The 2015 edition of the Estoril Open concluded, with Richard Gasquet crowned as the champion in his third shot in a Portuguese final, after final losses in 2007 and 2012 to Djokovic and Del Potro. It was Gasquet’s 12th career title out of 24 finals at the ATP level, and it has gotten him closer to getting back into the top 20. It’s also his second title of 2015.
The match was not one of historical significance, Gasquet was as relentlessly consistent as he had been all week, barely giving away any free points, while Kyrgios didn’t serve as well as in his previous matches and was almost invariably the first to make an error in long exchanges. The young Aussie didn’t have a good debut in ATP finals but this will likely only be the first of many for him and he will have plenty of chances to make amends for this result. It was still a fantastic week for Kyrgios, who’s now closing in on a top 32 spot for Roland Garros, which would get him seeded at a Slam for the first time ever.
Both players will now head to Madrid, where tough draws await them, in the first round Kyrgios will get Gimeno-Traver and Gasquet will get Karlovic but should they win that Federer and Berdych (respectively) will be waiting for them. For Kyrgios, playing right after reaching an ATP final is a new challenge as well and we’ll have to see how he responds to it.
Overall, the 2015 edition of the Estoril Open can be considered a success; with a new venue and organization, the tournament still ran pretty smoothly and it saw some fantastic matches during the week, especially the semifinal between Gasquet and Garcia-Lopez. It also saw the first final appearance of a player who could very well end up being great in Nick Kyrgios. The final was a bit disappointing due to how one-sided it was, but the tournament was still a success.
Gasquet d. Kyrgios 6-3 6-2
Huey/Lipsky d. Lopez/Marrero 6-1 6-4- the #2 seed team beat the #1 seed team in routine fashion to win the doubles title.
Gasquet, Kyrgios Battle Past Tough Opponents to Reach Estoril Open 2015 Final
Manuel Traquete for Tennis Atlantic
Gasquet won a thriller in a 3rd set TB (photo credit: Manuel Traquete)
Semifinal day at the Estoril Open featured two high quality and incredibly tight 3-set matches, with the favorites prevailing in the end end.
Nick Kyrgios was on the brink of defeat against Pablo Carreno Busta, with his erratic play getting him a set down and very close to being broken in the second set as well. It was clear all throughout that the match was on Kyrgios’s racket though and that if he stopped making errors he’d have too much game for his Spanish opponent, who was mostly content to just keep the ball in play and wait for the errors from Kyrgios. This point was driven home in the second set tiebreak, where Kyrgios played some big time tennis to tie the match and never looked back, getting two breaks in the decider to book a spot in his first ever ATP final. Asked by me about who he’d prefer to face in the final, the Aussie claimed both opponents were tough, but he did mention that it’d be good to get a shot at ‘revenge’ against Gasquet, who had won the only clay match between the pair before.
The scene for Kyrgios vs PCB (photo credit: Manuel Traquete)
Nick will get said chance at revenge, as Richard Gasquet booked his spot in a third Estoril Open final – after 2007 and 2012 final losses to Djokovic and Wawrinka – with an incredibly close 3-set win over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in what was surely the match of this year’s edition of the tournament, featuring ridiculous shotmaking – especially off both players’ one-handed backhands – and several shifts of momentum throughout. The match started tight until Garcia-Lopez ran away with the first set with two breaks in a row to seal it 6-3.
In the second set it was Gasquet who dominated the rallies, recording an easy 6-2. He seemed to have picked up from where he had left off in the third set, but he faltered when serving for the match at 5-4, allowing Garcia-Lopez back into the match, especially after the Spaniard came up with some absolutely huge plays to avert that crisis. Garcia-Lopez was two points away from winning the match – 0-30 on Gasquet’s serve at 6-5*, but from then on it was all Gasquet, who dominated the tiebreak with some stunning winners and emerged as the deserved finalist on the balance of play.
