2016 WTA Toray Pan Pacific Open Preview, Predictions Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
Toray Pan Pacific Open
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Prize money: $885,500
Date: September 19-25
Top four seeds who receive a first round Bye
Carla Suarez Navarro
A fairly strong line up for a Premier 470 event.
First round matches to watch
Belinda Bencic vs Caroline Wozniacki: Bencic continues her comeback from injury by entering the Toray Pan Pacific Open. The Swiss lost a lot of points over the summer and is unseeded for this event, but despite that she has still been drawn against another unseeded player in former world number 1 Caroline Wozniacki. The Dane has looked like a shadow of her former self this year, but she hit form in a semi final run at the US Open.
These two players previously met here last year with Bencic prevailing in straight sets. As a matter of fact, the 19-year-old has proven to be quite the match-up issue as she has won their past four meetings.
Neither player possesses the greatest firepower, so expect long rallies. Wozniacki will retrieve and retrieve as usual, but there will be question marks on Bencic’s fitness and form.
(6) Dominika Cibulkova vs Lucie Safarova: Cibulkova has the misfortune of drawing one of the more dangerous unseeded players in the draw with Safarova being her opening round opponent.
The head to head reads 4-2 in the Czech’s favour, but this is a match-up that can go either way. Both can hit with a fair amount of power and it will likely come down to form on the day.
Top Half: Muguruza heads into Tokyo as the top seed in a desperate search of finding form. The Spaniard has struggled since winning the French Open and has lots of points to defend in the fall. She may open up in the second round against the woman who put her out of the US open, Anastasija Sevastova. The Latvian is full of confidence in her career resurgence and will give Muguruza a tough test again. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is the other seed in this section, and as always she will be a dangerous player. The Russian struggles with her consistency, but when on form she can go deep in any tournament. She will face Andrea Petkovic in the opening round, a player that has struggled to find form this year. Elina Svitolina or CoCo Vandeweghe will await in the second round. Both players are fairly hyped youngsters who have yet to live up to their potential and possess different styles. On a quicker court you would favour the American, but Svitolina is the more consistent of the two. The winner of that second round match may fancy their chances to make the final four with Muguruza’s lack of form.
A player most certainly full of confidence is Pliskova. The Czech won Cincinnati and then went all the way to the final of the US Open. With them results behind her, Pliskova may be the title favourite here. Yanina Wickmayer or a qualifier will entertain her in round two, then it could possibly be Cibulkova or Safarova in the quarter finals. The winner of that match will face a Japanese player in round two in the form of Naomi Osaka or Misaki Doi. Pliskova will be favourite to make it out of this quarter, but Cibulkova and Safarova are very dangerous players capable of causing an upset.
Bottom half: Suarez Navarro, still the ever-present, headlines the third quarter as the fourth seed, but the Spaniard has a very tough draw ahead. Bencic or Wozniacki will await in round two and then it is possibly Madison Keys in the quarter finals- don’t be shocked to see an early exit for Suarez Navarro. The American faces Yulia Putintseva in round one, which is no easy task. Keys, despite being the lesser seed, will be favourite to make it out of this quarter, but you never know which Keys will show up.
Radwanska is back to defend the title she won last year by defeating Bencic in the final. The Pole is looking to seal her spot in the season ending championships in the upcoming weeks, starting by defending her Tokyo crown. It won’t be easy with the crafty and feisty Barbora Strycova a possible round two opponent. Petra Kvitova, who has slumped out of the top 10 this season, took a wildcard into this event and is the projected quarter-final opponent. The Czech’s lack of form means she could be upended by Monica Puig in the second round.
Svitolina def. Sevastova
Pliskova def. Safarova
Keys def. Suarez Navarro
Radwanska def. Puig
Pliskova def. Svitolina
Radwanska def. Keys
Radwanska def. Pliskova
The reigning champion will likely defend her title here. Pliskova’s good form will carry her to the final, but Radwanska’s craft might be too much in the final.
Radwanska, Jankovic, Begu Capture WTA Titles Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
A busy week in the WTA concluded with Agnieszka Radwanska capturing the Tokyo title, Jelena Jankovic winning the Guangzhou title, and Irina Begu becoming the Queen of Seoul.
WTA Tokyo: Radwanska Runs Bencic Ragged
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Radwanska is proving to be quite the force in Tokyo. The Pole did not drop a set on the way to the final where she met teenage sensation Belinda Bencic.
The Swiss was coming in off the back of back to back top 10 wins over Garbine Muguruza and Caroline Wozniacki in her quest for a third Premier title this year. However, Radwanska would put in a nearly flawless performance to see of the 18 year old 6-2, 6-2.
The performance was summed up by the stats. The former world number two hit 28 winners to 15 unforced errors, to Bencic’s 21-23.
“I ran a lot!” Radwanska said post-match. “Belinda really pushed me to play 200%, and the pressure was always in the back of my head. I knew I was playing one of the best players in the world, but this is the final and you just want to win, so you do whatever it takes to win every point.”
The 15th career victory seals Aga’s place back inside the top 10 and gives her a significant boost in the race for the Year End Championships.
