Borna Coric and Steve Johnson Kickoff 2017 ATP Clay Court Season With Titles Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
After struggling to start the season, in large part due to rust from injury, Borna Coric is finding form once again and he showed some of his best tennis this week in Morocco, as he took home a maiden ATP title in Marrakech on clay. The 20 year old was pushed to three sets in three matches this week, and had to save match points against his veteran opponent Philipp Kohlschreiber in the final, but after reaching the final for the second straight year, he simply not be denied the trophy, digging deep on pressure points, while Kohlschreiber crumbled. Coric took the final 5-7 7-6 7-5 after beating Jiri Vesely in straight sets in the semis. He beat Diego Schwartzman in straights in round 1, but then needed three sets against Reda El Amrani and Albert Ramos-Vinolas in rounds 2 and 3.
The veteran Kohlschreiber made his first final of the season with wins over Jan-Lennard Struff, Jeremy Chardy, and Benoit Paire, dropping sets to his first two opponents before routining Paire. Kohlschreiber has had an awful time closing matches out when he has a match point this season, and it’s cost him big victories, such as the trophy that was on offer today.
Dominic Inglot and Mate Pavic teamed up to beat Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez to take the doubles final in an upset.
The crop of top American men continue to show improvements this season, Steve Johnson claimed a second career ATP title and his first on American soil with a narrow three set victory over Thomaz Bellucci 6-4 4-6 7-6. Johnson posted his best results of the season, and he reached the final by virtue of defeating defending champion Jack Sock in the semifinals, that win coming in three sets, along with wins over Dustin Brown and Fernando Verdasco in previous rounds. Johnson is not at his best on European clay, but should be a notable contender in the grass court season this summer.
A big hitter like Johnson, Bellucci had long matches all week, and was able to win them up until the final where he cracked under pressure. The 32 year old reached his first ATP final in more than a year with three set wins over Frances Tiafoe, Maximo Gonzalez, Sam Querrey, and Ernesto Escobedo, yet another American who has reached a high water mark this year, Escobedo is safely inside the top 100 after his result, which included a quarterfinal victory over a struggling John Isner.
Julio Peralta and Horacio Zeballos beat the exciting pairing of Dustin Brown and Frances Tiafoe in the doubles final by virtue of a third set super tiebreak.
Yemer has lost three matches in a row, and he crashed out twice in home Swedish tournaments. Brands has a recent challenger semifinal on clay, though his power game lends itself to a faster surface. The younger Ymer still has a bright future, but I have Brands notching an upset.
(6)Fernando Verdasco vs. Horacio Zeballos
Zeballos recently won a challenger on clay, and could challenge Verdasco if the Bastad finalist is fatigued. The Spaniard is a heavy favorite though.
de Bakker is the #2 Dutchman and ranked about 30 spots lower than his counterpart Haase. These players know each other well, but de Bakker has been on a miserable losing streak, not having won an ATP match since Barcelona. With Haase playing slightly better, he should prevail.
Top seed Feliciano Lopez doesn’t have a game well suited for clay, but he should still defeat a qualifier in his first match, either Yann Marti, a home favorite, or more likely Jan Mertl, to setup a quarterfinal match with Guido Pella. Pella comes off success in Davis Cup, and faces Konstantin Kravchuk, who is somewhat allergic to clay, in round 1. The clay specialist will then face the Brands/Ymer winner, on clay, Pella over Lopez is my pick in the quarterfinals. Pella is just 9-9 on clay this year, but he’s made a few deep runs including a final in Rio.
Although Juan Monaco, who also played Davis Cup this weekend, could pose trouble, Thomaz Bellucci is a two-time Gstaad champion and looks set to flourish once again at the tournament. Bellucci is a poor 12-10 on clay this season and in danger of falling outside of the top 50, but he had success in Davis Cup over the weekend while the oft injured veteran Monaco is a bit more unpredictable. He’ll open with serve and volleyer Dustin Brown in round 1. Bellucci vs. veteran Mikhail Youzhny is my pick for the quarters in this weak section. Youzhny isn’t in great form, but wild card Johan Nikles, and either Mirza Basic or Denis Istomin aren’t imposing on clay. Youzhny is 2-0 against Istomin with a retirement loss. Bellucci has a winning record as of late against Youzhny, while he’s tied 2-2 in the h2h with Monaco.
Gilles Simon looks set to face fellow veteran, and recent Bastad finalist Fernando Verdasco in the quarters. Simon will face qualifier Thiago Monteiro or qualifier Antoine Bellier in round 2, with Verdasco/Zeballos or Haase/de Bakker to follow. The Frenchman is 9-5 on clay this year, and although Monteiro is in good form, he’s a young gun with far less ATP main draw experience. Verdasco is sharper than Haase, but I see him falling short against the steadier Simon in the quarters, especially given the fatigue factor.
Bastad champion Albert Ramos should roll past either Radu Albot or qualifier Tristan Lamasine, with former Gstaad champion Paul-Henri Mathieu likely in the quarters. PHM only has to defeat Marco Chiudinelli, and Jozef Kovalik or Henri Laaksonen, none of whom are at his level on clay if he plays up to his capabilities. Ramos over PHM is my pick in the quarters, presuming Ramos isn’t overly fatigued.
Monteiro is an incredible 34-14 on clay this year, with tremendous results on the challenger level, and recently, ATP main draw breakthroughs. This young Brazilian is sure to feature on ATP main draws for years to come, and he’s at his best on clay. He scored a win over another French favorite, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, earlier this year, and Simon could also fall when they face each other in round 2. Monteiro will grow into a well known name soon enough.
Semis Pella d. Bellucci
Ramos d. Simon
If Ramos continues his good form, he should defeat Simon, I have Pella playing slightly better than Bellucci, and getting into this final.
Final Pella d. Ramos
This is a tough tournament to predict, but Ramos winning two matches in a row seems like too tough of an ask for the dirtballing spinner.
Richard Gasquet successfully defended his Montpellier title, taking a third trophy at the French tournament, and showing no signs of back problems in the process. Gasquet had a relatively easy path, but had to survive a tough semifinal match against Dustin Brown, where he was 1-6 0-3 down, before the wheels came off for the streaky Brown, and Gasquet ended up winning in three.
It was an all French final, as the veteran Paul-Henri Mathieu posted his best result in some time to reach the final, falling 7-5 6-4 to Gasquet. PHM beat Elias Ymer, Benoit Paire, and then John Millman in three sets, and Alexander Zverev in a tough two setter to reach the final. Zverev posting his best ever ATP result by reaching the semis.
Gasquet beat powerful ball strikers Ernests Gulbis, and Marcos Baghdatis, in addition to Brown.
Mate Pavic and Michael Venus beat the Zverev brothers, Alex and Mischa, to win the doubles title.
Victor Estrella surprisingly repeated as champion in Quito. The 35 year old upset Thomaz Bellucci 4-6 7-6(5) 6-2, as he ground down his opponent, for a second career ATP title.
Estrella beat Guido Pella, Andrej Martin, Renzo Olivo, and Albert Ramos en route to the final, losing just a set to Olivo. Bellucci needed three sets against Pablo Carreno Busta in the quarters, beat Albert Montanes prior to that, and surviving Paolo Lorenzi in a three set semifinal. Lorenzi scored his first ever top 20 win when he defeated Bernard Tomic in the quarterfinals.
Carreno Busta and Guillermo Duran played doubles for the first time together and captured the title, defeating Bellucci and Marcelo Demoliner in the final.
Roberto Bautista Agut continued his streak as the hottest Spanish player right now with his second ATP title of the season in Sofia. He’s the first ever champion of the Bulgarian tournament as he defeated Serbia’s Viktor Troicki 6-3 6-4. RBA only had three matches this week, as Filip Krajinovic granted him a walkover, and then Adrian Mannarino and Gilles Muller in the quarters and semifinal to reach the final.
Troicki reached his second final of the season, dropping just one set in his first three matches. He handled Daniel Brands and Philipp Kohlschreiber with ease, and then had to battle past Martin Klizan in 3 sets.
Wesley Koolhof and Matwe Middelkoop defeated Philipp Oswald and Adil Shamasdin in the doubles final, saving match points in the process. It was a tense week for the Dutch tandem.
2015 Davis Cup Semifinals and World Group Playoffs Preview Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
A pair of semifinals take place starting Friday in the 2015 Davis Cup, along with the entire World Group Playoffs, with teams looking to move up to the world group or hang on to a coveted world group spot after an early exit in the world group main draw earlier on in the season.
Tennis Atlantic will have onsite coverage as Australia travels to Glasgow, Scotland a raucous Emirates Arena for a commonwealth battle with team GB. The British have Andy Murray once more on indoor hard courts, and presuming he’s in shape, it’s likely he’ll be able to win his pair of singles rubbers over Thanasi Kokkinakis and likely Bernard Tomic on Friday and Sunday. This tie should come down to the doubles, as Sam Groth and Lleyton Hewitt, the veteran rock of the Australian team, are set to do battle with either Dominic Inglot/Jamie Murray, or perhaps the Murray brothers, or Inglot/Andy Murray depending on what team GB captain Leon Smith decides.
Challenger tour level player Dan Evans was an interesting choice for this tie, and is likely to be an afterthought against Tomic/Kokkinakis in singles. With all that said, we could well be looking at Evans in a live 5th rubber, and I give Australia a slight edge in this tie with a strong doubles pairing as long as their team doesn’t implode with so many combustible personalities. Tomic, of course, has his problems with Tennis Australia for starters.
The Belgians get home court advantage and thus get to hold this tie on a favorable indoor hard court surface in Brussels. That fact alone makes them the favorite in this tie, as David Goffin and his veteran teammate Steve Darcis should be able to manage three wins in singles alone against the Argentina pairing of Federico Delbonis and Leonardo Mayer that is scheduled for the singles rubbers.
Goffin has been in good form as of late, and Delbonis is poor on hard courts, though Mayer can play solid tennis at times and may have an edge over Darcis. In doubles it’s scheduled to be Kimmer Coppejans/Ruben Bemelmans against Carlos Berlocq/Diego Schwartzman, and given the surface, the Belgians also have an advantage there. In a surprising result, Belgium should see itself in the Davis Cup final, though they aren’t a powerhouse tennis nation.
India gets home court on outdoor hard but they face a Czech team with stronger players and more experience in Davis Cup. Yuki Bhambri and his teammate Somdev Devvarman, both of whom rank outside the ATP top 100 are expected to play singles against top 100 Czechs Jiri Vesely and Lukas Rosol while the veteran pairing of Leander Paes/Rohan Bopanna should have a minor edge over Radek Stepanek/Adam Pavlasek in doubles.
Vesely should be able to win both his singles matches, but look for Bhambri to potentially rise coming off of a challenger title. He’s a talented player and could shock Rosol in the opening rubber. With that said, the Czechs have a rankings and talent edge here and I have them pulling out a win.
At home on indoor hard it would be a shock if the Swiss won by anything less than a 3-0 sweep. That is due to the fact that the fearsome tandem of Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka are playing to keep them in the World Group against a Dutch squad lacking a top 100 player. The Dutch have underachievers Thiemo De Bakker, Jesse Huta Galung, Matwe Middelkoop, and Tim Van Rijthoven on their squad and they are facing a Swiss Goliath in this one. Barring an injury or change in the Swiss lineup, they should win this with ease, and Marco Chiudinelli and Henri Laaksonen will be able to get experience in the dead rubbers.
Italy has a solid veteran team but they do have to travel to Russia for this indoor hard court battle. Fabio Fognini, coming off his first hard court wins of the season in a strong US Open showing will look to continue the momentum against Russia’s Andrey Rublev and Teymuraz Gabashvili, and if he wins those matches, the pressure will fall on either Simone Bolelli or Andreas Seppi/Paolo Lorenzi to provide the tie clinching victory.
Rublev is a gutsy young gun battler and Gabashvili is a talented shotmaker at times, but outside of the combustible Fognini, the Italian team seems to have a consistency advantage on their side. Evgeny Donskoy and Konstantin Kravchuk round out the Russian team that will need a true team effort to pull this off. Bolelli could falter, but Seppi and Fognini should be good enough to get the job done and keep Italy in the World Group.
Uzbekistan has the huge advantage of getting to face team USA on red clay at home, and they could be facing a jet lagged USA due to the sheer difference in location. This is a tough test for American tennis which could see itself exiled from the World Group once more, if Denis Istomin and Farrukh Dustov can pull off an upset.
Team USA captain Jim Courier is going with some new faces on the team this time, with Jack Sock, Steve Johnson, and Donald Young joining veteran presence Sam Querrey. A lot of pressure will ride on Sock, who is the best clay court player on this team (he won an ATP title on clay this year in Houston) but is coming off of a heat stroke at the US Open, which could factor into his fitness. Istomin is a streaky player and Dustov is a challenger level player in poor form, so most likely Dustov will lose twice, and it may come down to Johnson/Querrey doubles to decide the tie. We could be looking at a live fifth rubber, but some how, some way, a unified Team USA should survive.
Outdoors on clay team Colombia will have a chance against Kei Nishikori and Japan, but presuming Nishikori has resolved the injury that hurt him at the US Open, the team from the land of the rising sun are favorites in this tie. The veteran pairing of Santiago Giraldo and Alejandro Falla, along with doubles specialist tandem Juan Sebastian Cabal/Robert Farah are back for Colombia, while Japan has Nishikori, the young Yoshihito Nishioka, Yasutaka Uchiyama for doubles, and Taro Daniel, who is solid on clay, for singles.