Garcia-Lopez still had an amazing two weeks and looks well on course for the best year of his career, while Gasquet couldn’t have hoped for a much better return from injury; after claiming he didn’t even think of winning the title year after his first match, he now finds himself the (slight) favorite for the title after downing good claycourt players like Almagro and Garcia-Lopez on his way.
In the doubles semifinals, Marc Lopez/Marrero beat Fyrstenberg/Mirnyi 6-4 6-3 and Huey/Lipsky beat Muller/Qureshi 7-6(3) 6-3, thus the top two seeds will battle in the final.
The final will therefore be a reedition of that epic Wimbledon 2014 round 3 clash, where the young Aussie saved 9 match points before securing a memorable comeback win from 0-2 behind in sets. On clay, it seems like Gasquet should have the slight edge with his better movement and consistency, but Kyrgios’s serve and power always lethi in with a chance. Kyrgios might not (yet) have the consistency necessary to go into the top 10 right now, but at his best he believes he can beat anyone, anywahre, so he will be fancying his chances of a first career title in Portugal. The pressure will be all on Gasquet, who has been playing well all week and is expected to put away his young foe at the third time of asking in a Estoril Open final. There’s only one match left to conclude the 2015 edition of the Estoril Open, who will emerge as a 1st time champion?
Friday at the Estoril Open saw the quarterfinal round being played, with every match finishing in straight sets with relatively predictable winners.
In the first of the quarterfinals, Pablo Carreno Busta beat Gilles Muller with relative ease, with the Luxembourgian unable to serve as well as he usually does, which ensured that the Spaniard’s superior movement and consistency prevailed, with him coming on top of a lot of extended rallies. It is the second ATP semifinal for Carreno Busta, and the second at Estoril, after he lost in 2013 to Wawrinka at that stage.
Carreno Busta d. Muller 6-2 6-4
This time, however, his opponent will be Nick Kyrgios, who beat Robin Haase in pretty routine fashion to reach the semifinals of a tournament for the first time in his career. Haase broke early in the first set, but he was overpowered for the remainder of the contest, also leaking a copious amount of easy errors at the worst possible times. Kyrgios just needed to remain focus on his own service games to secure a quick, convincing win, even giving him room for some showboating late in the match.
While the first SF will be a duel of two handed backhands, the second one will feature two great one handed backhands from Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and Richard Gasquet respectively. The Spaniard continued his spectacular run of form by beating Borna Coric in 2 tight sets, coming back from 1-5* down in the second set and saving 4 set points in 3 different games before clinching the match in the tiebreak with some amazing shots, especially off the BH. Coric had yet another good performance in an ATP tournament, but his lack of experience at this level showed at the end of the 2nd set, he still has a lot of work to do to threaten the ATP elite. Garcia-Lopez recorded his 8th win in 10 days and is still in the hunt for a third title of the year, and second consecutive one after Bucharest last weekend.
The last semifinal was supposed to be the best match of the day between two of the best one handers on tour, but Nicolas Almagro played an incredibly erratic match and Gasquet only needed to be solid with some flashes off brilliance with his backhand to secure a 6-1 7-6 win. Almagro still served for the second set but played a terrible game to get broken back; it’s too soon to say for sure, but his decline might be irreversible, while Gasquet is having a really good week coming back from the injury that has sidelined him since Indian Wells.
In one of the mens doubles quarterfinals, Muller/Qureshi d. Emmrich/Siljestrom 6-3 6-2. Tomorrow it will be Lopez/Marrero against Fyrstenberg/Mirnyi, and Muller/Qureshi against Huey/Lipsky in doubles.
Although Kyrgios claimed he is the underdog when asked by me in his presser, the reality is most people are expecting him to overpower Carreno Busta and reach his first ATP final. Carreno Busta will also be looking for his first final and he clearly enjoys playing in Portugal but it seems clear that this match is on the Aussie’s racket, if Kyrgios is serving well and hitting cleanly there’s very little Carreno Busta can do to halt his progress.