“I’m just so happy to be back in that Top 10. It’s very, very tight now. There are a lot of young players coming up, so many players who deserve to be Top 10, so I’m just happy I can be No.8 now.
“The Asia tour is key for me to go to Singapore, so I think this week I did a great job to give myself a better chance to go back there again.”
The doubles title was won by the Spanish pairing Muguruza and Carla Suarez Navarro. They defeated the Chan sisters 7-5, 6-1 to strengthen their bid for Singapore.
WTA Guangzhou: Jankovic Captures Guangzhou Crown
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Jankovic has ended her two year title draught by capturing the Guangzhou title over Denisa Allertova 6-2, 6-0.
The Czech was looking to add another name to her upset list this week after defeating Simona Halep and Sara Errani en route to her first WTA final.
She started brightly with a break and a 2-1 lead, but from that point on it was all Jankovic. The Serb raced away by winning the next 11 games to seal a comfortable straight sets victory.
“Denisa, you had such a great run here in Guangzhou, beating such great players,” Jankovic said. “And you played so well in the final – it was definitely closer than the result says. You’ll have many more finals and many more titles in the future, so just keep going, just keep doing what you’re doing.”
Allertova still remained positive despite the heavy defeat.
“It was an amazing time for me here,” she said.
“I’m so happy I could beat so many good players here and play my first final. Jelena was too good, but I’m happy with my week.”
This was Jankovic’s first WTA main tour title since claiming the Bogota crown two years ago, she won a challenger in China earlier in the year. This was also the Serbian’s 14th career title.
The doubles went to the number one team of Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza. The top seeds breezed Shilin Xu and Xiaodi You 6-3, 6-1 to claim their 6th title of the year.
WTA Seoul: Begu claims Second Career Title
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Begu ended the run of qualifier Aliaksandra Sasnovich with a 6-3, 6-1 victory to capture the Seoul title.
After an even start that split the first six games, Begu raised her game to soar to a 6-3, 5-0 lead. Sasnovich managed to hold to avoid the bagel, but no comeback was on the cards as Begu served it out to seal an easy victory.
“I think the key today was to stay calm and make my opponent run more, and I think I was successful in those. I was also hitting the balls deep and close to the lines,” Begu said.
“I also think I was better on the important points – I wasn’t dominating every game, but I did better on the big points.”
This was her second WTA title after winning Tashkent back in 2012.
“I’m so happy to win my first WTA title in three years – it’s been a long time, and I’ve improved a lot, I think,” Begu said.
“I’ve learned a lot from many matches and many experiences, and most of all I think I’ve become much more consistent when I’m playing. I feel totally different from three years ago.”
The doubles final was played later in the day and saw top seeds Lara Arruabarrena and Andrea Klepac rally from a set down to take out second seeds Kiki Bertens and Johanna Larsson, 2-6, 6-3, 10-6.
Djokovic Demolishes Berdych in Beijing; Nishikori Wins Second Consecutive Title in Tokyo Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast
Novak Djokovic remained undefeated at the China Open in Beijing, winning his fifth career title at the tournament in comprehensive fashion. He crushed an indifferent Tomas Berdych 6-0 6-2 in the final, and did not drop a set against Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, Vasek Pospisil, Grigor Dimitrov and Andy Murray this week. Only Pospisil managed to notch more than five games in a single set, and his eight games total were the most any of Djokovic’s opponents got against this week. Djokovic dominated Beijing in every way possible and they might as well remain the center court after him at this point.
Berdych meanwhile found some form, he beat Feliciano Lopez, Viktor Troicki, John Isner and surprise semifinalist Martin Klizan, a qualifier, without dropping a set. Like Djokovic, he did not surrender more than seven games in any of his matches before the final in total, and not more than 4 in a single set. The Czech hasn’t had a great season, but he has now reached four ATP finals, three of them at the 500 level, and he drops to 1-3 in ATP finals this year.
Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau won the doubles title over Julian Benneteau and Vasek Pospisil.
Kei Nishikori (Photo: Chris Levy @Tennis_Shots for TennisEastCoast.com)
Kei Nishikori made a sellout crowd in Tokyo very happy, winning his home tournament for the second time in his career with a clutch 7-6 4-6 6-4 victory over his rival Milos Raonic. Nishikori has now won two ATP titles in a row, and he has dominated the Asian swing thus far, after reaching the US Open final, he is truly making a push for the top five before the year ends.
Raonic served well in the final but Nishikori matched his serving and rallied far better than the Canadian, who appeared glued to the baseline, fearing Nishikori’s ability to snap passing shots past him if he were to approach the net. Nishikori also was able to coerce the Canadian into rushing his shots on key points in the match, and that was enough of the difference for him to win a first set tiebreak, and get a late break in the third to take it.
Interestingly, Raonic has a great record in Tokyo, he has made the final there the past three editions, and he lost to Nishikori in the 2012 final as well.
Nishikori has now won four titles this season, two of them coming at the 500 level, and he improves to 4-1 in ATP finals this year, along with 4-2 overall this year in tour level finals (he lost the US Open final of course). . He notched quality wins over Ivan Dodig, Donald Young and Jeremy Chardy this past week without dropping a set, then won a third set tiebreak over Benjamin Becker in the semis. The Dodig match in particular was a highlight reel for Nishikori, as he crushed the Croat, forcing him to race for the ball from corner to corner, and leaving him gasping for air after almost every rally.
