djokovic d. Dolgopolov
Ferrer d. Johnson
Nishikori d. Coric
Raonic d. Isner
Lopez d. Wawrinka
Murray d. Anderson
Berdych d. Monfils
Nadal d. Monaco
Djokovic is 3-0 against Dolgo and playing lights out right now, Ferrer and Johnson have never met but I have the Spaniard returning to his gold standard and reaching the quarters, likewise Nishikori should have the edge on Coric by this stage, and Raonic is a better version of Isner, given their similar styles even though Isner is 2-0 in the h2h, with both meetings having come on hard courts.
Wawrinka is 2-1 against Lopez on hard courts, but Feli is playing better right now so I have him winning an upset. Murray is 2-1 against Anderson and plays well in Miami, Berdych is 3-0 on hard against Monfils, and Nadal is 6-1 against Monaco, though that lone loss was their only hard court meeting. Given they are best friends and frequent doubles partner, they know each other well and Nadal is likely to improve, not get worse in Miami, as he’s played more matches on hard courts.
Djokovic d. Ferrer
Raonic d. Nishikori
Murray d. Lopez
Nadal d. Berdych
Djokovic has won his last six hard court meetings against Ferrer, and given how well he’s playing right now, has to be a strong favorite. Raonic is just 2-5 against Nishikori, and lost to him this season but Raonic won their outdoor hc match in Brisbane, and he’s playing very well right now, in what should be a close match. Murray just beat Lopez in IW, and it’s a good matchup for him, and Nadal normally dominates Berdych. Even though Tomas won their AO meeting, I have Nadal getting revenge and reaching the semis.
Djokovic d. Raonic
Murray d. Nadal
Djokovic is 5-0 against Raonic and beat him this year at the AO. Nadal and Murray are a close 6-5 in the hard court h2h, and Murray is playing better right now on the surface, so thus I have him sneaking past to the final in a close match.
Djokovic d. Murray
Djokovic dominated Murray in Indian Wells, and likewise in Australia, Murray has struggled against the other big 3, and Djokovic is too much for him right now. If Novak is committed and focused, he’ll win Miami again, just like last year’s quarterfinal.