The second semifinal seems more even on paper, the form guide would suggest a Garcia-Lopez win but Gasquet has been playing solid tennis this week and he has the game to really trouble the Spaniard as their H2H shows despite the limited sample. That and the fatigue factor make it quite possible that Gasquet might be headed to a third final in Portugal and his most realistic chance at a title here to date; while Garcia-Lopez and Kyrgios are good players, it doesn’t compare to facing Djokovic (2007) and del Potro (2012) for the title. This might be Gasquet’s best ever chance to win this event.
Thursday at the Portugal Open saw the end of the round of 16. After the #1 seed Feliciano Lopez went out in his first match yesterday, today the #2 seed of the tournament Kevin Anderson followed the same path, losing in 3 sets against a very in-form Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, who’s still in the hunt for a second consecutive ATP title. Anderson’s huge serve proved insufficient as the Spaniard dominated the rallies all throughout the match, moving the big South African around the court with ease for the most part and exposing his movement.
Garcia-Lopez d. Anderson 6-4 3-6 6-1
Garcia-Lopez will now take on Borna Coric, who prevailed in a titanic duel with Rui Machado under the lights on Center Court. With both players lacking the power – on both serve and groundstrokes – to hit through the court and finish points quickly, the match featured consistently long and physically grueling rallies. Machado, spurred on by an enthusiastic home crowd, played well above his ranking for the first 2 sets, often prevailing in those lengthy baseline exchanges with Coric and playing some absolutely inspired points late in the second set to force a decider. In the third set though Machado cracked physically and started getting late to balls and piling up to errors; despite his age, Coric is far more used to matches of this intensity than Machado and that showed in the decider. The Croatian is now only a win away from breaking into the world’s top 50 in the ATP rankings. This match also featured one of the worst overrules ever seen by Fergus Murphy late in the second set.
In the morning, PabloCarreno Busta secured a quarterfinal spot with an easy win over lucky loser David Vega Hernandez, who replaced Tommy Robredo in the main draw. Busta will now face Gilles Muller in the quarterfinals, after the Luxemburgian eked out a win over 2010 and 2011 Estoril champion Albert Montanes, who had 3 match points, one of them on his own serve. It was a roller-coaster of a match, with Montanes taking the first set, but then Muller dominating the proceedings with his huge serve and excellent net play, barely getting troubled on serve at all until he had to step up to the plate and serve out the match at 5*-4 in the decider. Muller failed to continue his serve dominance in that game and made a few errors off the ground to get broken back; in the tiebreak, it looked like Montanes’s match at 6-4, but Muller saved the first match point on his serve with a volley that clipped the line and then Montanes double faulted on his second match point. He’d get a third match point, but it was once again saved by an incredibly accurate volley from Muller, who went on to take his first match point to secure a rare clay quarterfinal appearance.
Haase upsets Lopez, Almagro beats Mayer at Estoril Open 2015 Wednesday Manuel Traquete for Tennis Atlantic
Gasquet beat De Schepper (photo credit: Manuel Traquete)
Wednesday at the Estoril Open saw the first four round of 16 matches played, including the first ever night session in the tournament’s history.
The day began with Nicolas Almagro winning a tight first set and then running away with the second set against Leonardo Mayer, with a strong performance that firmly established him as a contender to take the trophy home on Sunday. Strong serving was the key to Almagro’s victory, as he won 86% of his first serve points and barely gave Mayer a look on return. Almagro’s next opponent will be Richard Gasquet, who had no trouble at all beating De Schepper in two routine sets, easily exposing De Schepper’s poor movement on the clay.
In the most dramatic match of the day, Robin Haase saved two match points in the second set to record an incredible comeback win over the #1 seed of the tournament and world #12 Feliciano Lopez. It was quite a stunning result, not so much the fact that Haase won but how he did, considering he’s known for both choking close matches and losing tiebreaks. He didn’t falter this time though and recorded another excellent win this year after beating Wawrinka in the California desert last month.