Raonic continued his strong late season stretch, and his consistency in tournaments with strong fields this season, he beat Bernard Tomic, Jurgen Melzer, Denis Istomin and Gilles Simon without dropping a set. While all of his opponents challenged him temporarily, Raonic was simply too good on serve to truly feel threatened, giving his opponents little chance to break his serve.
Alternate doubles team Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Michal Przysiezny beat Dodig and Marcelo Melo in the doubles final.
2014 ATP Beijing, Tokyo Previews & Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast
Two star studded events on the ATP Tour this week as the Asian Swing kicks into full gear. Both are 500-level events on outdoor hard courts, and almost every top 20 player will be in action this week.
ATP World Tour 500
September 29-October 5, 2014
Prize Money: $2,500,470
Top 8 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Novak Djokovic (1)
2: Rafael Nadal (2)
3: Tomas Berdych (7)
4: Marin Cilic (9)
5: Grigor Dimitrov (10)
6: Andy Murray (11)
7: Ernests Gulbis (13)
8: John Isner (15)
Perhaps the best non-Masters level field on the ATP tour this season. Beijing is stacked with top players from top to bottom.
First Round matchups to watch:
(5)Grigor Dimitrov vs. Fernando Verdasco
Verdasco has a lone h2h win on clay, last year, against Dimitrov, but he will be an underdog regardless against the higher ranked Bulgarian. Dimitrov played reasonably well at the US Open and he should be eager to finish the fall swing strong, still in the hunt to make the World Tour Finals top 8 at the end of the year. I don’t think Verdasco will trouble him much, but it should be an entertaining match.
(6)Andy Murray vs. Jerzy Janowicz
Murray has a 2-1 h2h advantage over Janowicz, and he should have an edge in their first outdoor hard court meeting as well. He comes off the title in Shenzhen, and hopefully will be fresh enough to deal with the hard-hitting Pole, who played pretty well in Metz and perhaps is turning the corner with his form after a poor season overall. This should again be a high quality match, and I feel Murray is too solid to lose this one; Janowicz will need to keep the error count down to have a chance.
(8)John Isner vs. Santiago Giraldo
Isner has two h2h wins over Giraldo, but both ATP matches went three sets. Giraldo showed signs of great tennis in Shenzhen, where he reached the semifinals. Isner is a positive 6-1 in his last 7 matches, all on hard courts and thus he’s still the favorite for this one. Expect some big hitting in what should be a great watch, probably going 3 sets.
Mikhail Youzhny vs. (WC)Viktor Troicki
These two have met often since 2009: Troicki has 2 hard court wins, while the overall h2h is tied at 3-3. Viktor has been on a tear since returning to the ATP tour and he is playing motivated, passionate, and entertaining tennis right now. He has dictated play with his serve, which was untouchable for periods in Shenzhen, where he qualified and reached the second round. Troicki is an incredible 23-5 this year while Youzhny is an abysmal 14-19. Youzhny is higher ranked, but Troicki has to be the favorite here and he should win this one.
(3)Tomas Berdych vs. (WC)Feliciano Lopez
A match with some great upset potential: I have Lopez defeating Berdych because the Czech is struggling, while Lopez seems to be in good form and he has a h2h edge, including two wins this year one of which came on hard courts in Toronto. The hard court h2h is 3-1 in favor of Lopez and Berdych is on a two match losing streak. This is a great style contrast between his heavy hitting and Lopez’s quality net play.
(2)Rafael Nadal vs. Richard Gasquet
Nadal is returning to tour in Beijing against Gasquet, who has never beaten him before in over a dozen h2h meetings. Gasquet is struggling, and Nadal’s form is uncertain given he’s coming off an injury and should have some rust. However, he’s played some exhibitions and should advance given the H2H differential. The fact Gasquet is a round one opponent for the number two seed, and isn’t a seeded player himself demonstrates the quality of the Beijing draw.
Four-time and defending champion Novak Djokovic opens with Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. Novak is 6-0 against GGL, so even if it’s an entertaining match, he should get through to face Lukas Rosol or Vasek Pospisil. Neither Vashy nor Rosol are in great form, but they are players with talent who can play very well at times. Look for an exciting Djokovic vs. Dimitrov quarterfinal.
After Verdasco, Dimitrov should face Kuala Lumpur finalist Julian Benneteau, who opens with KL quarterfinalist Pablo Andujar. Dimitrov has a lone marquee win over Djokovic in Madrid last season, but since then, Novak has won two meetings, both in slams, including a four setter at Wimbledon this year. Djokovic also has two hard court h2h wins, once in 2013 and once in 2012, both in straight sets.
Given Novak’s perfect 19-0 record in Beijing, he should get through to the semifinals.