The Colombians with a specialist doubles tandem should win that rubber, and pressure will fall on an out of form Giraldo to snap his slump and get past the still challenger level Daniel, who poses a threat to him. Presuming Nishikori is raring to play, look for him to beat Falla/Giraldo, and a live fifth rubber could be quite interesting in this one, especially in regards to which player, besides Nishikori, Japan will nominate for it. Cases can be made for the speedy Nishioka, or Daniel, based on how Daniel plays on Friday, but in the end I don’t feel Colombia is in good enough form to win this tie at the moment.
Germany, even on the road on hard courts in the Dominican Republic, are heavy favorites in this rubber simply because the DR has no top 200 players outside of veteran wonder Victor Estrella, who isn’t in world beating form at the moment. The German team has veterans Philipp Kohlschreiber and Benjamin Becker, with Philipp Petzschner and Dustin Brown for doubles. while the DR rounds out their team with Jose Hernandez-Fernandez, Roberto Cid, and Jose Olivares, an 18 year old.
Becker is in horrible form for this tie, and may lose his rubber, but Kohlschreiber and the German doubles tandem should be enough on their own to get the job done, as Estrella in his current form is not going to be able to do it all. I’m surprised Germany didn’t nominate Brown for singles over Becker.
Brazil gets home clay for this tie against European tennis power Croatia and if the veteran Thomaz Bellucci can step up, they may just pull off a big win over a weakened Croat team. Joining Bellucci are Joao Souza, a dirtballer, and Marcelo Melo/Bruno Soares for doubles. Croatia matches with the young gun Borna Coric, Ivan Dodig, and Franko Skugor for doubles, and Mate Delic as a second singles player.
Bellucci is in good form and should cruise past the challenger level Delic, while Coric presents a tougher test, but a winnable one all the same. Along with that, Brazil has a clear edge in doubles with their specialist pairing, and Delic should prove the weak link that sends Brazil through even though Souza is in abysmal form.
This closely matched European battle matches former Eastern Bloc nations on indoor hard court in Poland. Jerzy Janowicz, Michal Przysiezny, Lukasz Kubot and Marcin Matkowski, the latter two for doubles, make up the Polish squad, while Slovakia counters with Martin klizan, Norbert Gombos, Andrej Martin, and Igor Zelenay, a doubles specialist.
Like a couple of the other WG playoff ties, this one could go either way and the potential Janowicz vs. Klizan Sunday clash may be what swings the tie. Klizan should be able to beat challenger level Przysiezny, and Gombos is a close match for him, while Janowicz is the wild card depending on his streaky form. The Polish team likely has an edge in doubles, so if Janowicz plays well, Poland should win, if he fails however, the advantage shifts to Slovakia. Given home court advantage, I’m favoring Poland by a hair in this one.
Action Outside of the World Group
Relatively few notable matches will take place outside of the World Group semis and playoffs this weekend, but Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer have gotten the Spanish Armada back together again and should steamroll a weak Danish team in Denmark to hold onto group 1 status. Likewise Ricardas Berankis and Lithuania are sure to have an edge at home against a Ukrainian team that lacks their best two players. Joao Sousa and Portugal face Belarus, and Gonzalo Lama and Chile face Venezuela.
2015 ATP Hamburg and ATP Gstaad Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The 2015 ATP clay court season continues with a 500 series event in Hamburg, Germany, and a 250 in Switzerland as many of the top European players are still battling away on the red clay, even as tennis action in America shifts to hard courts.
2015 ATP Hamburg Preview
Bet-At-Home Open German Tennis Championships
ATP World Tour 500
July 27-August 2, 2015
Prize Money: €1,285,955
Top 4 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Rafael Nadal (10)
2: Tommy Robredo (21)
3: Roberto Bautista Agut (23)
4: Andreas Seppi (26)
Nadal headlines a field that is dotted with Spanish players, 11 out of the 32 man singles field in total. Perhaps this tournament should be renamed the “Spanish tennis championships”.
First round matchups to watch:
(1)Rafael Nadal vs. Fernando Verdasco
Nadal dominates the h2h record but these two left handed Spaniards have played some great matches against each other, and this one could be of top-class as well. Verdasco has in fact won the last two meetings, including a win this year in Miami over Rafa, but he’s a rather pedestrian 8-7 on clay this year. Nadal struggled at Wimbledon again, and overall is having a rough season, but he’s still 21-6 on clay and I’d presume focused and fit for Hamburg, thus I give him the edge to win this one.
(3)Roberto Bautista Agut vs. Borna Coric
A rematch of their match just a couple of days ago in Umag, RBA won that one 6-3 6-3 and the Umag semifinalist should be the favorite here, but Coric is a talented young gun who is improving and learning day by day on tour. Both these guys are great shotmakers when in form and this match could be close, I don’t see Coric flipping the script, you never know.
Philipp Kohlschreiber vs. Benoit Paire
Kohli beat the Bastad champion Paire on clay this year in Barcelona and he comes off the quarterfinals in Umag, thus his clay court form seems to be alright. Paire, who has a talented backhand just like Kohli, just won his first ATP title in Bastad, and given that he’s notorious for having a lack of consistency and commitment, he may well be wiped out for Hamburg, giving Kohlschreiber the edge.
(2)Tommy Robredo vs. (WC)Alex Zverev
The 18 year old Zverev just lost to the veteran Robredo in the Bastad semis but she scored three solid wins there and really seems to enjoy playing in Hamburg, where he had a shocking run deep into the week last year. Robredo, a former Hamburg champion, showed good form in Bastad, but the veteran has been notoriously shaky from week to week this year, and I wouldn’t put it past Zverev to learn from his loss and best his veteran rival just a few days later.
Given this is clay, even a struggling Nadal likely has a clear path to the semifinals. He’ll face the winner of Andreas Haider-Maurer/Jiri Vesely after FerVer, AHM may well be injured while Vesely isn’t in great form and likely doesn’t have the game to deal with Rafa’s topspin. In the quarters Bastad semifinalist Pablo Cuevas likely awaits.
Cuevas will open with struggling young gun Diego Schwartzman, and then gets JerzyJanowicz (who beat qualifier Taro Daniel on Monday) in round 2. JJ i just 3-5 on clay this year, but two of those wins have come in the past two weeks, so his form may be improving, still Cuevas is an accomplished clay courter who tends to have consistency on the surface. Cuevas and Rafa played a three setter in Rio back in the spring, it was close for two sets but then Nadal put up a bagel in the third, and he likely will break his opponents resistance this time too.
Andreas Seppi looked awful in Umag, and thus the #4 seed is actually an underdog against Martin Klizan who won a round there. Klizan has a big game, but he’s streaky, while Seppi lacks a lot of weaponry, but can frustrate opponents when his game is clicking. You never know how it will go with Klizan, but if he wins Florian Mayer awaits, as the funky hitting German veteran slipped past fellow veteran Albert Montanes Monday. Mayer is just 4-9 on clay this year and hasn’t been great since returning from injury, thus Klizan has the edge to reach the quarters.
The section below Klizan/Seppi is rather weak as Lukas Rosol faces off with Simone Bolelli, while veteran Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez will face 18 year old wild card Jaume Munar, who played doubles with Nadal this tournament. Rosol is 6-8 on clay in 2015, and tends to have streaky form while the shotmaker Bolelli is slightly better on the surface, but likewise hasn’t caught fire as of late. Bolelli likely beats Rosol while the 32 year old GGL should beat Munar, who isn’t quite ready for the ATP main stage. It’s hard to pick a winner between Bolelli/GGL, but GGL has a better record on clay this season, and thus gets the edge. Klizan beat GGL in Rio on clay last year, and in this section that is up for grabs I have him reaching the semis in what would be a promising result. He has a semifinal in Barcelona and a title in Casablanca on his 2015 record.
Robredo/Zverev will face Paire/Kohlschreiber, and from that I have Kohlschreiber reaching the quarters as fatigue should factor on Paire and Robredo, while Kohli has home soil advantage. 2012 champion Juan Monaco is a strong favorite to reach the quarterfinals above that section, Pico, 13-10 on clay in 2015, opens with the continually lost and struggling Ernests Gulbis, who to his credit did win a match in Bastad, a rare sight for him this season. After that Monaco will face Lucas Pouille, who beat Inigo Cervantes on Monday. The young gun Frenchman Pouille has plenty of talent but struggles with consistency, he could reach the quarters as well, but a Monaco vs. Kohlschreiber quarter seems like the safest prediction. Kohlschreiber is 2-1 against Monaco and with his superior form should be able to survive an interesting section and reach the semis.
RBA/Coric will face Aljaz Bedene or veteran Spaniard Daniel Gimeno-Traver, Bedene appears to be in reasonably good form, while DGT does not, and thus RBA over Bedene should be the second round result, unless Coric spoils proceedings. #8 seed and 2013 champion Fabio Fognini, an Umag quarterfinalist, opens with Jeremy Chardy, who he is 4-0 in the h2h against, and then unless he collapses, will face Albert Ramos round 2, after Ramos scored a minor upset over his countryman Nicolas Almagro on Monday. Fognini is 6-0 against Ramos, and thus the Italian should reach the quarterfinals and perhaps beyond this week.
Fognini is 2-1 on clay against RBA and both seem to be in decent form, Fognini has always had the talent but mentally he tends to float, and thus I have RBA reaching the semis in another difficult match to predict.
Zverev, Klizan, and Coric are all non-seeds who could have excellent weeks in Hamburg, but the home player Kohlschreiber should reach the semis based on the draw. He has clay court ability, veteran experience, and hopefully good form and could reach the final based on what happens in the RBA/Fognini section.
Semis: Nadal d. Klizan Bautista Agut d. Kohlschreiber
Presuming no hiccups for Nadal he’s clearly the favorite given his level on clay is above the rest of the field, Klizan shocked him in Beijing last fall,but that as on hard courts, and Nadal still owns a 2-1 h2h advantage, peak Klizan with his power can bother Rafa, but I don’t see that happening on clay, likewise RBA and Kohli have a close record, but RBA’s form should see him through to an all-Spanish final.
Final: Nadal d. Bautista Agut
Nadal beat RBA in Madrid last year, and generally RBA lacks the big game needed to beat the top 10 level players in key moments. Rafa has struggled this season, but he’s still long term the greatest clay courter of all time, and it takes a special effort to beat him. What’s interesting is both of my picks could lose in the first round, or at least have their toughest matches at that stage. Nadal should win his second ATP Hamburg title.
Swiss Open Gstaad
ATP World Tour 250
July 27-August 2, 2015
Prize Money: €439,405
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP rankings in parentheses)
1: David Goffin (14)
2: Feliciano Lopez (18)
3: Dominic Thiem (24)
4: Pablo Andujar (35)
Two top 20 players in Gstaad as it’s a pretty solid field for a 250.
First round matchups to watch:
Robin Haase vs. Marcel Granollers
Haase comes off of a challenger semifinal and tends to play well in Switzerland, that said he’s just 2-4 on ATP clay this year (10-3 below that level) and he’ll be facing off with Spanish veteran Marcel Granollers, who owns a 2-1 h2h record against him. Granollers dropped to 6-7 in ATP main draw clay court matches this year with an opening round loss in Umag, and if Haase can keep his mental game together he should beat the loud Spanish grunter and advance to round 2.
Top seeded Belgian David Goffin has what should be a clear path to the quarterfinals as his round 2 opponent is Argentine veteran Horacio Zeballos. Zeballos got past young gun Andrey Rublev in round 1 but he lost to Goffin at Wimbledon (though clay is his best surface) and given the difference in ranking and talent, D Goff is a strong favorite, even after an opening match loss to eventual Bastad champ Benoit Paire.
Joao Sousa is likely to be Goffin’s quarterfinal opponent, the Umag finalist comes off of a fantastic week in Croatia, and the Portugese #1 has now reached two clay court finals in 2015 (Geneva and Umag). Fatigue could play a factor, but the battling baseliner will face journeyman Swiss wild card Henri Laaksonen in round 1, which hould be an easy match, and then Bastad quarterfinalist Denis Istomin awaits. Istomin already scored a round 1 win over Maxime Teixeira and is in good form, but Sousa has a h2h win against him this year, and likely has the advantage on clay. Goffin is 2-1 against Sousa in the h2h and should be fresher, thus I have the undersized ball striker reaching the semis.
Defending champion Pablo Andujar’s toughest early match towards defending his title is likely to come in the quarterfinals against Thomaz Bellucci. Andujar faces Dusan Lajovic first, after Lajovic beat qualifier Calvin Hemery in round 1 and he should move his 11-8 clay court mark in 2015 to 12-8 before facing Bellucci. Bellucci, a two time Gstaad champion, opens with the struggling Kimmer Coppejans after reaching the Bastad quarterfinals. After Coppejans he should breeze past Stephane Robert or Joao Souza, his countryman, both of whom are relative journeymen.
I have Bellucci getting past Andujar and into the semis, as he’s 4-1 on clay in the head to head, and the big hitting Spaniard appears to be in better form, along with the fact he loves Gstaad.
#2 seed and newlywed Feliciano Lopez, who hasn’t been particularly hot this season (just 7-7 on clay with 1 ATP final in Quito boosting those stats), will face Blaz Kavcic or Julian Reister in round 2. Reister qualified with ease while Kavcic tends to struggle on clay, thus Lopez over Reister is the likely round 2 result. The serve and volleying Spaniard still has enough game to beat the journeyman German.