His prize will be a QF showdown against upcoming Aussie Nick Kyrgios, who won the tournament’s first ever night session against Filip Krajinovic 6-3 6-3; as had been the case yesterday, Kyrgios served huge and was relentless aggressive from the baseline all throughout, while despite an aesthetically pleasing game Krajinovic showed that he lacks the firepower and consistency to really be a big factor at ATP level, with a lot of loose errors and poor play on big points proving his undoing. This is the first QF for Kyrgios at an ATP level event, after reaching 2 Slam QFs previously.
Machado upsets Sousa, Gasquet, Kyrgios make strides Estoril Open 2015 Tuesday Manuel Traquete for Tennis Atlantic
Tuesday at the Estoril Open featured the end of the first round of the main draw, a total of 8 matches in 3 different courts.
The day started on a negative note for the Portuguese contingent with crowd favorite and 2-time quarterfinalist at this tournament Gastao Elias losing in 3 tight sets to Kenny de Schepper. In his post-match presser, Gastão mentioned his inability to hurt De Schepper with his shots and move him around as his biggest shortcoming and highlighted the two break points he squandered at 1-1 in the third set as the deciding moment of the match, with De Schepper riding the momentum from there. The man from Bordeaux will now face his countryman Richard Gasquet, who blew out Marinko Matosevic in the second set after a very tight opening set; asked about how he’s feeling on court after a prolonged absence due to injury, Gasquet said he’s feeling good but that he has no expectations of winning this tournament, where he was a finalist twice before, since he’s not ready to win titles yet.
On court 3, Pablo Carreno Busta’s consistency from the baseline proved too much for the inexperienced Lestienne, who kept leaking errors on his way to a 3-6 1-6 defeat. Carreno Busta will now face Tommy Robredo in the second round. Next on court 3, the 2009 and 2010 champion Albert Montanes survived a tough 3-set battle against Martin Fischer to book a date with Gilles Muller in the second round. Another Spaniard advancing was Nicolas Almagro; the holder of 12 claycourt titles put in a very strong serving performance to defeat Stephane Robert in straights even if the rest of his game wasn’t really firing, which it will need to be in order to beat Leonard Mayer in the second round. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez also prevailed over countryman Roberto Carballes Baena, with unexpected ease considering the former’s efforts last week and how close this matchup had been in the 2014 Casablanca semifinal. This time around though, Carballes Baena simply couldn’t defend against Garcia-Lopez’s superior serving and ballstriking skills and the Spaniard’s quest for back to back ATP titles will continue against the second seed of the tournament, Kevin Anderson.
In the battle of the two highest ranked Portuguese players ever on center court (career high #35 for Joao Sousa and #59 for Rui Machado), it was the underdog who prevailed, with a gutsy, aggressive performance, while Sousa once again failed to live up to the pre-tournament hype and accused the pressure of playing in his home tournament again. Machado will now take on Croatian upstart Borna Coric, looking to reach his second QF at this event after doing so back in 2010.
The day ended with what will likely go down as the most memorable match of the 2015 Estoril Open, featuring Albert Ramos and Nick Kyrgios. The young Aussie got off to a fast start, breaking Ramos in the second game of the match and serving his way to a 6-3 first set win. In the second set, Ramos remained unable to return Kyrgios’s monster serves, but he somehow managed to stave off break points (including what looked like virtual match points at 5-5) and then faced with defeat at 5*-4 down in the tiebreak he managed to string two points on Kyrgios’s serve to force a decider. In the 3rd set, Kyrgios’s serve lost some potency and Ramos scored an early break and never really looked like being broken back until 5*-4, where, with his back against the wall Kyrgios produced an excellent return game to avoid elimination. He then had two match points of his own with Ramos serving at 5-6, but a terrible miss on a FH sitter on the second match point seemed to spell the end for Kyrgios who then threw away the next few points with bad errors to go into the tiebreak and get himself an early minibreak down.