US Open champ Marin Cilic, a two-time finalist in Beijing, opens with Chinese wild card Yan Bai, then will face the Joao Sousa/Teymuraz Gabashvili winner. The Metz finalist, Sousa, is looking to continue playing well but Cilic should safely make the quarterfinals to face Murray/Janowicz. The winner of that match will face Pablo Cuevas or Mikhail Kukushkin, Cuevas played reasonably well in Kuala Lumpur while Kukushkin was playing the Asian Games in Korea. I favor Cilic over Murray given the fatigue factor, Murray having played some tough matches in Shenzen.
Nadal/Gasquet will face Ivo Karlovic or Peter Gojowczyk in round 2. That will be an easier opponent than their round 1 match, and unless Nadal is really rusty he should reach the quarters to face most likely Ernests Gulbis, a semifinalist in Kuala Lumpur. Ernie opens with a struggling Fabio Fognini before the Martin Klizan/Leo Mayer winner. Nadal is 6-0 against Gulbis and 3-0 on hard courts, including a win this year in Doha.
With that record in mind, Nadal should be a safe pick for the semifinals.
The Berdych/Lopez winner will face the Youzhny/Troicki winner. Troicki has a great chance to sneak into the quarterfinals, though Lopez could also be formidable. Isner/Giraldo potentially await at that stage, with Shenzhen finalist Tommy Robredo also a possibility. Robredo faces Andreas Seppi again this week; he beat him in 3 sets in the Shenzen quarterfinals and this time faces him in round 1, with Isner/Giraldo to follow.
Given the fatigue factor, I have a Troicki vs. Isner quarterfinal penciled in. Troicki is 3-1 against Isner, with a 1-1 outdoor h2h record and has a chance to sneak into the semis, but I’m going with Isner based upon gut feeling.
Dark Horse: Viktor Troicki
As I mentioned above, Troicki has a great shot at the semifinals this week. He will need to blitz past Youzhny and sneak past Lopez/Berdych and Isner/Robredo/Giraldo, but those are all winnable matches if he serves well and comes up with some big shots, he seems on the precipice of an ATP-level revival.
Djokovic d. Cilic
Nadal d. Isner
If Cilic plays like he did at the US Open and Djokovic stumbles, he could very well take the title this week, but given the fact Djokovic is 10-0 against Cilic with 3 wins this season, albeit in close contests, he should still have an edge. Nadal’s form is hard to judge coming off the injury, but he’s 4-0 against Isner and I’m sure he’ll be motivated, so I have him in the final this week.
Djokovic d. Nadal
Given this is a hard court and Nadal is coming off an injury layoff, Djokovic should remain perfect in Beijing and take his fifth title here. He beat Nadal in the final last year.
Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships
ATP World Tour 500
September 27-October 5, 2014
Prize Money: $1,228,825
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Stan Wawrinka (4)
2: David Ferrer (5)
3: Milos Raonic (6)
4: Kei Nishikori (8)
5: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (12)
6: Roberto Bautista Agut (17)
7: Kevin Anderson (19)
8: Alex Dolgopolov (23)
Though outshone by Beijing, Tokyo sports five of the top fifteen players and should also feature a lot of quality action this week.
First Round matchups to watch:
(8)Alex Dolgopolov vs. Jack Sock
Dolgopolov is playing his first match back since knee surgery, and he had to skip all of the tournaments this summer. Sock is playing his first match since the US Open and this is the first head-to-head matchup between the pair. Sock has posted his best results on hard court this year, including one quarterfinal and one semifinal on the surface. Dolgo had a strong early start to the year but he should be rusty going into this one. It’s hard to predict and Dolgopolov is the more talented, and higher ranked player, but I have Sock advancing given the rust factor. Dolgo is known to past erratic performances and a knee injury isn’t the easiest thing to come back from right away.
(4)Kei Nishikori vs. Ivan Dodig
Nishikori, who just won Kuala Lumpur, is bidding to win his second Tokyo title in front of the home fans and keep his momentum going. Dodig, meanwhile, is looking to string some wins together and garner some of his own momentum, improving on his poor record of 1-5 in his last six matches. I’m mainly interested to see how Nishikori will play coming off of Kuala Lumpur. Dodig has beaten him once before, last year in Basel, and we’ll see if he can catch the top Asian player sleeping, This match has just a bit of upset potential, though I have Nishikori through.
(7)Kevin Anderson vs. Dominic Thiem
Thiem is looking to avenge his loss to Anderson at the Aussie Open at the start of the year, and he has had a meteoric rise since that meeting. Now in the top 50, he is bidding to follow up his strong showing at the US Open with a good fall swing. Anderson is as always a solid big serving, strong hard court competitor. Thiem will have a reasonable chance at pulling this off, but I have Anderson through. He’s too reliable and consistent to lose this one.
(3)Milos Raonic vs. Bernard Tomic
Milos Raonic appears to be in excellent form, and as the finalist in Tokyo the previous two seasons is looking to do one better and capture the title this year. Tomic isn’t the easiest first round opponent by any means though, and he could pose a threat to the Canadian number one if he can get on a hot streak. He lost a poor match in Kuala Lumpur though and I don’t see that being likely, so Raonic should get through in straight sets.