A struggling Santiago Giraldo (11-11 on clay in 2015) will face veteran Paolo Lorenzi in round 1, presuming he still has enough big game hitting to win that he could get an interesting match with Andrey Kuznetsov, who comes off of a clay court challenger final, in round 2. Kuznetsov will need to recover quickly from that final and beat Marsel Ilhan first, and I wouldn’t put reaching the quarterfinals past him, but if fatigue is a factor, a Giraldo vs. Lopez quarterfinal is the most likely outcome, even with both players not in the best of form.
Lopez has a 2-0 h2h against Giraldo though they have never met on clay (Lopez’s worst surface and Giraldo’s best), and it could go either way but Lopez probably slices and serves into the semis.
Austria’s Dominic Thiem, the young gun champion of Umag, has a weak section he could feast on and make another deep run, but he may have trouble recovering and Federico Delbonis, his first opponent, could take advantage. Delbonis just defeated Marco Chiudinelli, Thiem is the better player, and I have him reaching the quarters, but we’ll see what kind of shape he’s in. Haase/Granollers could face him in the quarters, or Pablo Carreno Busta, who should dispatch the slumping Mikhail Youzhny in round 1. PCB, like Haase, has been in good form on challenger tour clay, and he has a h2h win over the Dutchman, thus I have a Thiem vs. PCB quarterfinal and PCB advancing (1-1 h2h on clay) due to Thiem’s fatigue.
Haase has a weak section and could break through over Granollers/PCB, then take advantage of Thiem’s fatigue to reach the semis. He’s had success at 250s like this before, and has the talent, but as always it’s his mental game that matters.
Semis: Bellucci d. Goffin
Lopez d. Carreno Busta
Bellucci’s power should bother Goffin and he appears to be in solid form, along with his previous success at this tournament. Lopez is simply a better player compared to PCB, but it’s clay so he may not do well.
Final: Bellucci d. Lopez
Bellucci and Lopez have a split h2h overall, but given record and form, look for the Brazilian to win his second ATP title of the season, he also won Geneva.
2015 ATP Umag, Bogota, and Bastad Previews and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Three 250 level events will take place on the ATP World Tour this week, two on clay in Umag and Bastad, both in Europe, and the other on hard courts in South America. Tennis Atlantic is pleased to provide on-site coverage of Umag this week, and here is a preview of all the ATP tennis action.
2015 ATP Umag Preview
Konzum Croatia Open Umag
ATP World Tour 250
July 20-July 26, 2015
Prize Money: €439,405
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Gael Monfils (17)
2: Roberto Bautista Agut (23)
3: Andreas Seppi (26)
4: Dominic Thiem (28)
An interesting and diverse group of seeds in Umag should make for an interesting week.
First round matchups to watch:
(6)Philipp Kohlschreiber vs. Santiago Giraldo
Giraldo, who is surprisingly playing here instead of at home in Colombia this week after Davis Cup, has the h2h advantage in this match, but Kohlschreiber has had the superior season and should be the slight favorite to advance on clay. After a great year last year it’s been a rough go of things for Santi this year. The style matchup will be interested as the Peppo backhand goes up against the Giraldo forehand. The fact Kohli is fresher will also help.
(5)Fabio Fognini vs. Jiri Vesely
Fognini beat Vesely this year in a crazy match in Rio on clay, and now Vesely is seeking revenge. Fognini wasn’t particularly great on clay back in the spring when he wasn’t playing Rafael Nadal, but the party atmosphere in Umag will either suit him, or distract the mercurial Italian. The match should be on Fogna’s racquet, and I have him advancing.
(7)Borna Coric vs. Marcel Granollers
The Croatian young gun Coric is now seeded at his home nation tournament and he could well make some noise if he maintains his clay court form from the Spring. Granollers is a relatively pedestrian singles player these days, though clay is his best surface, and hopefully Coric will be focused enough to grab an opening round win.
Gael Monfils, the top seed, will open with either nearly retired Mikhail Youzhny or a qualifier, the Frenchman is 10-4 on clay this season and thus should smoothly reach the quarterfinals to face Giraldo/Kohlschreiber. The winner of that match will take on Paolo Lorenzi or a qualifier, and I expect a Monfils vs. Kohlschreiber quarterfinal. Monfils dominates the h2h and has a 2-0 record this year against Peppo, and thus I have him reaching the semis.
Dominic Thiem, one of the young guns in this years Umag field, comes off of two bad losses in Davis Cup play on clay against the Dutch. Thiem’s poor form appears to be mental, more than physical, but he still could be troubled by Dusan Lajovic or a qualifier in round 2. Thiem should benefit from a weak section, as his quarterfinal opponent if he beats Lajovic will be one of Pablo Carreno Busta/Martin Klizan/Andreas Haider-Maurer/qualifier. Klizan has been struggling, though he played well in Davis Cup, and Carreno Busta just took a title on the challenger tour, so I have it as a PCB vs. AHM 2nd round match (due to Klizan’s DC hangover) and then I have AHM, who did win a Davis Cup match on clay this weekend, getting through that. He’s had a deceptively good season as a dirtballer and tends to have streaky form.
For the AHM vs. Thiem All-Austrian quarterfinal, I have Haider-Maurer advancing by virtue of Thiem’s likely fatigue and poor form as the veteran should outclass the young gun.
Roberto Bautista Agut, who is 10-7 on clay in 2015, should be able to defeat the winner of Andrey Rublev/Blaz Kavcic in round 2. Rublev comes off of winning a 5th rubber to send Russia into the World Group playoffs ahead of mighty Spain but the young gun wild card could be fatigued against Kavcic, who isn’t at his best on clay. I have Rublev beating Kavcic due to surface, as he should recover quickly given his youth, but RBA should avenge the Spain defeat to reach the quarterfinals. There I’d expect him to face the home young gun Coric, who has to beat Granollers, and then Mate Delic/Aljaz Bedene in round 2. Bedene is in good form, but Coric should be the superior player.
Given it’s in Croatia, I have the young gun Coric scoring a minor upset ranking wise over RBA, who has been down this year, and reaching the semifinals.
Andreas Seppi, who has had consistent success in Umag before, will open with Joao Sousa or wild card Toni Androic, Sousa, who had a succesful Davis Cup weekend, reached a clay final before RG, and should defeat Androic, but Seppi will be a tougher opponent. That said he’s a poor 0-2 on clay this year while Sousa is 8-7, and I have the Portugese scoring an upset to reach the quarterfinals. Fognini/Vesely will face Damir Dzumhur/Lukas Rosol round 2, Rosol is probably a slight favorite to reach round 2, but I’d figure Fognini would be in the quarters if he doesn’t implode.
Fognini has a clay court h2h win over Sousa, and he’s the better clay courter, but once again it depends on his head as to whether he will reach the semifinals and beyond.
Joao Sousa, and Jiri Vesely could both make runs this week, but AHM is actually a small favorite to reach the quarters in my book. The 28 year old has semifinal and a quarterfinal on clay this year, and Umag should be another place he takes advantage of a weak draw and bursts through to the semis as long as Thiem struggles as expected.
Monfils d. Haider-Maurer
Coric d. Fognini
Monfils beat AHM in Stuttgart this year on grass and he’s the better player all around, thus I expect him, or Kohlschreiber, to reach the final. Last year in Umag Fognini beat Coric, but given their recent form I have that result reversing itself and Coric reaching an ATP final on home soil.
Monfils d. Coric
Monfils and Coric have never met, but if the Frenchman reaches the final he should be the favorite given his abilities.
Claro Open Colombia
ATP World Tour 250
July 20-July 26, 2015
Prize Money: $683,515
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Ivo Karlovic (24)
2: Bernard Tomic (25)
3: Adrian Mannarino (35)
4: Victor Estrella (43)
Once again Bogota lacks a big name, or even a top 20 player, making it one of the weaker 250 level events on tour.
First round matchups to watch:
Alejandro Falla vs. Rajeev Ram
There are a host of weak, and disinteresting R1 matchups in Bogota, but this one has the potential to be worth a watch. Ram, normally a doubles specialist these days, and a journeyman in singles, once again found his serve and volley form on grass in Newport and took the title. Falla is playing on home soil and tends to do well with the altitude. His form isn’t great, but he does well in Bogota, and with that in mind he probably will defeat a tired Ram, unless his serve and volley works again.
Ivo Karlovic has a title in Bogota and is 8-1 at the tournament, his big serve consistently seems to find success in the quick conditions, and he should serve past the winner of Pere Riba/Daniel Elahi Galan, a wild card, to setup a quarterfinal meeting with Sam Groth. Groth, another big server who volleys to go along with that, helped Australia reach the Davis Cup semis, and like Karlovic comes off of grass, though jetlag and fatigue may be an issue. His round 1 match against dirtballer Guido Pella looks easy on paper, and if he wins that, he should beat serve and volleyer Radek Stepanek, or Edouard Roger-Vasselin round 2. Stepanek really seems to be struggling at his advanced age, so I have Groth over ERV in round 2.
Karlovic should beat Groth do the fact his similar playstyle is slightly superior, and he should be less fatigued. Expect two or three tiebreaks honestly. Karlovic was the finalist in Newport and lost in a final round tiebreak.
Adrian Mannarino will face the Ram/Falla winner in round 2, the Newport quarterfinalist is a solid 13-6 on hard courts this year while Falla is just 4-4, it’s hard to pick against Falla in Bogota given the unique conditions, but Mannarino with his loopy game should have enough to get through that match and reach the quarters. There he will face one of Malek Jaziri/Austin Krajicek/John Millman/Qualifier, as a qualifier could well reach the quarters. Jaziri struggles to stay in shape, Krajicek is struggling in general, and Millman has always had talent but has failed to live up to expectations. I have Millman beating Jaziri in round 2 to reach the quarters, and then Mannarino beating Millman to reach the semis.
Bernard Tomic, who crashed out of Newport, then was arrested in Miami, got bailed out, and is now playing in Bogota, will face Adrian Menendez-Maceiras/Alejandro Gonzalez round 2. Tomic is the defending champion, and a talented tennis player, but with all of the turmoil in his personal life, I’m not sure he’ll do much more than collect a check here. AMM is better than the home Colombian Gonzalez on hard courts (and AG has DC fatigue), and I have him beating Tomic as well because of the personal issues.
If healthy and fit, Marcos Baghdatis should benefit, the 5 seed opens with a qualifier, then Tatsuma Ito, a journeyman, or a qualifier, in round 2. Baghdatis has the talent and the game to reach the semis and he’s 11-7 on hard courts this year, thus I have him beating a qualifier, and Ito, then Menendez or Tomic to reach the semis.
Victor Estrella, who tends to play well in South America, and isn’t a bad hard court player, though he prefers clay, will open with Nico Barrientos, a wild card, or Yuichi Sugita. Estrella should be able to reach the semis, presuming a successful Davis Cup weekend didn’t fatigue him, and improve on his 0-4 hard court record this year. After his opening match, he’ll face either James Ward/Michael Berrer or hard courter Illya Marchenko. Berrer should beat tired Davis Cupper Ward with his serve and volley game, and I also have him slipping past Marchenko before falling to Estrella.
Any number of players could break through this week, but you can’t count Falla out on home soil in the unique high altitude conditions of Bogota. Even when his form has been poor and he’s been a run of the mill player, he tends to find success here and if he beats Mannarino anything could happen.
Karlovic d. Mannarino
Baghdatis d. Estrella
Karlovic beat Mannarino in Bogota in 2013, and this year in Delray Beach, both on hard courts. Baghdatis should win the battle of the veterans in the semis, and benefit from Tomic’s personal problems to reach the final.
Baghdatis is 2-0 against Karlovic this year, but in these quick and hot conditions Dr. Ivo should take advantage and serve up another Bogota title after his disappointment of dropping the final in Newport.
2015 ATP Bastad Preview
Skistar Swedish Open
ATP World Tour 250
July 20-July 26, 2015
Prize Money: €439,405
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: David Goffin (14)
2: Tommy Robredo (21)
3: Pablo Cuevas (27)
4: Juan Monaco (30)
Bastad draws a top 20 player and has a solid 250 level field for clay.
First round matchups to watch:
(5)Fernando Verdasco vs. Nicolas Almagro
A battle of Spanish veterans, the big hitters have met plenty of times, and last year they split meetings, with Verdasco having an overall h2h advantage. Verdasco also won their 2013 Bastad quarterfinal meeting and given Almagro’s relatively poor recent form, I’d tip him as having the edge to win this match too to extend his h2h record.
(6)Thomaz Bellucci vs. (WC)Elias Ymer
Geneva champ Thomaz Bellucci will look to continue his clay court 250 level success in Bastad, and he’ll be facing off with young Swede Elias Ymer. Ymer has won a challenger title on clay this year and he’s a relatively solid all-courter but he’s still learning and adapting to the ATP level, and thus Bellucci is the favorite.
Luca Vanni vs. Albert Ramos
A struggling Luca Vanni will face an in-form Albert Ramos in a battle of clay courters. Vanni has broken through to the ATP level this year with serve and slice game, while Ramos’s top spin game has been doing damage on the challenger tour on clay. Presuming he’s fit enough, Ramos should advance from this interesting match.