That was when things really got real; Kyrgios threw the ball into the stands in frustration and he had already got two code violations, a third one would have resulted in a game penalty and thus outright losing the match. But the umpire didn’t give him the infraction, leading to Ramos practically begging him to do so for about 5 minutes, with the Portuguese crowd booing him for trying to get Kyrgios defaulted. To no avail, as he completely lost focus, the tiebreak and the match, being booed off the court as he exited the tournament, while Kyrgios goes on to face Krajinovic in the second round. I asked Kyrgios some questions in his press conference after the match, which you can find here
Tomorrow, 4 round of 16 matches will be played, with Almagro and Leo Mayer starting a day in what must be considered a clash of two title candidates; Mayer is the current Hamburg champion and always a threat on the red clay, while Almagro’s career achievements on the surface speak for themselves despite his bad start to the year post-injury. Almagro won their two previous encounters on clay, but those happened when the Spaniard was at the peak of his career and Mayer yet to hit his stride, while the roles are now practically reversed and the Argentine must be considered the favorite in this battle of one handed backhands.
The winner of this clash will face the winner of another one handed backhand clash between Gasquet and De Schepper; when asked by me what he needed to do to beat his countryman, who he’s never faced before, Gasquet said he had to ‘play well’ and while that sounds like an incredibly generic and cliché answer, it’s hard to argue that if Gasquet plays well he should win easily against his much lower ranked countryman, who’s simply not comfortable at all on the red clay.
The 1 seed of the tournament, Feliciano Lopez, will open up against Robin Haase and while the rankings would suggest an easy Lopez victory the truth is the Spaniard is quite prone to early losses in smaller events and he has lost both matches he’s played on clay against Haase so this one is far from a given. The winner of this match will face the winner of the first ever night session match in a Portuguese ATP event, between Nick Kyrgios and Flip Krajinovic; the edge seems to be with the Aussie in this one, but he could well be tired after his battle against Ramos today and Krajinovic has the weapons to make it difficult on a good day.
Coric, Haase, and Muller advance to round 2 @EstorilOpen Monday Manuel Traquete for Tennis Atlantic
Monday at the Estoril Open saw the last round of qualifying being played, as well as the beginning of the singles main draw.
The last of qualifying brought a lot of disappointment to the Portuguese players and fans as both Pedro Sousa and Frederico Gil lost in very close matches, faltering in the deciding stages. Sousa led in both sets against 22yo Constant Lestienne, but his terrible play on big points – including no points won on serve in the deciding set tiebreak – cost him dearly and it’s the Frenchman who advanced to the main draw, where he will face Pablo Carreno Busta on Tuesday afternoon.
Lestienne d. P. Sousa 7-5 7-6(3)
As for the 2010 finalist of this event, Gil, he won the first set and was up 4-2 in the decider before getting broken back and then getting broken from 40-15 up in the last game to give away the match in what turned out to be another disappointment result in his attempt to return to the level he once reached before illness derailed him. His conqueror, Martin Fischer, will be facing Albert Montanes in round 1 of the main draw.
First seed Kenny de Schepper and fourth seed Roberto Carballes Baena secured very comfortable, one-sided wins and advanced to the main draw as well; De Schepper will open up against home favorite Gastão Elias, who reached the quarterfinals of this event in 2013 and 2014, while Carballes Baena will take on his countryman and newly crowned Bucharest champion Guillermo Garcia Lopez.
De Schepper d. David Vega Hernandez 6-2 6-2
Carballes Baena d. Gerald Granollers 6-0 6-3
As far as main draw action is concerned, Robin Haase opened up the proceedings against Ricardas Berankis; it was a very tight affair throughout, with plenty of momentum swings and players getting tight on key junctures but in the end the Dutchman managed to book a round 2 date with the tournament’s #1 seed Feliciano Lopez, though not before another trademark tiebreak loss in the second set.