(6)Roberto Bautista Agut vs. Gilles Simon
Bautista Agut has a great chance to get back into form in Tokyo. It starts with Simon, who has been poor all season and lost a bad match in Shenzen last week to Ricardas Berankis, showing signs he might be injured. RBA has struggled a bit as of late, but hopefully he will grab a rather comfortable win here.
Stan Wawrinka should roll past Tatsuma Ito in his opening match. Jarkko Nieminen could prove to be a tough test in round 2, assuming the Finn who made the semifinals in Kuala Lumpur can beat Benjamin Becker, who reached the quarterfinals in the same tournament. I fully expect Stan the Man to get into the quarterfinals and most likely play Sock, as the other options, Dolgopolov, Andrey Golubev and qualifier Pierre-Hugues Herbert are far from imposing at present. All in all, Wawrinka has a reasonable route to the semifinals for a 500-level event.
The Nishikori/Dodig winner will play Donald Young or Go Soeda in round 2. Since Nishikori comfortably handled DY at the Aussie Open this year, I don’t expect that one to be much of a contest. It should be Nishikori vs Anderson/Thiem in the quarterfinals, as qualifier Rajeev Ram and Jeremy Chardy, the other options in this section, are both not playing that well at the moment. The semifinalist should come down to whether Nishikori is fatigued enough to lose or not. I’m going to garner he’s not and he’s certainly going to be motivated given he’s playing on home soil. Anderson will have a chance but I have Nishikori in the semifinals of my own bracket.
David Ferrer suffered another bad loss in an early round match, this time to Viktor Troicki in Shenzhen, and he is looking to rebound against his compatriot Marcel Granollers. He could be on upset alert again against Steve Johnson in round 2, assuming the much improved American gets past Hiroki Moriya. Still, unless the American serves lights out, Ferrer should get through to the quarterfinals. In the quarters, it should be Ferrer/Johnson against one of RBA/Simon or Gilles Muller. Muller is a dangerous big server when he gets hot, and he opens with Argentine Federico Delbonis. I have RBA in the quarters of my own bracket but it’s a difficult pick, and I also have him over Ferrer into the semis. Ferrer beat him twice last year, but he’s in a bit of a funk right now and I think RBA will capitalize on that.
The Raonic/Tomic winner will face Edouard Roger-Vasselin or Jurgen Melzer in round 2. Melzer and ERV are both struggling, so it should be a routine path to the quarterfinals for Raonic. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga should be Raonic’s opponent in an exciting quarterfinal matchup. Jo has to defeat Michal Przysiezny and the Taro Daniel/Denis Istomin winner to reach that stage. Raonic beat Tsonga this year on clay after two previous losses on hard and grass respectively. Given the form factor, I have Raonic through to the semifinals in 3 sets.
Dark Horse: Gilles Muller
It’s highly unlikely that a non-seed will reach the quarterfinals, but Muller has the best chance. He will need to defeat the RBA/Simon winner, but given their recent form, that’s doable if he serves well. After that, Ferrer/Johnson are also susceptible to defeat.
Wawrinka d. Nishikori
Raonic d. Bautista Agut
Kei beat Stan at the US Open in 5 sets recently, but prior to that, Wawrinka had won both their head to head meetings. Given Nishikori played a weeks worth of tennis in Malaysia the previous week, that should be enough to swing this match in Wawrinka’s favor.
I like Raonic over RBA or Ferrer, given how well he has played on hard courts both recently and this season as a whole.
Wawrinka d. Raonic
Two top players should meet in the Tokyo final, and I have Wawrinka over Raonic, given the 2-0 hard court h2h record and 3-0 overall h2h including a win on clay this season. Raonic will have a chance at taking this title too, and both guys have had a bit of a layoff but they should be ready to perform this week.
Djokovic Wins For 4th time in Beijing, Del Potro Tops in Tokyo For 3rd Title of 2013
Novak Djokovic won 6-3, 6-4 over the new world #1, Rafael Nadal, to take his fourth career title in Beijing. Djokovic has been foiled by Nadal quite often this year, and this head to head win will certainly give him a boost in confidence as we head towards the end of the season. Novak beat Lukas Rosol in round 1, dropped a set to Fernando Verdasco in round 2 before grabbing the win, then beat Sam Querrey and Richard Gasquet in the quarters and semis to make the final.
He dropped a mere 9 games over 4 sets of tennis.
Nadal looked a cut above as well, dispatching Santiago Giraldo and Philipp Kohlschreiber in the first couple of rounds, then beating Fabio Fognini in 3 in the quarters, and getting a 1st set retirement victory over Tomas Berdych.
Max Mirnyi/Horia Tecau won the doubles title over the Italian duo of Fabio Fognini/Andreas Seppi.
Top seed Juan Martin Del Potro won his third title of the year in Tokyo, 7-6, 7-5 over the red hot Milos Raonic. JMDP beat Marcos Baghdatis in 3, Carlos Berlocq in straights, Alex Dolgopolov in 3 and Nicolas Almagro in 2 tiebreaks to reach the final.
Raonic, who had won Bangkok the week prior, extended his winning streak against Go Soeda, Jeremy Chardy, Lukas Lacko and Ivan Dodig, all without dropping a set.