David Goffin will face off with Benoit Paire or wild card Markus Eriksson in round 2, presuming Paire prevails, he has a 1-1 h2h with Goffin and given Goffin’s excellent form as of late, including in Davis Cup, he should at least reach the quarterfinals. There he could face Almagro/Verdasco unless the young Argentine Diego Schwartzman spoils the party. Schwartzman opens with Denis Istomin, and though he should win that given it’s clay, his poor loss in Davis Cup over the weekend suggest to me Verdasco has the inside track for the quarters. Verdasco has two h2h wins over Goffin, but the Belgian is in better form, and thus I have him ousting the 2013 finalist to reach the semis.
Defending champion Pablo Cuevas is solid on clay and should defeat Federico Delbonis/qualifier, and then Daniel Gimeno-Traver in the quarterfinals. DGT has had a solid season, but he’s not in the best of form right now, while Darcis comes off of Davis Cup duty but normally doesn’t favor clay. Cuevas’s likely round 2 opponent Delbonis normally doesn’t perform strongly at the ATP level though he likes clay, while Jerzy Janowicz, who DGT could face round 2, presuming he beats a qualifier, is in poor spirits right now and doesn’t prefer clay with a 1-4 record this year on the surface. He also comes off a fatigue inducing Davis Cup weekend.
Cuevas is 2-0 against DGT in the h2h and overall superior in ranking, talent, and on this surface, thus I have him in the semis. Both Cuevas and Delbonis played Davis Cup this weekend, and fatigue could be what limits the Cuevas result.
Two-time Champion Tommy Robredo comes off of Davis Cup duty and could be slayed by the Ramos/Vanni winner right off the bat. Ramos beat Robredo in Bastad in 2013, and I think he will repeat that showing given the veteran’s poor form as of late. In the quarters, it should be Ramos vs. Jeremy Chardy, who opens with a qualifier, unless Ernests Gulbis somehow catches fire. The Latvian who has now slumped outside the top 80, opens with Turk Marsel Ilhan, and then should face Chardy round 2. Chardy beat Gulbis this year in Marseille (2-3 h2h) and his clay court abilities should be enough to reach the quarters.
Ramos has a h2h win over Chardy, and with his better form I have the Spaniard in the semis.
Pico Monaco will face a qualifier or Alex Zverev in round 2 and his 13-8 clay court record this year should be enough to defeat Zverev. After that Bellucci is the favorite for the quarters presuming Ymer doesn’t trip him up. Neither wild card Christian Lindell or Joao Souza appear to be a difficult round 2 opponent. Monaco and Bellucci have a split 2-2 h2h, and I have Bellucci advancing by a small margin for the semis.
Dark Horse: Albert Ramos
The unseeded Ramos could catch fire and take this clay court title presuming he can beat Robredo and use that to power himself through to the semis. Bellucci/Monaco will be beatable in the semis, and from there anything could happen.
Goffin d. Cuevas
Bellucci d. Ramos
Goffin is in better form than what would be a tired Cuevas and Bellucci beat Ramos this year in Geneva on clay.
The ATP World Tour welcomed yet another first time winner to the fold in 2015, as Austrian young gun Dominic Thiem won a well deserved victory in the final over Argentine Leonardo Mayer 6-7 7-5 7-6. The 21 year old, who is at his best on clay, could smell victory late in the third set, and he pounced on his opportunity, leaving Mayer frustrated down the stretch. Thiem improves to 1-1 in ATP finals as he lost in Kitzhbuhel last year, and it will be interesting to see how his over 2 hour triumph factors into his result at Roland Garros, where the attention will shift now.
Thiem lost just that one set to Mayer this week as he beat Victor Estrella in straights, got a retirement against Nick Kyrgios, and then routined Ernests Gulbis, one of his best pals on tour, and John Isner, as he dealt with the American’s big serve with great class. It’s pretty clear to me we will be talking about Thiem as a top 20 player in the near future.
Mayer, who was solid on serve this week, reached the final with quality wins over Lucas Pouille, Juan Monaco, and Borna Coric, all without dropping a set. He has struggled in 2015 thus far, but perhaps this result will signal a turnaround to his season.
Mate Pavic and Michael Venus won the doubles title over Horia Tecau and Jean-Julien Rojer
Thomaz Bellucci has a knack for performing well in Switzerland, as the powerful Brazilian won his third ATP title in the country, and also the maiden Geneva Open title. Bellucci defeated Portguese #1 Joao Sousa in the final 7-6 6-4, Sousa was up a minibreak in the opening set tiebreak, and a break in the second set, but twice he failed to shut the door on Thomaz, and he stormed back to take the match without dropping a set.
This week the in-form Brazilian defeated Marcos Baghdatis in three sets, Denis Istomin in straights, Albert Ramos in 3 sets, and Santiago Giraldo in straights, as his last three wins came against solid clay court players. Sousa, who has a habit of making streaky runs and then struggling for weeks on end beat Joao Souza and Jurgen Melzer in straights, then battled past Pablo Andujar, and Federico Delbonis in tight three set encounters. Delbonis upset Stan Wawrinka in the quarterfinals.
Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah defeated Raven Klaasen and Yen-Hsun Lu for the doubles title.
2015 French Open Week 1 Men’s Preview and Predictions (@RolandGarros) Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
It’s time for the second Grand Slam of the season, the 2015 French Open at Stade Roland Garros in Paris. This is one of the most wide open French Opens in years, as the case could be made for at least five different players to claim the title. In addition, the young guns are rising, as over a dozen players under 21 are competing in the main draw and some of them are likely to score some upsets and do well, so read on and check out what all there is offer on the men’s side of the 2015 French Open.
May 24-June 7, 2015
Prize Money: $29,500,000
Top 8 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Novak Djokovic (1)
2: Roger Federer (2)
3: Andy Murray (3)
4: Tomas Berdych (4)
5: Kei Nishikori (5)
6: Rafael Nadal (7)
7: David Ferrer (8)
8: Stan Wawrinka (9)
World #6 Milos Raonic pulled out with a foot injury, Juan Martin Del Potro, and Tommy Haas, both injured are missing, Janko Tipsarevic, and Julien Benneteau were the other withdrawals but all of the other top players are here, including 19 of the top 20.
A rematch of an interesting encounter in Madrid, Tomic lost in a third set tiebreak to the Italian veteran Vanni, who is having a late career breakthrough and will making his grand slam main draw debut as a qualifier. Bernie has been struggling on clay as of late, and has never advanced past the second round of the French, so this match could doom the 27 seed to another early exit in Paris. Vanni is a junkballer, with a game built for clay, as he takes causes weird bounces on his shots, and utilizes the slice and drop shot to win points, rather than power hitting. Tomic has lost five straight matches, and retired in Nice, so his health is also in doubt, while Vanni may be battling fatigue after winning three straight three set matches, including one that finished 16-14 in the 3rd set.
The surprise Sao Paulo finalist will still have to work hard, but this is a winnable match for him, and while Tomic had an excellent spring hard court season, he’s been atrocious on clay, and I don’t see that changing here, thus Vanni in 4 or 5 sets is my pick.
(10)Grigor Dimitrov vs. Jack Sock
By far the best round 1 matchup, this encounter is befitting of a round of 32 or round of 16 contest with the talent that both of these under 25 year olds have at their disposal, and it’s a shame one of them will have to go home after round 1. Dimitrov is of course the favorite, though he has a relatively poor record at the French Open, and has never made it to the second week. The Madrid and Monte Carlo quarterfinalist, and Istanbul semifinalist will have to deal with Sock’s high spinning and vicious forehand that is one of the best 5 in all of men’s tennis.
Since returning from hip surgery this spring, Sock won his first ever ATP title, which came on clay in Houston, and though he is on a three match losing streak on clay, all of those matches were tough three set contests. Sock certainly seems to be improving on clay, and he’s shown tenacity this season and the ability to change the momentum of matches, while Dimitrov has been shaky at times, and really has not performed as well as his top 15 ranking would indicate. I’m still picking Dimitrov, but I see it going five sets, and you can’t count Sock out, as he’s one of the top two American men on clay, and seems to be steadily improving. He’s also fixed his fitness issues that were detrimental in best of 5 set matches.
Nicolas Almagro vs. Alexandr Dolgopolov
This should be a fun match between a pair of excellent ballstrikers who can play well above their current rankings when they are on a roll. Almagro, a three time RG quarterfinalist has not played up to his formerly top 20 self since returning from injury this season, but he does have a pair of quarterfinals and a semifinal this season in ATP clay court tournaments.
Dolgopolov has tumbled down the rankings and is out of the top 50 again, but as always he’s a dangerous shotmaker, and excellent mover who always produces highlights, win or lose. He hasn’t played particularly well on clay since early last season, but you can’t count him out against anyone, as he pushed Novak Djokovic to the brink of defeat in Miami.
The head to head is an even 2-2, and 1-1 on clay, Almagro’s recent losses have been better though, an Dolgopolov lost to the horribly out of form Ernests Gulbis in the Nice warm up tournament, so with that in mind I see Almagro pulling through in 4 or 5 sets of highlight filled tennis.
(16)John Isner vs. Andreas Seppi
In theory the 16 seed John Isner should be on upset alert, as he was not given an easy round 1 matchup, that said, Seppi hasn’t played since losing round 1 in Monte Carlo, and that indicates to me the veteran Italian all-courter had some sort of injury that prevented him from playing any further tournaments until RG. Seppi was on fire early on in the season as he recorded a run to the second week at the AO where he upset Federer, and an ATP final and semifinal in between. However his results since then have been pedestrian, and there are question marks surrounding his play right now, though he has the game to defeat Isner, as he has done so before on clay in Rome.
Isner has had a solid season on European red clay by his standards, he comes off the semis in Nice, and he also reached the quarters in Madrid, overall compiling a 9-4 record, with none of those 4 losses being bad ones. He’s not going to threaten any of the top names on clay, even with that huge serve, but he still should be good enough to get past Seppi, perhaps without dropping a set, and it would be a big disappointment if he didn’t get out of the first round here after the clay season he has had, most of all staying healthy, which is a big bonus for the American #1.
(9)Marin Cilic vs. Robin Haase
Cilic is 4-0 against Haase, including two wins on clay, and it’s unlikely he loses this one, but it’s a sleeper match, as Cilic has really struggled since returning from injury, and has yet to find the form that propelled him to his first Grand Slam, and a top 10 ranking. Haase by contrast is a very streaky player who has the technical talents to score big wins (he beat Stan Wawrinka this year in Indian Wells), but has one of the weakest mindsets in men’s tennis, and that weak mental portion of his game means he can lose to just about anyone.
Since reaching the quarters in Monte Carlo, Cilic is just 2-4, and he played relatively poorly in the Geneva warm up tournament prior to this. Haase recently won a challenger on clay, and also reached the quarterfinals in Estoril, so he’s in reasonable form. I’m still picking Cilic, but Haase likely snatches a set, and if Cilic is rusty and off his game, it will be interesting to see if Haase seizes the moment like he did against Wawrinka and scores another top 15 win.
A match to keep an eye because the seeded player could well go down in defeat, the Czech young gun lefty Vesely has a h2h win against Mayer on clay (2014 Casablanca), and though he’s had an erratic season, he has won an ATP title (Auckland), and reached a final, and a semifinal on clay. Mayer by contrast has been having a poor season, though he reached the final Nice, and though that shows his form is improving, it also indicates fatigue could play a factor in a best of 5 sets match.
This run in Nice is the best result Mayer has posted all season on clay, and Vesely is actually more talented, thus the match should be on his racquet. The issue for Jiri is his lack of consistency, he’s as talented as the other young guns such as Kyrgios, and Thiem that have made waves, but he hasn’t been able to put that together on a regular basis. I’m picking Vesely in 4 but this is a tough pick either way.
Rosol, who posted a pair of quarterfinals on clay this season, and has continued his typical rollercoaster form, likely wins this over the next great Swedish hope Ymer, but you can’t count the young gun out, given Rosol has the ability to play some of the best ball bashing tennis you’ll see, an also some of the worst error strewn disasters you can witness. The Czech comes off of qualifying for Geneva and then losing to Stan Wawrinka in round 2.
Ymer, a rising 19 year old who will be playing in his second Grand Slam main draw, after successfully qualifying and then losing in 5 sets at the Australian Open earlier this year. He recently moved to Barcelona to practice full time on clay, and it’s his best surface as he beat Nick Kyrgios in Barcelona, where he reached the round of 16, earlier this year, and had a relatively comfortable qualifying campaign where he didn’t drop a set in his last two matches. Long term Ymer is quite the talent, and he will have success in the future in Paris without a doubt, but winning this math is still likely to be a challenge, and I’m going with Rosol in 4 sets, as he’s a step up from Ymer’s usual level of competition.
Martin Klizan vs. (WC)Francis Tiafoe
The USTA wild card winner Tiafoe, who is just 17 years old, and is a former top junior, only turning pro in April of this year, actually has a punchers chance against the talented but inconsistent Klizan. Big Foe, as our writer Joe Craven calls him, reached the challenger final in Tallahassee, and the Maryland native, who is coached by Jose Higueras, went 12-3 on har-tru clay in those three USTA challenger events. He will be making his grand slam main draw debut, and he made his ATP debut last season in Washington D.C. at the Citi Open. He’s a talent, and he has plenty of charisma but this match represents a huge step up for the teen.
Klizan won the title in Casablanca this year, and also reached the semis in Barcelona but he has suffered two straight losses, and may be rusty, or not entirely healthy going into this match. Again, the favorite should win this, but don’t sleep on Tiafoe, as Klizan has his off days, and it’s unlikely the young American, who raised by immigrant parents and came from humble roots, literally being raised at a tennis facility, will be intimidated by the stage, or the ranking of his opponent.