Filip Krajinovic had little trouble disposing of Alejandro Gonzalez with his bigger serve making the difference in a match that featured a lot of long, tightly contested rallies; the Serb will now face either Nick Kyrgios or Albert Ramos in round 2.
Krajinovic d. Gonzalez 6-3 6-3
In what was perhaps the most anticipated match of the day, 18yo Borna Coric beat Jeremy Chardy in relatively straightforward fashion, avenging his Australian Open loss to the same opponent; as is often the case, Chardy hit his fair share of blistering winners but those were heavily outnumbered by the borderline ridiculous unforced errors; the young Croatian didn’t need to do anything all too special, the baseline consistency that we’ve come to associate with him was more than enough to prevail over Chardy’s inconsistent/erratic ballstriking. Next up for Coric is the winner of João Sousa vs Rui Machado, meaning that he must be feeling good about his chances of making yet another ATP quarterfinal.
Coric d. Chardy 6-2 6-4
Coric overcame Chardy on the day (photo credit: Manuel Traquete)
In the final match of the day on Center Court, 20yo Portuguese hope Frederico Silva took on Gilles Muller in a rare battle between two lefties. In the first set, Silva conceded an early break and was powerless against Muller’s fantastic serve, but he fought back in the second set, taking advantage of a dip in Muller’s serving level to sneak a break and level the match. He seemed to carry that momentum into the third set and got an early break chance, but after squandering it with a missed second serve return he checked out from the match mentally and it was all Muller until the end. Though this a very rare claycourt winner for the Luxembourgian, his run might well not be over with Fischer/Montanes looking like beatable opponents in the next round.
Muller d. Silva 6-3 3-6 6-1
Muller won the battle of the lefties (photo credit: Manuel Traquete)
On Tuesday, Kenny de Schepper and Gastão Elias will open up the proceedings at 1pm on court 2; it’s a match where, given the surface and his history of good performances at this event, the Portuguese player has to be considered the favorite, though De Schepper’s huge serve always gives him a shot on a great day despite his general shortcomings on the clay; after that, Bucharest champion Guillermo Garcia-Lopez will face Roberto Carballes Baena and although form and ranking suggest Garcia Lopez should win, it won’t be easy for him to get going again after such a great week in Romania, it is after all rare for players below the very top to string consecutive great weeks of tennis and there’s bound to be a physical and emotional letdown after winning a title. Not only that, but when these two faced last year in the Casablanca semifinals Carballes Baena pushed eventual champions Garcia-Lopez to the very limit; considering that, the good form Baena showed during the qualifying tournament and the challenge that it will be for Garcia-Lopez to back up a title run last week, an upset could very well be on the cards in this one.
Court 2 action will finish with Nicolas Almagro, who’s still trying to comeback to his pre-injury level, taking on Stephane Robert. Despite his unimpressive form, Almagro has to be considered the huge favorite here; Robert’s most memorable career moment was an unbelievable comeback from 0-2 down in sets against perennial top 10 player Tomas Berdych in the 2011 French Open, but aside from that one result clay has never proved a happy hunting ground for him
On court 3, Pablo Carreno Busta will take on qualifier Constant Lestienne; the Spaniard is the obvious favorite but he’s not immune to upsets against lower ranked players as we’ve seen multiple times in the past year, not to mention that due to the way he plays he’s always vulnerable to opponents playing good quality attacking tennis. Lestienne must feel he’s in with a chance to spring an upset here. After that match, the 2009 and 2010 champion of this event, Albert Montañes, will take on Martin Fischer; Montañes is heavily declined and a mere shadow of the player who claimed back-to-back titles on Portuguese soil – even beating Roger Federer in the semifinals of the 2010 tournament – but should still have the edge in this contest.