Rohan Bopanna/Edouard Roger-Vasselin took the doubles over Jamie Murray/John Peers, who were also titlists last week in Bangkok.
A pair of strong 500s this week in Beijing and Tokyo are the action this week on the ATP World Tour and here is your preview for both.
ATP World Tour 500
September 30-October 6, 2013
Prize Money: $2,315,250
Top 8 seeds
1: Novak Djokovic
2: Rafael Nadal
3: David Ferrer
4: Tomas Berdych
5: Richard Gasquet
6: Stanislas Wawrinka
7: Tommy Haas
8: John Isner
The Olympic tennis center, the large prize money pool and the prestige of a joint event with the WTA has attracted a boatload of big names to Beijing.
First round matchups to watch:
(3)David Ferrer vs. Vasek Pospisil
Ferrer (Photo: Courtney Massey)
Ferrer is 2-0 career against Pospisil, who was shocked by Federico Delbonis in Kuala Lumpur and has been hassled by an inability to close out matches. This match is really only notable because Ferrer has suffered a slate of shocking losses this year and he just had one in Kuala Lumpur to current finalist Joao Sousa. The loss looks better in hindsight, but top 5 players losing to players outside the top 50 is still a shock. I expect Ferrer to win, but can’t be confident of that.
(7)Tommy Haas vs. (WC)Lleyton Hewitt
This is a Battle Royale of the fighting thirty-something vets for the first time in nine years. Between 2000 and 2004, Hewitt beat Haas six times and lost twice. Much has changed, however and smarter but older, they will renew their rivalry in Beijing. It’s a toss-up match.
Novak Djokovic will play Lukas Rosol as he begins his fall campaign and then Fernando Verdasco or a qualifier in round 2. Kuala Lumpur semifinalist and rival Stanislas Wawrinka is his likely quarterfinal opponent, as they could have a rematch of their great US Open match this year (and great AO match in January).
Wawrinka needs to beat Andreas Seppi and Mikhail Youzhny/Sam Querrey to reach the quarters.
Ferrer/Pospisil will play Marinko Matosevic or current Kuala Lumpur finalist Julien Benneteau in round 2 and then most likely Bangkok semifinalist Richard Gasquet in the quarters. Gasquet has to notch wins over Florian Mayer and Ze Zhang/Bernard Tomic to get there. Gasquet-Ferrer would be a US Open rematch as well.
Rafa Nadal also begins his fall campaign in Beijing. His first opponent will be a qualifier before facing Albert Montanes/Philipp Kohlschreiber and one of Haas/Hewitt, Tommy Robredo/Fabio Fognini in the quarters. Not the easiest draw, but he took care of Kohli at the USO and has a positive recent record against the other players.
Tomas Berdych is a finalist in Bangkok.He opens with Pablo Andujar before advancing to Nikolay Davydenko/Qualifier and most likely John Isner in the quarters. Isner plays Chinese wild card Di Wu, followed by Grigor Dimitrov/Qualifier before the quarters.
Dark Horse: John Isner
John Isner: Dark Horse
If Berdych is tired, Isner becomes the favorite in his quarter as he has a pretty weak first couple of matches before running into Berdych. Semis are possible but not likely for the American.
Djokovic d. Gasquet
Nadal d. Berdych
Djokovic has only lost to Gasquet once and has handled him well in a ton of other meetings. He is in good form judging from Davis Cup and should be fine here. Nadal hasn’t lost to Berdych in 7 years. He also looks to be in good form and has beaten Berdych 3 times this year, so he should be good.
Nadal d. Djokovic
A rematch of the USO final and a bunch of other matches. I expect the same result, but it could still go either way between the best 2 players in the world right now.
Djokovic is the defending champion and has won Beijing three times, but Nadal is seeking to take the number 1 ranking from him.
Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships
ATP World Tour 500
September 30-October 6, 2013
Prize Money: $1,297,000
Top 8 seeds
1: Juan Martin Del Potro
2: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
3: Milos Raonic
4: Kei Nishikori
5: Gilles Simon
6: Nicolas Almagro
7: Kevin Anderson
8: Janko Tipsarevic
First round matchups to watch:
(1)Juan Martin Del Potro vs. Marcos Baghdatis
These two fan favorites have met four times on the ATP tour and all on hard courts like this meeting. The head to head is even, meaning the winner will get the positive edge. Del Potro owned their meeting in Dubai early this year in a third set tiebreak and is hopefully recovered from injury issues that have bothered him all year and dogged him at his last event, the US Open. Baghdatis is a disappointing 1-2 in his first two events of the fall ATP season. Del Potro will be the favorite if healthy, but Baghdatis could surprise.
(4)Kei Nishikori vs. Jurgen Melzer
Nishikori is the home hero and the defending champion, meaning he has a considerable amount of pressure here.
Melzer, meanwhile, made the semis in Kuala Lumpur and seems to be in ok form. They have a split 1-1 H2H, with Melzer winning their only hard court meeting 4 years ago. Nishikori won on clay in Madrid this year. Nishikori performed well in his last event, a Davis Cup tie, and will be the favorite here.