(12)Gilles Simon vs. (WC)Lucas Pouille
An all French affair that should delight the locals, Simon has a higher ranking, more experience, and a positive record in Paris, but he retired in his last match in Rome, and pulled out of Nice, something that may be precautionary, or could be the sign that his back injury is serious. Simon had a non-headline making, so-so clay court season, and it’s not likely he’ll be high on confidence going into his home grand slam.
Pouille by contrast is a young gun trying to make a name for himself in his third French Open main draw appearance. It feels like Pouille has been tour for a while, but unlike some of the other players who are 21 and younger like himself, he has yet to pull off either a deep run in a big tournament, or a marquee win to put himself in the papers. He has a gifted forehand that can do damage and he’s a talented ballstriker, who can bend the ball to his whims, but his fitness, and at times his shot selection is lacking, and after reaching the semis in Auckland and pushing Gael Monfils to five sets at the AO back in January, he hasn’t done much, besides an upset of Dominic Thiem in Monte Carlo. He struggled in Nice, and also found himself dismantled by Rafael Nadal in Monte Carlo, so he’s not exactly in great form, but this is still a match worth watching as you never know if Simon will lay an egg, perhaps due to back pain, though he tends to battle and find a way in slams.
This match is a poor matchup for Pouille as Simon is a human backboard who will massage the ball and likely be able to frustrate the young Frenchman and cause his game to leak errors, as it tends to due under pressure, but the injury concerns for Simon are serious, and that’s why I’m picking Pouille. He will need to be aggressive to get the win, and it’s a risk, but I’m bold enough to pick it.
Two-time, and defending French Open finalist Novak Djokovic is unlikely to drop even a set en route to the third round. Djokovic will open with struggling veteran lefty Jarkko Nieminen, who is fast on his feet, but has declined from his peak, and the Fin is also a player Novak has beaten twice before on clay. After that the winner of Gilles Muller/Paolo Lorenzi awaits, that’s a toss-up match as Muller is not a clay courter, and Lorenzi is a career journeyman, though at his best on clay. I’d go with Muller to get through, but he’s of little threat to Novak on this surface, and Djokovic beat him at the Aussie this year without dropping a set.
In the third round, I have Thanasi Kokkinakis, the Australian teenager, as Novak’s opponent, and it will still be a good showing for him to get that far on clay, though he’s unlikely to threaten Djokovic on this surface. Kokkinakis, who is perfect in ATP qualifying this year and recently won the Bordeaux challenger on clay, will open with qualifer Nikoloz Basilashvili, in the opening round. Basilashvili, the top Georgian player on the ATP tour, has been markedly improved this season and is nearing breakthrough status, but Kokkinakis is simply more talented, and he’s been getting better and better on clay, the more practice that he gets. His movement improving with his lanky frame, and his shots still solid from both wings, especially his forehand side. I feel Kokkinakis actually has more upside than the other part of the Aussie teenage tandem, Nick Kyrgios, and this tournament is likely to increase my belief on that.
Kokkinakis will need to defeat the Vanni/Tomic winner in round 2, if Tomic were to advance, he’ll have a 2-0 h2h against Thanasi with both matches coming this season, including in a competitive match in Indian Wells, but on clay things actually favor Kokkinakis style of play, as Tomic is not a good dirtballer. Vanni, who I have winning in my own bracket, is likely to be fatigued, and his slice and dice game is a good matchup for Kokkinakis, compared to Tomic’s junkballing. Look for Djokovic to reach the second week without dropping a set, and Kokkinakis to be a pleasant surprise in the opening week.
Estoril champion and 20 seed Richard Gasquet is another who could reach the second week without dropping a set. Gasquet will open with 26 year old Belgian qualifier Germain Gigounon, who qualified with relative ease and reached a challenger final on clay earlier this season, that said, Gigounon is making his slam debut, and has never even played an ATP main draw match, so not much should be expected of him. Gasquet’s second opponent will be either Carlos Berlocq, the veteran Argentine grinder, or surprise qualifier Illya Marchenko, who rarely plays on clay, and is a journeyman, but still tour through three qualifying matches. Berlocq has lost four straight matches, with two retirements mixed in, so he may not even be healthy, regardless, neither player is a threat to Gasquet’s versatile game, and the home French fans should enjoy his smooth strokes later on into the tournament.
In the third round, Gasquet is again likely to face a weak opponent, as Blaz Kavcic/Rendy Lu/Tim Smyczek/Kevin Anderson are his options. Kavcic and Lu are both poor on clay and rarely play on the surface, Kavcic having lost three straight. Smyczek is another player who is poor on clay, and Anderson has struggled this year on the surface as well though he did reach the semis in Houston. Given that Anderson is the highest ranked player here, has a 4-0 h2h with Smyczek, and is unlikely to be troubled by Lu/Kavcic, he should be Gasquet’s third round opponent with Gasquet advancing. With only a hard court h2h, Gasquet leads it 4-2.
The Dimitrov/Sock winner will face Pablo Carreno Busta/Victor Estrella in round 2, that’s a tough match as both players have been both good and bad on clay as of late. Estrella reached the final in Quito on clay, reached the third round in Barcelona with two upset wins, and was also a quarterfinalist in Munich, while Carreno reached the semis in Estoril but has been awful otherwise. Look for Estrella to win but then lose to Dimitrov in the next round, though Dimitrov could have problems through his first two matches.
In the third round, danger should continue to loom for the Bulgarian #1, as Croatian teenager Borna Coric is lurking as a sleeper pick to do well this tournament. The 2015 Dubai, and Nice semifinalist, who also reached the quarters in Estoril on clay this season, will open with American Sam Querrey, who reached the final in Houston on clay but has been in poor form since. Presuming Coric beats Querrey, which talent wise is likely if the Croatian can keep his head on straight, he should also beat the 18 seed Tommy Robredo, who has struggled to stay healthy this season and hasn’t played since Barcelona. Robredo’s career is slowing down, but he still should beat journeyman lucky loser Andrey Golubev. Coric represents a fresher and more difficult challenge, and though Robredo is a steady veteran and a five time quarterfinalist here, expectations have to be low for this French Open. I still have Dimitrov sneaking past Coric, perhaps in a five setter to reach the second week, Coric has beaten Nadal, and Murray over the past 12 months, so he doesn’t get intimidated, but Dimitrov still has more experience and should have that extra edge to get the job done.
Below that, we have the 9 time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal, who has a 66-1 record at the tournament, but has struggled this season, and seen his ranking drop him out of the top 5, and right into the world #1’s quarter of the draw. No matter his struggles this season, Nadal should have no problem blitzing past overmatched French youngster Quentin Halys, a wild card, but the second round should be more challenging, as he’s guaranteed to face a player who has beaten him before, the Almagro/Dolgopolov winner. Presuming it’s Almagro, Nadal has blown him out twice this season, including on clay, so Rafa is still likely safe to pencil in for the third round, and probably doesn’t drop a set. Dolgopolov is the more explosive opponent, but he’s harder to predict.
Nadal’s third round opponent shouldn’t be overly difficult, as it will be one of Adrian Mannarino/Jurgen Melzer/Andrey Kuznetsov/Malek Jaziri. Kuznetsov, who qualified in Monte Carlo and Geneva, could randomly reach the third round, as Jaziri is a good ball striker with awful fitness, not to mention not overly great on clay, and neither Mannarino, nor Melzer, who is long removed from his run to the semis here in 2010, is in good form. Mannarino is the weakest seed in the draw, and Melzer has done nothing this clay court season, so I have Nadal crushing Kuznetsov to reach the second week.
The Madrid, and Munich champion AndyMurray, is undefeated on clay this year (10-0), and is having his best season since back surgery, as he also reached the AO final, and the final in Miami. Thus, even though never being known as a clay court star, the Scotsman, who spent years as a junior training in Spain on clay, is actually a bit of a dark horse favorite to win the French Open. That’s a big ask, and I’ll tell you now I don’t see that happening unless carnage happens in the Djokovic/Nadal section, but he still should have a good tournament, and could reach this third RG semifinal, after earning his second one last year. Murray will open with lucky loser Facundo Arguello, a young Argentine who takes after the fiery former French Open champion Gaston Gaudio, Arguello has struggled to see his talent translate to the main tour level, so Murray is likely to give him the runaround and beat him without dropping a set. After that, Geneva finalist Joao Sousa, or Vasek Pospisil awaits the UK #1, Pospisil is poor on clay and has had a terrible season in singles, unable to find form, and Sousa should be tired, so Murray should reach round 3 without dropping a set. Murray is 5-0 against Sousa over the past three seasons, and he’s never lost a set against the Portugese #1.
In the third round, fearless, and charismatic Aussie teenager Nick Kyrgios will be looking to give Murray all he can handle, and not only get revenge for his previous h2h loss, but also score yet another top 10 win, after NK previously beat Roger Federer this season in a Madrid thriller, and Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon. Kyrgios pulled out of Nice with an injury, and he’s had back problems earlier this season, but overall he continues to show improvement and he’s seeded for the first time in a slam, after reaching the quarters at the AO, and reaching his first ATP final in Estoril. Kyrgios will open against the struggling Denis Istomin, and presuming he’s fit and wins that one he will face the winner of Kyle Edmund/Stephane Robert, both of whom are qualifiers. The South African born, English resident Edmund is another young gun in the draw, while Robert is one of the oldest active players on tour at 35, and has been a journeyman all throughout his career. Edmund has been more impressive in qualifying and this season, and he could even shock Kyrgios, but NK plays his best on big stages, so I still see him getting through to the third round.
With the form Murray is in, I actually don’t think the match will be that close, likely four sets or three as a motivated Murray is 2-0 in the h2h against Kyrgios and has yet to lose a set to him, Murray truly has performed well on clay this season, and the coaching team of Amelie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman really seems to have helped him improve on the surface, as his movement, and counterpunching is finally paying dividends. He’s had success at RG before as well, which should help, and he should be fit and rested.
The Isner/Seppi winner will take on Jeremy Chardy/Michael Berrer in round 2. Presuming Isner is fit, I’m pretty comfortable picking him to reach the third round with the favorable draw that he has. Chardy is just 2-4 in his last six matches, and Berrer is a career journeyman serve and volleyer in the last year of his career. He qualified without dropping a set, and of course beat Nadal this season, so he really has had a great year by his standards, and I do in fact have him upsetting Chardy given the h2h, but Isner’s relentless serves should do him in.
In that third round, David Goffin is big John’s likely opponent. Goffin, a quarterfinalist in both Rome, and Munich hasn’t been on fire like he was last Fall, but he’s still been good enough this season to beat Filip Krajinovic his round 1 opponent who is a fringe ATP player, and then Geneva semifinalist Santiago Giraldo, who has been worse this year compared to last year, and not much should be expected of. Giraldo has a big game, while Goffin is a steady ball striker, and the slow RG courts should favor the Belgian. Goffin and Isner have never met on clay (1-1 on hard courts), and as surprising as it is, Isner’s results have been slightly better on clay this year than D Goff, thus I have him reaching the round of 16, but I could certainly be wrong about that, and it’s a tough call either way.
David Ferrer, a former French Open finalist who reached the semis in both Barcelona, and Rome this spring, should blitz through the first two rounds without dropping a set, the underachieving Lukas Lacko is his round 1 opponent, and then he’ll be eyeing Daniel Gimeno-Traver or Joao Souza on the other side of the net in round 2. Souza is on a 7 match losing streak since losing the longest Davis Cup match in history, while DGT has had a career year on clay this year, with an ATP final in Casablanca, a semi in Bucharest, and a quarterfinal in Istanbul. That said, Souza is 3-0 against DGT, no matter neither player has the game to trouble Ferrer, an he’s 3-0 against DGT, including a win this year.
I foresee Simone Bolelli as the matchup for Ferrer in the third round, Bolelli is a talented shotmaker, but he struggles to be consistent, as evidenced by his lone ATP quarterfinal on clay this spring in Bucharest. He will open with serve and volleyer Steve Darcis, who has lost three straight and may not be healthy. In round 2, Bolelli is likely to get an interesting match, as the Viktor Troicki/JL Struff clash is intriguing. Struff is a talented, but underachieving 25 year old who has a challenger semi on clay this year, and isn’t mentally strong, while Troicki snapped a four match losing streak to win two matches in Rome. VT hasn’t been on the same tear he was when he came back from a doping suspension, and in his cooled off state, Bolelli should capitalize. The h2h is 3-3, but Troicki won both their hard court meetings this season. Ferrer is 5-0 against Bolelli and beat him at the French last year, so I don’t foresee the match being that close, same goes if he were to face Troicki.
The Cilic/Haase winner is set to face James Duckworth or Andrea Arnaboldi, Arnaboldi a 27 year old Italian dirtballer, had to battle to qualify. while Duckworth has been in good form, sneaking into the quarterfinals of Nice, and also reaching a challenger semi on clay this spring. The 23 year old Aussie isn’t one you would think to win on nationality alone, but I have him beating a tired Arnaboldi, before falling to Cilic in round 2.
Vesely/Mayer or Jerzy Janowicz/Maxime Hamou await in round 3, most likely the Vesely/Mayer winner. Hamou is another young French wild card who is likely to be overwhelmed by the situation, as he barely has any experience at the top level, as he made his ATP debut in Nice just last week. Regardless, Janowicz hasn’t won a set, much less a match on clay this year (0-3), so I give him little chance against Vesely/Mayer. Cilic just beat Vesely in Madrid in straights, so he should be the favorite for the round of 16, but don’t sleep on Vesely, he could reach the second week of a slam for the first time.