On center court, Richard Gasquet will make a long-awaited return from the injury he sustained against Michael Berrer in Indian Wells; though there might still be some question marks about his health and especially match fitness, the draw was quite kind to him, pairing him up with Marinko Matosevic in round 1, a player who is notorious for his lack of success on clay. Even if he’s still rusty, the 2007 and 2012 finalist (lost to Djokovic and del Potro) should make it through to round 2. At 4pm, the all-Portuguese clash between Sousa and Machado will take place; while Machado was once, not too long ago, the highest ranked Portuguese player of all-time, he’s nowhere near that level currently and Sousa has surpassed him in pretty much every regard and is the clear favorite for tomorrow, though Machado is not without his chances, especially if he can repeat the level he showed last year at this tournament.
The last match of the day will be between young Aussie Nick Kyrgios and Albert Ramos from Spain; Kyrgios turned 20 years old on Monday and he will be looking to celebrate his birthday with his first clay win of the year, but it will be a tough ask against a seasoned claycourter like Ramos. Kyrgios has of course the much bigger game of the two players, but clay is not his best surface and he’s bound to still be a bit rusty after returning only last week from the injury sustained during his round 2 match against Dimitrov in the California desert, and there are plenty of question marks regarding his form, especially considering his match against Ymer last week in Barcelona wasn’t shown on television or streamed.
2015 ATP Estoril Preview Steen Kirby and Manuel Traquete, Tennis Atlantic
For the second year in a row, Tennis Atlantic will have Manuel Traquete reporting on all the happenings at the Estoril open, which has a new location this year, and has been titled the Millennium Estoril Open with a new ownership and management group. It’s still a 250 on red clay, and Portugal’s only ATP event.
2015 ATP Estoril Preview
Millennium Estoril Open ATP World Tour 250 Estoril, Portugal April 27-May 3, 2015 Prize Money: € 439,405
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Feliciano Lopez (12)
2: Kevin Anderson (17)
3: Tommy Robredo (20)
4: Leonardo Mayer (25)
The seed cutoff is 45, as the Estoril Open has three top 20 players headlining the field, it may be not be star studded at the top, but it’s a balanced field overall.
A rising young gun, and next gen star, against an experienced, mid-level dirtballer, describes this matchup. Kyrgios doesn’t have a lot of experience on clay, and it’s by far his worst surface, in fact he lost to another next-gen star, Elias Ymer in Barcelona in a third set tiebreak, Ramos comes off a disappointing loss to Pablo Andujar, but he qualified and Monte Carlo, and his form has been relatively good this year, all be it flaky. Kyrgios has more talent, but Ramos’ skill on clay should give him the short term advantage to win this match, as Kyrgios works on developing his clay court abilities.
(6)Jeremy Chardy vs. Borna Coric
Chardy defeated Coric in four sets at the Australian Open this year, but the teenage Croat will look to get his revenge on clay. He comes off a round 2 loss to Sergiy Stakhovsky in Bucharest, and his last two losses have been gut punch three setters (to Ivo Karlovic in Bucharest, and Alex Dolgopolov in Monte Carlo), now he will look to right the ship against Chardy, who reached a quarterfinal in Houston on clay, and lost to Federer in MC. Chardy is decent on clay, and he’s one of those reliable mid-tier players that stays at the ATP level, but doesn’t quite have enough in him to challenge for titles. This is the type of match Coric should win if he is to break through and get himself into the top 40 by the end of the year, and I do have him winning this one.
Top seed Feliciano Lopez, who has not played well on clay the past two weeks, is in grave danger of going out in his opening match, presuming Robin Haase is able to defeat Ricardas Berankis, who is riding a three match losing streak, in round 1. Haase has beaten Lopez twice on clay, and could do so for a third time, though his form is unpredictable, and in fact the form of both players is. Though Lopez has struggled in Houston and Barcelona, Haase is not a trustworthy player, and thus Flopez should be favored for the quarters.