(2)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Gael Monfils
Tsonga has a 3-1 H2H edge over his fellow Frenchman and is probably in better form. All of their prior meetings have been on hard courts. Both players have been hassled with injury problems, but can play brilliant tennis when they’re on, and that is why this match is one to watch between charismatic fan favorites. Tsonga should prevail, but Monfils always has a chance against most anyone.
The Del Potro/Baghdatis winner will face Carlos Berlocq or Pablo Cuevas in round 2. Cuevas upset Nikolay Davydenko in Kuala Lumpur.
In the quarterfinals, it will probably be Del Potro vs Alex Dolgopolov or Janko Tipsarevic, a couple of players who have had a downright terrible year of tennis. Also in this section are Victor Hanescu and Daniel Brands and if Del Potro is healthy he seems secure for the semis. Otherwise, who knows?
Nishikori/Melzer will likely play Bangkok quarterfinalist Feliciano Lopez in round 2. Feli just has to beat Tatsuma Ito. Following that, it will be a weak quarterfinal against one of a pair of qualifiers, a slumping Nicolas Almagro, or a slumping Horacio Zeballos. Super-Weak section for a 500.
Tsonga/Monfils could get a possibly tough test against Ivan Dodig in round 2 if Dodig beats wild card Yuichi Sugita. A quarterfinal awaits against in-form Bangkok semifinalist and Metz champion Gilles Simon if Simon beats Marcel Granollers and Jarkko Nieminen/Juan Monaco (neither of whom are in good form, but can catch fire).
Tsonga vs. Simon in the quarters would be a rematch of the Metz final, won by Simon.
Current Bangkok finalist Milos Raonic plays Go Soeda and then Jeremy Chardy/Michael Llodra in what should be an easy start for the possibly-fatigued Canadian. A pair of qualifiers, Dmitry Tursunov or Kevin Anderson await in the quarters in a tough test.
Dark Horse: Dmitry Tursunov
Tursunov come off quarterfinals in Kuala Lumpur, which was preceded by quarterfinals in St. Petersburg and a generally good year. Opening with a qualifier and then the unpredictable form of Kevin Anderson gives Tursunov a sniff at the quarterfinals again, with Raonic, who could be tired, probably awaiting.
Del Potro d. Nishikori
Simon d. Raonic
Del Po has never lost to Nishikori, so unless his wrist or some other body part is giving him trouble, I think he survives to the final.
I like Simon form-wise if he isn’t too tired over Tsonga and then over Raonic, who he has only played once on clay 2 years ago. Not much to go on there.
Del Potro d. Simon
JMDP in 3?
Simon has a 3-1 edge on hardcourts, and this matchup is good for him. But I think Del Potro, if healthy, will just be too much, as he will be fresher if this final occurs. Either way, a hard pick here.
Djokovic gets Beijing hat trick, Nishikori wins at home in Tokyo
Steen Kirby, TennisEastCoast.com
Novak Djokovic ran through the China Open field yet again, winning his third straight title in Beijing 7-6, 6-2 over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Earlier in the week, he dispatched Michael Berrer in three, Carlos Berlocq, Jurgen Melzer and Florian Mayer, bringing his career record at the China open to 14-0. He remains undefeated in the event.
Tsonga made the final by beating Denis Istomin in three, Nikolay Davydenko by walkover, Mikhail Youzhny and Feliciano Lopez.
The China Open was also notable for the number of retirements that occurred, notably David Ferrer and Julien Benneteau in the first round.
The Bryans took yet another doubles title over Istomin/Berlocq.
Kei Nishikori and the Japanese have the depth
Kei Nishikori took home his second career ATP title in front of his adoring home fans with a 7-6, 3-6, 6-0 win over Milos Raonic. Earlier in the week, he avenged his previous loss to Go Soeda in three, beat Tommy Robredo in three, upset Tomas Berdych in straights and roared past Marcos Baghdatis, who did well to make the semis. Nishikori moves to a career high 15 in the rankings.
Raonic beat Radek Stepanek, Viktor Troicki, Janko Tipsarevic in three and upset Andy Murray in three, saving match points to make the final. This was a succesful tournament for Raonic.
In the doubles final, Alexander Peya and Bruno Soares beat Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek to take home the title.
Dual 500s take place in neighboring Asian countries this week as many top names return to tournament action. Here is a preview.
ATP World Tour 500
September 29- October 7, 2012
Prize Money $2,205,000
Top 4 seeds
1: Novak Djokovic
2: David Ferrer
3: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
4: Marin Cilic
Beijing is a combined men’s and women’s event played on the grounds of the 2008 Olympic tennis center.
1st round matchups to watch:
Fernando Verdasco vs. Sam Querrey
Verdasco just lost in the quarters of Bangkok to Janko Tipsarevic, while Querrey hasn’t played since the Davis Cup tie and the US Open. Still, on a hard court surface, you would have to think Querrey will have a nice chance at grabbing the win over Verdasco.
Julien Benneteau vs. Andreas Seppi
Benneteau just upset David Ferrer to make the final in Malaysia while Seppi made the final in Metz a week ago. Both players should be in good form and it should be a fine match.