Tomas Berdych has had a tremendous under the radar season and he’s earned his own quarter of the draw. The 29 year old Monte Carlo finalist, and Australian Open semifinalist, who has performed well in every single tournament he’s entered, not losing before the quarterfinals, will open with young gun Japanese qualifier Yoshihito Nishioka. Nishioka is an undersized player with fast footwork, who packs a punch on his groundstrokes given his small frame, but Berdych is likely to blast him off the court. After Nishioka, who is making his Grand Slam main draw debut, Berdych should cruise past the winner of Ivan Dodig/Radek Stepanek, a pair of formerly solid players who haven’t been the same since injuries. Stepanek is an aging serve and volleyer on a three match losing streak, while Dodig has two ATP quarterfinals, including one on clay in Istanbul, but nothing else of note this season. Berdych is close to a lock for round 3.
In that third round, Fabio Fognini is his likely opponent, the Italian headcase, who has one ATP final, and one ATP quarterfinal on clay this season (Rio and Barcelona), but has struggled against opponents not named Rafael Nadal, will open with Tatsuma Ito, a Japanese player who is poor on, and rarely plays clay. After that, we could be treated to a headcase special, as Fognini is likely to face Frenchman Benoit Paire. Paire is just 1-4 in his last five matches on clay, but he’s still done well to work his ranking back up to this level. Benwa, and his gifted backhand, will open up against qualifier Gastao Elias, a fringe ATP player from Portugal. It wouldn’t shock me at all if Elias won, but regardless, unless Fognini implodes, which is always possible, he should beat Paire/Elias to reach the third round, as he’s a better player talent wise on clay. Fognini is 2-1 against Berdych on clay, but Berdych survived a third set tiebreak and defeated him in Rome, and given his consistency in the big tournaments this year, I’d give him the edge to reach week 2.
14 seed and former RG semifinalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, a home fan favorite will open with Swedish qualifier Christian Lindell, as Sweden has two players in a Grand Slam main draw for the first time in years. Tsonga has been pedestrian with a lack of notable results since returning from injury, but he shouldn’t have any issue with Lindell who is making his grand slam main draw debut. Tsonga will then be a heavy favorite against either Dudi Sela or Mikhail Kukushkin. Sela is poor on clay and Kukushkin has lost three straight, so I don’t see Tsonga losing a set going into round 3.
Tsonga’s round 3 opponent will be either the Philipp Kohlschreiber/Go Soeda winner, or the winner of Pablo Andujar/Albert Ramos. Kohli was a finalist in Munich, and a quarterfinalist in Barcelona, while Soeda basically never plays on clay. Andujar/Ramos is an interesting match, they have played each other a ton of times and Andujar has won the last two meetings, including in Barcelona this year. Both players have ATP quarterfinals on clay this year, while Andujar has a final in Barcelona, regardless of winner, I have Kohlschreiber advancing into the third round. Tsonga has never lost Kohlschreiber (7-0), and with that matchup difference, and Tsonga have the home fans behind him, I favor him to go into the round of 16.
5 seed Kei Nishikori, a semifinalist in Madrid, and champion in Barcelona, will open with French veteran Paul-Henri Mathieu, who should be calling it a career soon. The 33 year old is back to being a challenger, and fringe ATP player, ranked outside of the top 100, though he used to be quite solid. After a win over PHM, Nishikori should run into the in-form, but likely fatigued Thomaz Bellucci. Bellucci won the title in Geneva, and his first round opponent Marinko Matosevic is in awful form (8 straight losses). Bellucci also qualified in Madrid, and Rome, and reached the quarterfinals in Istanbul. I’d worry about Nishikori against the big hitting Bellucci, but I feel the fatigue factor, and the fact Bellucci, who took a set off of Djokovic in Rome, tends to choke under pressure, gives Nishikori enough of an advantage to get him to round 3, perhaps with difficulty.
32 seed Fernando Verdasco should be the challenge for Nishikori/Bellucci in round 3. Verdasco will open with qualifier Taro Daniel, the fifth Japanese player in the draw (Nishikori, Soeda, Ito, and Nishioka are the others). Daniel, who trains and makes his home in Spain, plays his best on clay, and he has one ATP quarterfinal on clay, this will be his second Grand Slam main draw. Verdasco, and his huge forehand, will face the winner of Benjamin Becker/Ruben Bemelmans, after defeating the lanky Daniel. Bemelmans isn’t in great form, but Becker’s form is even worse, as he has lost six straight matches, and the veteran is not good on clay, thus I have Bemelmans winning, and then losing to Verdasco. Nando was a semifinalist in Houston but hasn’t done much else this clay season, thus Nishikori should advance, perhaps again with trouble, they battled it out in Indian Wells this year and Kei was the winner.
The 11 seed Feliciano Lopez is a poor 4-5 this spring on clay, and given all of his losses are pretty bad, expectations have to be low coming into the French for him. He will open with Teymuraz Gabashvili, who is a remarkable 14-2 over his last few tournaments. Most of those wins were in qualifying or on the challenger tour, but that’s still an impressive record, as he won two challengers in a row. Lopez is 2-0 against Gabashvili, but those matches were on a hard court, and with Gabashvili getting a bit of rest, I’m actually calling an upset, and putting him through over Flopez into round 2. The winner of Juan Monaco/Federico Delbonis awaits in what will be an all-Argentine encounter. Delbonis has a h2h win over Monaco on clay, and he has an ATP semi in Geneva, and a challenger title on the surface this spring. Monaco was a quarterfinalist in both Miami and Nice. Given his experience, I’m giving Monaco the edge by a hair. Monaco has two previous wins against Gabashvili, including a three setter this year in Indian Wells, so I have the loveable Pico into the third round.
19 seed Roberto Bautista Agut is the player most likely to face Monaco/Delbonis/Gabashvili/Lopez, in that open third round section. RBA opens with Florian Mayer, who is just 2-5 since coming back to the tour from injury. The Spaniard reached the Munich semis and the Barcelona quarters, and I also favor him to defeat Rosol/Ymer. RBA has a h2h win last season against Rosol on clay. I favor RBA to reach the round of 16, no matter who his third round opponent is, and it’s RBA/Monaco in my bracket.
The 2009 Roland Garros champion, and the only player besides Nadal with over 60 wins in Paris, is Roger Federer, the Swiss legend and #2 seed will face lucky loser Alejandro Falla in round 1. He has beaten Falla twice before in Paris, and he didn’t lose a set in those matches (overall 7-0 h2h). Federer won Istanbul, and was a finalist in Rome, so it’s unlikely that he’ll have any issue against Falla or his next opponent, which will be Marcel Granollers or Matthias Bachinger. Bachinger, a journeyman, has qualified for both slams this season with ease, but he’s 0-3 against Granollers who is 4-3 in his last seven matches, after being abysmal prior to that. Federer is 3-0 against Granollers and has only lost 1 set to him, so I honestly see the Swiss maestro reaching round 3 without dropping a set.
Federer’s third round opponent should be quite easy, as he got a great early draw. Both Ivo Karlovic and Marcos Baghdatis are poor on clay, and have lost two straight matches, Baghdatis has a h2h edge over Dr. Ivo, so I have him reaching round 2. Veteran Russian Mikhail Youzhny has been awful this season and is 3-5 on clay, retirement looms for him and Casablanca semifinalist Damir Dzumhur, a 23 year old, will look to aid in Youzhny being pushed out to pasture. I have Dzumhur beating both Youzhny and Baghdatis to surprisingly reach the third round in a very weak section of the draw. His form has slightly been superior, and he has the talent to pull it off. Federer should demolish him though.
13 seed Gael Monfils, a former semifinalist in Paris, and a fan favorite, will take on Edouard Roger-Vasselin. ERV has lost three straight, and he’s poor on clay, while Monfils was a semifinalist in both Monte Carlo, and Bucharest. Presuming Gael is heathy, which is always a question mark, he should beat ERV and the Diego Schwartzman/Andreas Haider-Maurer winner in round 2 to reach the third round. DSS/AHM is an interesting first round match that just missed my cut for matches to watch, mostly because AHM has lost three straight after previously reaching an ATP semi (Rio) and quarterfinal (Casablanca) on clay, and winning two matches in Monte Carlo. Istanbul semifinalist Schwartzman, who retired in his last match in Rome, and is a rising young gun, who has a steady compact game built for clay, should win that matchup, before falling to Monfils. DSS is promising, but I don’t think he has the weapons in his arsenal to beat the speedy and defensively sound Monfils.
A big second round match is likely to take place between Dominic Thiem, and 21 seed Pablo Cuevas. Thiem won the title in Nice, thus fatigue might play a factor in his performance, but he’s still likely to defeat Aljaz Bedene in round 1. Bedene did win the Rome challenger on clay, and reached a quarterfinal in Casablanca on the surface, so he’s improving, but likely not up to Thiem’s level. Thiem is 8-2 since struggling in the early part of the clay court season, as he seems to has found his rhythm, and his fitness right when he needed to do so for Paris. Cuevas won an ATP title in Sao Paulo on clay this year, and has two quarterfinals and a final, that one coming in Istanbul, on the surface in 2015. His form has been up and down, but credit to him for building up his ranking into a seed worthy player, and though he’s unlikely to threaten the top names, he’s a reliable dirtballer. Thiem and Cuevas hae never met, but with Thiem likely to be fatigued, I have Cuevas reaching the third round to face off with Monfils, Thiem is the flashier pick but Cuevas deserves his due, and Thiem has been hard to trust this season. A healthy Monfils should be favored other Thiem or Cuevas to reach the round of 16.
8 seed Stan Wawrinka will open with Turkish #1 Marsel Ilhan, Wawrinka has had a very shaky 2015 and is just 6-4 on clay this year. He comes off a bad loss to Delbonis in Geneva, a home tournament, and his only good result on clay this year was the semifinals in Rome, where he got routed by Federer, after beating Nadal. No matter the reasons for his struggles in 2015, I’m bearish on his chances in Paris, but not in his first two matches, as Ilhan and either Dusan Lajovic or Maximo Gonzalez are not difficult opponents who have the game to beat Stan the man. Lajovic was a quarterfinalist in Nice, while Gonzalez has lost three straight matches. Wawrinka really shouldn’t drop a set going in the first two rounds, but with his current poor form, he may do that.
In the third round, Wawrinka could face the opponent that shocked him in Paris last year, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. The all-court, multi tool Spaniard, who has two ATP titles this year, one coming on clay, along with a semifinal in Estoril, as he has put together a solid campaign thus far, will open with American Steve Johnson. Johnson is a respectable 3-5 on clay this spring, and he’s improving on the surface, but I give him little chance against an experienced dirtballer like GGL. GGL should likewise breeze past a player who isn’t comfortable on clay in round 2, either Sergiy Stakhovsky or Ricardas Berankis. Stako has lost two straight, and is 0-3 in the h2h against Rycka, but Berankis has lost three straight and been in terrible form for a couple of months now. I have GGL over Stako for a spot in the third round in my bracket.
Wawrinka has had the edge over GGL on other surfaces, but on clay their h2h is an even 3-3, and GGL has won two of their last three meetings. Wawrinka showed no signs of improvement in Geneva, and the Rome win over Nadal feels more like an aberration than anything else, to me the writing is on the wall that he’s going to struggle here, and I have GGL booting him out again for a spot in the round of 16, this would also avenge GGL’s loss to Wawrinka the AO this January.
Pouille/Simon will take on Tiafoe/Klizan in round 2, As mentioned up at the top of the preview, I have Pouille upsetting Simon, and then Klizan edging Tiafoe, setting up that second rounder. If Simon is healthy enough, he should be fine to reach round 3, and I don’t trust Klizan’s health either, while Tiafoe and Pouille lack experience. I have Pouille making a shock run to round 3 in my bracket, but this is the hardest section to pick in my mind, with Simon and Klizan having question marks.
This is by far the worst section of the draw, as just above it, the seed is Ernests Gulbis, who only has two wins this season and a bunch of losses, he defends semifinal points, and will open with qualifier Igor Sijsling, who broke a six match losing streak to qualify, and is a known choker. Gulbis could well crash and burn, but I don’t see Sijsling beating him honestly, and thus I have him into round 2 against the winner of Nicolas Mahut/Kimmer Coppejans. Coppejans is a promising 21 year old Belgian, while Mahut is 33, outside the top 100, and nearly retired. The serve and volleyer isn’t at his best on clay, and he has two straight losses. Coppejans recently won a title, and reached a final on clay at the challenger level and was strong in qualifying.
I have Coppejans defeating Mahut, and then upsetting Gulbis to reach round 3, it’s a risky pick, and Coppejans hasn’t blossomed as much as he could results wise, though he has the skills, because his mental fortitude is lacking, but I’m giving the young Belgian his due here, in such a weak section. I have Coppejans beating Pouille to reach the round of 16 as a qualifier, because he has a h2h win against him on clay, and his recent form has been slightly better, either way I give Pouille/Coppejans/Tiafoe a better shot at reaching the second week than the seed Gulbis. Given that he was a semifinalist last year, that’s shocking, but it demonstrates how far he’s fallen, and the young guns are rising.
