Carreno Busta and Muller Setup Unexpected Final in Estoril Manuel Traquete, Tennis Atlantic
It’s been an exciting week at Portugal’s only ATP tournament in Estoril, as the final is now set between Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta and serve and volleying veteran Gilles Muller. Carreno Busta, a finalist last year, hasn’t dropped a set through three matches and has been in good form on European clay this year. He seems very comfortable on the main court and has played technically sound, skillful clay court tennis, as he slipped past Tommy Robredo, and then dismantled Nicolas Almagro and David Ferrer, having beaten three formerly highly ranked Spanish clay court veterans this week. Ferrer winning a pair of easy matches over Portugese wild card Frederico Ferreira Silva and American Ryan Harrison to reach the semfinals and find his footing after a woeful year. PCB will thus be the expected favorite against Muller.
Muller, who much prefers fast surfaces, had a 4-10 clay court record since 2013 prior to playing in Estoril, but has now won three straight on his worst surface, defeating Pedro Sousa, Taro Daniel in three sets, and Kevin Anderson to reach the final. Muller maneuvered past Anderson’s big serve, which had allowed him to upset Richard Gasquet in the quarterfinals, and Daniel, who is usually at his best on clay, simply cracked under pressure in their quarterfinal match. Despite the fact he’s unlikely to defeat Carreno Busta, he should have plenty of confidence heading into the final, and if he serves well anything is possible, even on clay.
In doubles, fans have enjoyed the success of Spanish veterans Tommy Robredo and David Marrero, while Ryan Harrison and Michael Venus are out to surprise them in the final, having beaten the top seeds in the opening round of doubles action.
2015 US Open Week 1 Men’s Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The final slam of the season is also the final ATP level stop in the United States for 2015. All of the top names are competing for glory under the New York lights,and here is a preview of what should be two high quality of hard court tennis.
New York City, NY, USA
August 31-September 13, 2015
Prize Money: $33,017,800
Top 8 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Novak Djokovic (1)
2: Roger Federer (2)
3: Andy Murray (3)
4: Kei Nishikori (4)
5: Stan Wawrinka (5)
6: Tomas Berdych (6)
7: David Ferrer (7)
8: Rafael Nadal (8)
The entire ATP top 50 will take part in the US Open this season with the lone exception of Juan Monaco as this is the strongest tournament field you can get.
Seppi, an established veteran all-courter, started the season on hard courts on fire, but has cooled off since and finished his US Open series tournaments with a record of 1-2. He could be on upset alert against the talented young gun qualifier Paul who is 40-17 below the main tour level this season at just 18. Though he lacks an ATP or Grand Slam main draw win, and is making his professional slam debut, he was solid in qualifying and has a tenacious and well-rounded game that will give him a punchers chance in this one. The crowd should be on his side, and though I see Seppi winning this, Paul could arrive into the headlines sooner than expected and score his first marquee win.
(23)Roberto Bautista Agut vs. (WC)Pierre-Hugues Herbert
The top 30 RBA has met the Frenchman Herbert just once in his career, but the big server with a crisp volley game pushed him to three sets in that match, and could well give him a headache once more in the opening round of the US Open. RBA has had a pedestrian season overall and went just 2-2 on summer hard courts, while Herbert comes off his first ever ATP final in Winston-Salem. Herbert has always had singles talent, but has lacked consistency and has performed better in doubles. PHH is a streaky player and RBA still likely wins this, but keep an eye on a potential upset if Herbert’s good form continues in Flushing.
(8)Rafael Nadal vs. Borna Coric
Rafael Nadal has never lost in the first round of the US Open in his career, and he’s a two time champion, however that streak could be snapped this year at the hands of talented and confident young gun Borna Coric. Coric beat an injured Nadal in Basel at the end of last season for one of the biggest wins of his career, so he should already have belief, and his complete all-court game will allow him to pressure Rafa and keep things close most likely. Nadal has had one of his poorest seasons in recent memory, and has not had a good time of it on hard courts this year as he went just 3-2 in the US Open series. Nadal is not the same player that he once was, but he’s still a beast in the fitness and mental toughness departments, and with that in mind he is still likely to survive the Coric challenge. We could be looking at five sets, but in best of five Nadal tends to rise the occasion as we saw in the Australian Open early in the year.