Novak Djokovic, twice a champion in Beijing, returns to tournament action after his US Open final loss and opens against a qualifier. He would then face the winner of Marinko Matosevic vs. Carlos Berlocq. Next up would be Alexandr Dolgopolov in the quarters if Dolgo can get past Guillermo Garcia Lopez and the winner of Pablo Andujar vs. a long time slumping Jurgen Melzer.
Marin Cilic starts off against Marius Copil and will face the winner of Florian Mayer vs. St. Petersburg finalist Fabio Fognini. His likely quarterfinal opponent is Bangkok champion Richard Gasquet, who starts off against a qualifier and then will face a wild card in the 2ndround. Gasquet should have the momentum to do well here.
Malaysia semifinalist David Ferrer suffered an upset loss to Julien Benneteau in his last match but still took over the title of being the player with the most wins on the ATP tour this year. Ferrer starts off against Yen-Hsun Lu and then faces the winner of Feliciano Lopez vs. Ryan Harrison. This is no easy early draw. His quarterfinal opponent will be the winner of Querrey/Verdasco or Benneteau/Seppi. There are lots of chances for an upset with this draw.
Metz champ Tsonga opens against Denis Istomin and follows with the winner of Nikolay Davydenko vs. a qualifier. 7 seed Tommy Haas would be his seeded quarterfinal opponent. Haas opens with Mikhail Youzhny.
Dark Horse: Julien Benneteau
Benneteau just upset Ferrer and it’s feasible for him to do it again on the same surface a few days later. First, he will have to get through the inconsistent Seppi and then Verdasco or Querrey. Benny also suffers streaks of inconsistency mixed with streaks of fine play, but he appears to be on the right streak now and has a great chance to keep the momentum going.
Djokovic d. Gasquet
Tsonga d. Benneteau
Djokovic d. Tsonga
Novak should face limited resistance in his bid for another title, but if three Frenchman make the semis, there could be a new world record in “Allez”-ing set here.
Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships
ATP World Tour 500
October 1-7, 2012
Prize Money $1,280,565
Top 4 seeds
1: Andy Murray
2: Tomas Berdych
3: Janko Tipsarevic
4: Juan Monaco
All 8 seeds are top 17 players, making it a solid field in Tokyo.
1st round matchups to watch:
Andy Murray vs. Gael Monfils
The US Open Champ Murray returns to tournament action against a rejuvenated but slightly rusty Gael Monfils. La Monf last played Murray twice in 2010 and they split wins on the hard court. Murray will go into this match a heavy favorite but Monfils, if healthy and sharp, could give Muzz major trouble in this 1stround match.
Janko Tipsarevic vs. Gilles Simon
Simon just beat Tipsarevic in the Bangkok semis in straight sets and Tipsy will be looking for revenge as they meet again just a couple days later. This could go either way and such repeat matches are quite fun to watch since the guys are so used to each other’s games.
Kei Nishikori vs. Go Soeda
Nishikori and Soeda are the two highest ranked players from Japan and recently led their country to a Davis Cup world group playoff victory. They last met head to head in Atlanta where Soeda knocked off his more heralded countryman in straight sets. Nishikori will be looking for friendly revenge in this one.
Murray, who is also the defending champ in Tokyo, will play the winner of Albert Ramos vs. Lukas Lacko in the 2ndround with his likely quarterfinal match up being 7 seed Stanislas Wawrinka (who faces wild card Hiroki Moriya and then the winner of Jeremy Chardy vs. Yuichi Sugita). Chardy could also reach the quarters in this part of the draw.
The winner of Tipsarevic/Simon will face St. Petersburg champ Martin Klizan or a qualifier and the likely quarterfinal match up would be against Milos Raonic, who lost in the quarters of Bangkok and has disappointed in his last few events. Also in this part of the draw is Viktor Troicki, who plays Robin Haase and Radek Stepanek, who plays Raonic.
US Open semi finalist Tomas Berdych, who led the Czech Republic to a win over Argentina in Davis Cup starts off against Benoit Paire. Berdych gets the winner of Thomaz Bellucci vs. Alejandro Falla after that. He could very well face the home number one Kei Nishikori in the quarters. Also lurking is Bangkok semifinalist Jarkko Nieminen, who has to be given at least a punchers chance against Nishikori.
Malaysia finalist Juan Monaco opens against a qualifier and then would face either Marcos Baghdatis or a qualifier. Pico is likely to face 5 seed Nicolas Almagro in the quarters in what should be a ripping match up between a couple of intense players.
Dark Horse: Martin Klizan
Klizan won his maiden title in St. Petersburg and remains on a hot streak going into Tokyo. If he can get past Tipsarevic or Simon (who might be tired from playing in Bangkok), then he has a nice chance against Raonic and could run all the way to the semis before running into Murray. It would be unlikely for him to get past Murray, but you never know what form Andy will show up in sometimes.
Murray d. Klizan
Berdych d. Almagro
Murray d. Berdych
If the predictions come true, Tokyo will be rife with US Open rematches: Berdych beat Almagro in New York and Murray beat Berdych in the semis. Look for the same results again.