Dark Horses (one for each quarter of the draw): Borna Coric, Jiri Vesely, Thomaz Bellucci, Kimmer Coppejans/Lucas Pouille
Coric will need to rise up and find the form that pushed him to semifinal runs in Basel and Dubai, but his run to the semis in Nice shows form and promise, and Dimitrov has been shown to be beatable this season. if Grisha slips up look for Coric to seize the day and reach the second week to do battle with Rafa, who he of course has beaten before.
Vesely will have a tricky path to week 2, as he will need to defeat Mayer, and probably Cilic, but when he’s in-form he’s a great player and he can pull that off, it’s really just a matter of which Jiri shows up. Don’t count him out for the round of 16.
Bellucci has been in tremendous form in recent weeks, fatigue could play a factor, as will mentality, but if he keeps the mojo flowing, and battles past Nishikori he could go as far as the quarterfinals. It’s not likely, but he has perhaps the most range, in terms of result, of any of the non-seeded players.
I see Coppejans or Pouille reaching the second week in a weak section, would be a career result for either player, the section is theirs for the taking, depending on which one players their best. Pouille is the slightly better aggressor, while Coppejans is more defensively sound.
Week 1 Predictions (round of 16 matchups)
Djokovic d. Gasquet in 3 Nadal d. Dimitrov in 3
Djokovic dominates the h2h against Gasquet and has two wins on clay against him, I see no reason why he won’t reach the quarterfinals, and he probably doesn’t drop a set in the process. Nadal is 6-0 against Dimitrov with 3 wins on clay, and he just beat him in Madrid in routine fashion. This is Nadal at the French, and Dimitrov has not looked like a star this year, so again Rafa could reach the quarters without dropping a set.
Murray d. Isner in 3 Ferrer d. Cilic in 4
Murray is 4-0 against Isner, including a big Davis Cup win this year, this is also clay, and Murray has a great return game, so given form and matchup, Murray in 3 or 4 sets is a safe pick. Ferrer and Cilic have a split h2h on clay, but Ferrer has been in way better form this season, so he should reach the quarters, and I believe he would beat Cilic in 3 or 4 sets.
Nishikori d. Bautista Agut in 3 Berdych d. Tsonga in 3
Nishikori has beaten RBA twice this season on clay, and three times overall, if he gets this far, I don’t see him losing before the quarterfinals as it’s a bad matchup for the Spaniard. Berdych is 7-2 against Tsonga, and just beat him in Madrid on clay, these players have been entirely divergent in terms of form in 2015, and Berdych has been strong for players the caliber that Tsonga is at right now.
Garcia-Lopez d. Coppejans in 3 Federer d. Monfils in 5
GGL or Wawrinka should simply be superior to any player that gets out of the section below them, thus it’s a great shot a slam quarterfinal for Garcia-Lopez. Monfils upset Federer in Monte Carlo and has beaten him the past two times on clay without dropping a set, that said, Federer has won both of their matches at Roland Garros, and in a best of 5 format in a Grand Slam, I give him the edge for experience alone. I don’t feel Monfils can maintain his focus and consistency long enough to win a match like that, and will give up a break in the end to put Federer through.
Picking the rest of the way
Djokovic d. Nadal in 4
The final before the final will happen in the top half men’s quarterfinal if Nadal and Djokovic meet as expected. The debate since the clay court season began in earnest in Monte Carlo has been swirling as to whether Rafa or Novak would win a best of 5 match this year at Roland Garros. Djokovic beat Nadal rather routinely in Monte Carlo, a venue that Rafa has an amazing record at, and he has won two of their last three meetings on clay. That said Nadal is 6-0 at the French Open against Novak, and he’s only been pushed to five sets one time (The 2013 semifinals). Many have said that Nadal is simply a different beast at RG, and no matter his form, or how well Novak is playing, there is a mental and surface factor that will always give Nadal an edge when they meet on Chatrier.
I’m apt to disagree, as the Rafa of late 2014/2015 has been a totally different beast, a neutered beast compared to his previous self, including on clay. He has look abysmal and lost at times on the surface this year, and it’s not that his opponents have just outplayed him, it’s that he’s beaten himself, spewing errors, and lacking confidence and consistency. He showed flashes of brilliance in Monte Carlo against Novak but he couldn’t maintain that level and the defensive skills, returning and pushing of Djokovic proved too much for him. Novak has been a total machine this year, especially when it’s mattered against the big four, and late in tournaments. I have a feeling that the world #1 is unstoppable right now, and he should be rested and motivated. If he is ever to win Roland Garros, this is his time with Nadal clearly limping into the tournament and out of the top 5. This matchup is relatively even and both guys know each other well, but the form of Novak, and his tenacity should be able to edge out Rafa, and I don’t even think it will be that close, as I have Novak winning in four sets. Soderling was the only one to beat Nadal at RG, but I don’t see it staying that way this year. Djokovic has been better able to handle intense pressure in recent months, than Nadal has, and I feel the Spaniard is under more pressure with his ranking under the threat of collapse, than Djokovic is right now, given that he’s dominating the fast surfaces and winning almost every tournament that he enters, along with baffling his other rivals Federer and Murray.
Murray d. Ferrer in 4
Murray is 0-4 against Ferrer on clay, so this would be another pick that would buck the head to head trend, but again, Murray has been in excellent form as of late, and he’s performed very well in the big tournaments. He seems to be swinging freely, he’s healthy, and also in excellent spirits with his new marriage and all. Ferrer is a solid player, but against top players, his approach is more to grind and let them beat themselves, as he lacks the weapons to outright win against a big four player. Murray has reached the semis twice before, and I don’t see reason why he won’t do so for a third time this year. His clay court game seems to finally be blossoming as he beat Nishikori and Nadal on the surface in Madrid.
Berdych d. Nishikori in 5
Nishikori is 3-1 against Berdych, but Tomas won their only match on clay (Monte Carlo 2012), additionally, Berdych has not lost to a player outside of the big four except to Wawrinka in Rotterdam, he’s been incredibly reliable this year, almost machinelike, and Kei is good on clay, and he’s been fine, but he hasn’t been up to that same level, my perception is Berdych has an extra gear right now that will push him through in this battle.
Federer d. Garcia-Lopez in 3
Federer is 3-0 against GGL, and I see no reason why the Federer/Monfils winner won’t reach the quarters, even if Wawrinka gets this far, he was awful against Federer in Rome, so regardless this should be perhaps the most routine quarterfinal, as all of the quarterfinals look promising this year.
Djokovic d. Murray in 4
Federer d. Berdych in 3
Djokovic is 2-0 against Murray on clay, and hasn’t lost to him since he had back surgery, they have met three times this year, all on hard courts and the set score was 7-2, given this is clay, if Novak gets this far, I don’t see a way he loses to Murray unless Nadal simply puts him in a wheelchair in a quarterfinal grindfest. If it’s Nadal that gets to this point, I’d actually give Murray a decent chance at reaching the final, but against Djokovic, even as a Murray fan, I have no belief that he can win right now.
Federer has thrashed Berdych twice this year without dropping a set including in Rome on clay. Federer is 4-0 against Tomas on clay, and has only lost a set to him, and that was on fast and slippery blue clay in Madrid. Berdych has been excellent and tenacious against non-big four players this season, but he’s been toothless against the games elite, and I don’t see that changing here, it’s a mental block more than anything else as to why.
Djokovic d. Federer in 4
Djokovic just routined Federer in Rome, and he’s won three of their last four meetings on clay, in a best of 5 set format, Djokovic, because of his superior stamina, especially on clay where it will be harder for the older Federer to shorten points, has the advantage these days. Federer can’t be written off, but Djokovic is more likely to win his first French Open, than Federer is to win his second. He’s the oddsmakers favorite, and I’m going with Djokovic to win the 2015 French Open, if he wins it this time, it will be a well deserved and well earned victory.
2015 ATP Draw Challenge Week 18 (Nice and Geneva) Staff, Tennis Atlantic
The ATP Tour makes pit stops on clay in France and Switzerland with a pair of 250s before Roland Garros, and here are our expert picks.
Open de Nice Cote d’Azur Predictions
Steen Kirby’s picks
Round 2 matches: Simon vs, Kokkinakis, Coric vs. Tomic, Mayer vs. Pouille, Bemelmans vs. Monaco, Kyrgios vs. Thiem, Dolgopolov vs. Gulbis, Sock vs. Carreno Busta, Johnson vs. Isner
Quarterfinals: Simon vs. Coric, Pouille vs. Monaco, Thiem vs. Dolgopolov, Sock vs. Isner Semifinals: Coric vs. Monaco, Thiem vs. Isner Final: Monaco vs. Isner Champion: Isner
Niall Clarke’s picks
Round 2 matches: Simon vs, Kokkinakis, Coric vs. Tomic, Mayer vs. Pouille, Querrey vs. Paire, Kukushkin vs. Estrella, Dolgopolov vs. Gulbis, Sock vs. Carreno Busta, Johnson vs. Isner Quarterfinals: Simon vs. Coric, Mayer vs. Paire, Estrela vs. Dolgopolov, Sock vs. Isner Semifinals: Simon vs. Paire, Dolgopolov vs. Isner Final: Simon vs. Isner Champion: Isner
Chris de Waard’s picks
Round 2 matches: Simon vs, Kokkinakis, Coric vs. Tomic, Mayer vs. Pouille, Querrey vs. Paire, Kyrgios vs. Thiem, Dolgopolov vs. Gulbis, Sock vs. Carreno Busta, Johnson vs. Isner Quarterfinals: Simon vs. Coric, Pouille vs. Paire, Kyrgios vs. Dolgopolov, Sock vs. Isner Semifinals: Coric vs. Paire, Dolgopolov vs. Sock Final: Coric vs. Dolgopolov Champion: Dolgopolov
Opinions are very mixed on this tournament, though John Isner is presumed to do well. Benoit Paire already lost to Juan Monaco, who could have a good week, and Borna Coric and Gilles Simon should also challenge if healthy.
Round 2 matches: Wawrinka vs. Rosol, Gabashvili vs. Haider-Maurer, Andujar vs. Berlocq, Dzumhur vs. Sousa, Bellucci vs. Tipsarevic, Ramos vs. Becker, Struff vs. Giraldo, Rublev vs. Cilic Quarterfinals: Wawrinka vs. Haider-Maurer, Andujar vs. Sousa, Bellucci vs. Ramos, Giraldo vs. Cilic Semifinals: Wawrinka vs. Andujar, Bellucci vs. Cilic Final: Wawrinka vs. Bellucci Champion: Wawrinka
Niall Clarke’s picks
Round 2 matches: Wawrinka vs. Lu, Delbonis vs. Haider-Maurer, Andujar vs. Berlocq, Dzumhur vs. Sousa, Bellucci vs. Tipsarevic, Ramos vs. Becker, Youzhny vs. Giraldo, Rublev vs. Cilic Quarterfinals: Wawrinka vs. Haider-Maurer, Andujar vs. Berlocq, Bellucci vs. Ramos, Giraldo vs. Cilic Semifinals: Wawrinka vs. Berlocq, Bellucci vs. Giraldo Final: Berlocq vs. Bellucci Champion: Bellucci
Jeff McMillan’s picks
Round 2 matches: Wawrinka vs. Rosol, Gabashvili vs. Haider-Maurer, Andujar vs. Berlocq, Dzumhur vs. Sousa, Bellucci vs. Tipsarevic, Ramos vs. Becker, Youzhny vs Giraldo, Rublev vs. Cilic Quarterfinals: Wawrinka vs. Gabashvili, Andujar vs. Sousa, Bellucci vs. Ramos, Giraldo vs. Cilic Semifinals: Wawrinka vs. Andujar, Bellucci vs. Giraldo Final: Andujar vs. Giraldo Champion: Giraldo
Chris de Waard’s picks
Round 2 matches: Wawrinka vs. Rosol, Delbonis vs. Haider-Maurer, Andujar vs. Berlocq, Dzumhur vs. Sousa, Bellucci vs. Tipsarevic, Ramos vs. Becker, Struff vs. Berankis, Rublev vs. Cilic Quarterfinals: Wawrinka vs. Haider-Maurer, Andujar vs. Sousa, Tipsarevic vs. Ramos, Struff vs. Cilic Semifinals: Haider-Maurer vs. Andujar, Tipsarevic vs. Cilic Final: Haider-Maurer vs. Cilic Champion: Cilic
Surprisingly, four different champions were picked this week by our analysts, and the top seed Stan Wawrinka was only picked by Steen. It really seems to be a toss-up in Switzerland this week as to who will claim the inaugural title at this tournament.
Week 17 Standings
Rome 1: Steen (270 points) (+1000 overall)
2: Chris (269 points) (+600 overall)
3: Niall (262 points) (+360 overall)
4: Joe (247 points) (+360 overall)
5: Jeff (244) (+180 overall)
In our narrowest margin of the season, Steen edged Chris by just a single point, and everyone did well this week given Djokovic was a consensus pick for champion, and took the title.
2015 ATP Nice and Geneva Previews, Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The final week on the ATP tour before the 2015 French Open in Paris will feature a pair of clay 250 level tournaments. Nice in France is back yet again with its intimate venue, and Geneva is making it’s debut on tour this year as well. The Swiss city previously hosted a quality, and successful challenger tournament, and with the success of Swiss tennis over the last decade, it’s a well deserved promotion as it takes the place of Dusseldorf, Germany on the calendar. Dusseldorf met it’s demise soon after the World Team Cup format came to an end.