The Kyrgios/Ramos winner will have an inside track to reach the quarters below Lopez, as they will face the winner of Filip Krajinovic/Alejandro Gonzalez. Krajinovic comes off a challenger semi on clay, while Gonzalez has lost two straight matches. I have Ramos beating Krajinovic, and then Lopez to reach the semis. He’s 2-0 against Lopez, and those were hard court wins, on clay, he should actually be the superior player as their seems to be a matchup issue there.
Tommy Robredo will open with a qualifier or Pablo Carreno Busta. Robredo comes off the quarters in Barcelona and is 4-2 in his last two tournaments on clay (Monte Carlo the other), additionally, he’s 3-0 against PCB (who hasn’t won a match since Rio in February (7 straight losses), so look for Robredo in the quarters. In those quarters, he could face Gilles Muller, who hasn’t won an ATP match on clay since 2012, or perhaps faded veteran Albert Montanes, a 34 year old pensioner who was formerly reliable but hasn’t won consecutive matches since Quito. Montanes opens with a qualifier, in a section a qualifier could bust open, while Muller will play wild card Frederico Ferreira Silva of Portugal (20). I have Muller in the quarters, losing to the more accomplished clay courter Robredo in my own bracket, though Montanes may have something left in the tank.
Kevin Anderson vs. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez is likely to be the most intriguing second round matchup, Garcia-Lopez comes off a his second ATP title of the season in Bucharest, where he found form, and though fatigue may play a factor, I’d still favor him to defeat Anderson on a clay court. GGL opens with a qualifier, and Anderson has two previous hard fought hard court wins against the versatile Spaniard. Anderson last played in Houston where he reached the semis with a pair of solid wins.
The winner of GGL/Anderson will have to deal with the strongest section of the draw, as home favorite Joao Sousa, the Portugese number 1, opens against wild card Rui Machado, a former top 70 player, who has seen his ranking fall outside the top 200 at 31 years of age. Sousa will face the winner of Chardy/Coric, and Coric-Sousa will be another huge second round match, should it take place. That contest looms large, and Sousa is 2-2 on clay in Europe so far. I personally have Coric into the quarters but it’s a difficult pick.
I also have Coric beating Garcia-Lopez (and I feel Sousa would too) simply due to the fatigue factor, if Anderson wins however, he could well reach the semis.
4 seed Leonardo Mayer will get a difficult match against Nicolas Almagro Round 2, presuming Almagro beats washed up journeyman Stephane Robert, who is playing under a protected ranking. Almagro is 2-0 in the h2h against Mayer, and Mayer is struggling, at least to an extent right right now, while Almagro was a semifinalist in Buenos Aires, and a quarterfinalist in Casablanca and Sao Paulo. Look for the veteran former top 20 Spanish fighter to reach the quarters and setup a big match against Richard Gasquet, who is also coming back from injury this week. Gasquet should be able to ease in against Marinko Matosevic, who struggles on clay, and then defeat Gastao Elias, a Portugese wild card, or a qualifier. Almagro has beaten Gasquet twice on clay (3-2 h2h overall) and it should be a close match, however I give the slightest of edges to Nico given Gasquet’s lack of matchplay as of late, and the adjustment to clay.
I have the unseeded Almagro taking the title this week, thus he’s the obvious dark horse pick, he has a h2h edge in most of his possible matchups, and this draw isn’t that imposing. Almagro has been a top player before, and the 29 year old has the ability to impose himself on this field if he plays well. He has 12 previous ATP titles, and has reached 9 additional ATP finals, all of those have come on clay.
Semis: Robredo d. Ramos
Almagro d. Coric
Robredo is 2-1 on clay against Ramos, and likely in better form, Almagro should also have an edge on clay against Coric, though that match could go either way.
Final: Almagro d. Robredo
Robredo is in theory in better form, but Almagro has a remarkable 7-1 h2h record, including two wins this year against his fellow Spanish veteran, with that wide of a h2h gap, Almagro is my pick to win the title in Estoril this week.