2015 ATP Nice Preview
Open de Nice Cote d’Azur
ATP World Tour 250
May 17-May 23, 2015
Prize Money: € 439,405
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP Rankings in parentheses)
1: Gilles Simon (12)
2: John Isner (17)
3: Ernests Gulbis (22)
4: Leonardo Mayer (25)
With a seed cutoff of 36 Nice has a pretty good field for a pre-slam tournament, that said, the top 4 seeds are either poor on clay or slumping, so unseeded players will have a great chance this week to excel.
First round matchups to watch:
(8)Juan Monaco vs. Benoit Paire
Both of these guys are streaky players who were formerly near the top of the ATP tour, but have slid down to being fringe to mid-tier ATP players who rarely threaten for titles, even in 250 level events. Monaco, the veteran has encountered some tough draws in the spring clay court season and thus his record stands at an even 4-4. Paire is 3-3 in main draws this spring on clay, and has bounced around qualifying as well. They have an even 1-1 h2h on clay with both matches going three sets, and any way you slice it, this is a tough match to predict. That said, Monaco seems to be the superior player in form and focus over Paire as of late, and thus he’s the favorite. Paire is likely to produce more highlights, but Monaco has the steadier groundstroke game.
Victor Estrella vs. Dominic Thiem
Estrella rolled past Thiem in straights when they met in Barcelona not too long ago, and now we will see if he can repeat that result in Nice. Thiem has been improving over his past two tournaments going 4-2 in Rome and Munich, after consecutive losses to start the European spring clay court season. The Austrian has had a streaky and unpredictable year, and it’s still a question as to what type of form he will show up to this tournament in. The remarkable veteran Estrella has far less upside than Thiem but he’s maximized the talent he does have as he’s also 4-2 over his last six on clay with a win over Marin Cilic his most notable in that span. Once again, this is a 50/50 proposition, but I’d give Thiem the slightest of edges to advance if he continues to play as he did in Rome.
Gilles Simon, the top seed, and a home favorite, is likely to get his tournament started against Thanasi Kokkinakis, as the young Aussie should dispatch his countryman James Duckworth, an opponent who struggles on clay. Kokkinakis has been on a relative roll on clay this Spring, with strong under the radar performances. The teenager is currently in the final of the Bordeaux Challenger and he qualified in both Istanbul and Madrid, all of those tournaments on clay of course. That said, he should be too fatigued to give Simon much of a problem, and thus expect the Frenchman to at least reach the quarters presuming his health has returned to him after retiring in Rome.
Bernard Tomic and Borna Coric will vie for supremacy in the section below Simon, with the Croat the likely quarterfinalist. Both will open with qualifiers as Tomic looks to snap a four match losing streak. The Aussie has cooled off after a strong start to the season, though that had to be expected given he’s not at his best on clay, while Coric continues to build up results as a young gun, and he should reach his second clay quarterfinal of the season (also did so in Estoril), with wins over a qualifier and Tomic. Presuming he faces and defeats Tomic, that would avenge his loss to him in Indian Wells on hard court this year.
I’m picking Coric over Simon to reach the semis, Simon retired in his last match in Rome, and Coric took a set off of him on indoor hard in Marseille this year. Clay should give Borna a slight edge and Simon may not be fit after a so-so spring clay season.
The partisan French crowd should be rooting for young gun Lucas Pouille, a potential dark horse in the draw, to give the 4 seed Leonardo Mayer a whipping in the second round. Pouille will open with American Tim Smyczek, who is not comfortable on clay, and should he upset Mayer, he would be grabbing the spotlight after last making waves in January where he reached his first ATP semi in Auckland. The Frenchman has put together a solid clay court record this spring on a mix of challenger and ATP events, and he notably defeated Dominic Thiem in Monte Carlo. Mayer is just 3-4 on clay this Spring, and I have Pouille notching the upset to reach the quarterfinals.
The winner of Paire/Monaco is the likely quarterfinalist in the last section on the top half, Sam Querrey/qualifier are not an imposing second round opponent, and I’d also favor Monaco over Pouille to reach the semis. Juan dispatched Pouille at the French last year without dropping a set.
John Isner may well face Steve Johnson again, if the American can beat a qualifier. Isner beat Johnson 4 and 4 in Monte Carlo this year and given he’s 7-4 on clay this year and Johnson is just 2-4, he has the decided edge to reach the quarters. He could well face American Jack Sock in that quarterfinal, if Jack continues to compete hard and impress. He’ll need a revenge win over Dusan Lajovic, who he lost to at the French last year, in the opening round, but the Houston champ, who has lost a pair of tough matches in a row to solid clay court players Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and Simon, should be the favorite to do that given Lajovic, though he qualified in Rome, hasn’t done much on clay this year. The winner of Maxime Hamou, a French wild card, vs. Pablo Carreno Busta will decide who the winner of Sock/Lajovic will face. The 19 year old Hamou recently reached a challenger semi, and he’s also scored himself a Roland Garros main draw wild card while PCB was a semifinalist in Estoril, but has been abysmal most of this season. I’d give Hamou a chance, but Sock should beat Lajovic and PCB to reach the quarters.
Isner has beaten Sock twice on clay, including in Nice last year, and given the 4-1 h2h I’m pretty comfortable picking the higher ranked American to reach the semis, even though a Sock win wouldn’t come as shock.
It’s more than likely the defending champion Ernests Gulbis will see his hopes continue to be dashed, this time Gulbis is likely to lose to Alex Dolgopolov in the second round, presuming Dolgo beats his countryman Sergiy Stakhovsky. They have a split 2-2 h2h and Dolgo qualified and won a round in Rome, while Stako has been struggling. Gulbis is 2-1 in the h2h, with all of their matches on clay against Dolgopolov, and both are unpredictable but Gulbis has been having one of the worst seasons for a top 20 player in recent memory as he’s on another 5 match losing streak and is just 1-11 this year. Going back to the challenger tour still seems like the wisest option for the Latvian.
The section above Dolgopolov/Gulbis is the strongest in the draw as it features title contenders Estrella/Thiem, and also Nick Kyrgios, who will open with Mikhail Kukushkin. Kyrgios has had an extremely impressive clay court season with an ATP final, success in doubles in Rome, and a win over Federer in Madrid. That said I see a Thiem-Dolgopolov quarterfinal, as I’m unsure Kyrgios can sustain his success against the Thiem/Estrella winner. I’m going with a Thiem-Isner semifinal, simply because I trust an in-form Dom on clay more than anyone else in this section Should he fail to perform however, Estrella, Kyrgios, or Dolgo should pick up the slack and reach the semis.
He’s in the weaker top half of the draw with a questionable Simon, and a struggling Tomic thus he can very well reach the semis, and his semifinal opponent is unlikely to be that daunting of a challenge whether it’s Mayer/Pouille or Monaco/Paire. He has a solid shot at winning his first ATP title this week, and the young gun clearly has the game to do it presuming he can put it all together this week.
Monaco d. Coric
Isner d. Thiem
I’m picking Monaco simply because I feel he’s played slightly better on clay as of late, and the same goes for Isner. A reverse result wouldn’t surprise me at all, but Isner, has shockingly put together the best clay court season of anyone in this tournament.
Isner and Monaco have met twice on clay before with a split h2h, and going back to what I said previously, Isner has actually been best on clay of anyone in this tournament, thus I shockingly have an American winning a title on clay in Europe this week.
2015 ATP Geneva Preview
ATP World Tour 250
May 17-May 23, 2015
Prize Money: € 439,405
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP Rankings in parentheses)
1: Stan Wawrinka (9)
2: Marin Cilic (10)
3: Pablo Andujar (43)
4: Benjamin Becker (44)
Geneva is strongly tilted towards the top 2 seeds as the seed cutoff is 61, and the rest of the field is pedestrian at best for this maiden tournament.
First round matchups to watch:
Federico Delbonis vs. Teymuraz Gabashvili
On paper this is not a marquee matchup, and it may even be pushed to the secondary court but these two grinders have a split 1-1 h2h on clay and both have won challenger tournaments on the surface recently. Delbonis won Sarasota, though he has failed to qualify for both Madrid and Rome. Gabashvili has been on a tear on the challenger tour as he has won 10 straight matches, and consecutive challenger titles on two surfaces. The competition hasn’t been harsh, but he’s still showing some of his best tennis, as he also reached the quarters in Houston (upset Isner) and qualified for Istanbul. Fatigue should be a factor, and that’s the main reason as to why Delbonis would have the edge, but I’m going with Gabashvili to continue the positive momentum myself.
Jarkko Nieminen vs. (WC)Andrey Rublev
Another fantastic opportunity for the young gun Russian to grab another ATP main draw win, the multi tool Rublev who has 4 ATP maindraw wins at just 17 has been given a wildcard and matched up against the veteran Nieminen, who doesn’t like clay that much. The Fin hasn’t won consecutive matches since January and he’s in the twilight of his career, thus I’m going with an upset and picking Rublev over the lefty. He’s played well under pressure this year and he’s proven he can compete at this level.
Rome semifinalist Stan Wawrinka is the shining star on home soil at this tournament and he’s unlikely to have any trouble against Rendy Lu/qualifier in his first match. Lu has been playing hard court tennis in Asia, and thus should be jetlagged and unprepared, giving the qualifier a decided edge to advance. Wawrinka has struggled at times this year, but his form picked up in Rome and he should also be favored over Gabashvili/Delbonis, or perhaps Andreas Haider-Maurer who has put together a solid 2015 campaign thus far. AHM has a h2h win over Gabashvili and he has a semi a quarterfinal on clay this year. In my own bracket I have Wawrinka defeating AHM for a spot in the semis.
Pablo Andujar will open with Carlos Berlocq or a qualifier, Berlocq is 2-1 against Andujar on clay, but he has lost three consecutive matches, Andujar made that shock run to the Barcelona final, but has done little else of note this season. I have Andujar into the quarters in a toss up match, and he’s likely to get an easy quarterfinal opponent as well, given all of the potential options are struggling right now. Joao Sousa should defeat his nearly named doppleganger Joao Souza, Souza has lost 6 straight matches while Sousa is a poor 4-6 on clay himself this spring. Austrian veteran Jurgen Melzer could suffer another bad loss to a qualifier in the other match in this section, Melzer has been in abysmal form, and thus I have Andujar reaching the semis over Sousa, though a qualifier has great odds at success in this poor quality section.
Marin Cilic will open with the Nieminen/Rublev winner, the Croat is just 1-3 since reaching the Monte Carlo quarters, and Rublev could pull off a shocking result, still Cilic is the odds on favorite to reach the quarterfinals at least. Above the Cilic section is one of the weakest ATP quarters you will see on tour this year featuring Mikhail Youzhny as the seed, J.L Struff, Ricardas Berankis, and Santiago Giraldo. Youzhny is practically retired and is just 2-4 on European spring clay, Struff comes off one of his best results of a poor season with a semi in a clay challenger in Germany, Berankis is just 1-5 on spring Euro clay and Giraldo has lost three straight and continues to struggle this year. Nobody really deserves to reach a quarterfinal form this section, but I’m picking Struff to do so simply because he played well in Heilbronn. Giraldo should beat Berankis, and Struff should beat Youzhny, and then Struff should beat Giraldo, though Santi may have more upside. Even a rusty Cilic should dispatch Struff in the quarters.
Albert Ramos is the favorite for the quarterfinals in the section above that, Ramos will face Marinko Matosevic first, and then the seed Benjamin Becker, both of whom are very poor on clay, and both of whom have lost more than 5 matches in a row. Ramos qualified in both Madrid and Monte Carlo, and he’s an actual dirtballer who hits with high spin. Thomaz Bellucci is the probable favorite to be the final quarterfinalist, though Janko Tipsarevic could sneak in on his comeback tour. The Serb will open with a struggling Denis Istomin and his .500 record since returning to tour after an absence of a year and a half is admirable. Presuming he’s getting better each tournament, we’ll see what happens in Geneva. Bellucci will open with Marcos Baghdatis who is poor on clay and he’s a tremendous 9-3 over his last three tournaments. Look for Bellucci to defeat Tipsarevic, and then Ramos and reach the semis. Ramos and Bellu has never played, and Tipsy and Bellu split meetings on clay in their previous h2h. A semifinal for Bellucci would be well deserved after his great efforts over the past month, he even took a set off of Novak Djokovic in Rome.
Given Bellucci is probably the third favorite to win the tournament, if not the second, he’s the obvious choice for dark horse in Geneva. With a weak draw, that should feature a beatable semifinal opponent, be it Cilic or someone else the Brazilian could reach his sixth ATP final, and his first since 2012. He qualified in both Madrid and Rome, along with reaching the quarters in Istanbul as of late, and he took a set off Djokovic as mentioned, along with scoring a top 20 win over Roberto Bautista Agut in Rome. Wawrinka will be a tough opponent in the final, but I do have him getting that far this week.
Wawrinka d. Andujar
Bellucci d. Cilic
Wawrinka is 3-0 in the h2h against Andujar, with all of those wins coming on clay, and given his form perked up in Rome, there are fewer question marks about him going into this lower tier 250 event on home soil. The local hero should make the tournament, the fans, and his sponsors happy by reaching the final.
Bellucci has been in better recent form than Cilic, and that’s why I’m picking him to reach the final.
Wawrinka d. Bellucci
Wawrinka has previously lost to Bellucci on clay, and the prospect of losing again to him isn’t out of the question, that said, Stan was impressive in Rome, and he should be motivated to be the first champion of this tournament. He’s far from a lock, but still the above board favorite to capture this title going into Roland Garros.