(4)Kei Nisikori vs. Benoit Paire
Nishikori was a finalist last year at the US Open, and has a 2-0 h2h over the streaky Paire, so on paper he shouldn’t have too much trouble. With that said Paire with his elite backhand has enough of a game to threaten top 10 players if he’s focused and shows passion, and Nishikori may still be dealing with a toe injury sustained this summer. The Washington champion also reached the semis in Montreal, but came down with an injury in that match, and hasn’t played since, so it’s hard to tell how Nishikori’s form and condition will be. Paire is finally getting himself back to an ATP level and has had a good season overall, however he once more demonstrated inconsistency in Winston-Salem, and a healthy Nishikori should be able to direct enough balls to his forehand side to doom his chances.
Another match with some upset potential, the two veterans have split h2h meetings on hard courts, and Berrer, fueled by the desire to compete in his final season, has had the best year of his career, while Robredo has struggled to a 5-5 record on hard courts this year. Berrer with his throwback serve and volley game was excellent in qualifying and also reached the semifinals in Bogota this summer while Robredo went 3-2 on summer hard courts. The Spaniard has an excellent record at the US Open, but I feel his level has dropped this season with age perhaps finally catching up to him, and I see Berrer, who beat Rafael Nadal at the start of the year in Doha, scoring another memorable win over a Spaniard and reaching round 2 to add more memories to an already thrilling final season.
(22)Viktor Troicki vs. (WC)Frances Tiafoe
Wild card Frances Tiafoe, making his US Open main draw debut at 17, couldn’t have asked for a better round 1 draw given his status as the seeded Serbian Troicki has lost six straight singles matches, and hasn’t won a match since Wimbledon. Troicki has had a fine season overall, but he’s in a tailspin at the moment, perhaps hurt, or simply lacking confidence, and though he has more experience than Tiafoe, the young American is a powerful talent with enough of a game to score his first Grand Slam main draw win in this one. He got experience playing the French Open this summer and just won his first main draw ATP match in Winston-Salem, so I see the teenager keeping the good vibes and momentum flowing and making headlines with a seeded upset.
This matchup will have a lot of viewers due to the star status of both of these players. Murray’s quest for a second US Open title begins against the controversial Kyrgios, who has gotten in more trouble for his behavior and his mouth, than headlines he’s made for his actual tennis this summer. NK has had a solid season but his immaturity has shown through at times. He lives for a big stage and tends to rise up in slams, though his form hasn’t been great recently. With that said Murray has beaten him twice this year in slams and is 3-0 in the overall h2h. The Scot is extremely solid from the baseline and is able to force Kyrgios errors. Murray is simply more focused and serious with his tennis right now. I really don’t see Murray slipping up here, and the Montreal champion may not even drop a set in this highly anticipated match.
(12)Richard Gasquet vs. Thanasi Kokkinakis
Gasquet just routined Kokkinakis in Cincy, but don’t sleep on the young Aussie in a best of five big time situation. Gasquet reached the quarterfinals in Cincy and has had both good and bad spurts of play this season, all throughout remaining one of the most aesthetically pleasing and graceful players to watch on tour. Kokkinakis has a bigger game and went 4-3 this summer, like Gasquet showing good and bad patches of play. This match will come down to which version of these players shows up, and a more consistent and experienced Gasquet should find a way to win over a dangerous round 1 opponent.
(29)Philipp Kohlschreiber vs. (Q)Alexander Zverev
A battle of Germans, the veteran Kohlschreiber scored a win over Zverev on clay this year, and over the years has demonstrated himself to be a solid hard court player. However, Zverev is a rising young talent who is building up his hard court game, and while he is on the rise, Kohlschreiber is seemingly on the decline this season. Peppo had just one warm up match on hard courts this summer, a match he lost, while the qualifier Zverev is overall 8-2 on hard courts this summer with a top 20 win over Kevin Anderson en route to the Washington quarterfinals. On paper Kohlschreiber is a favorite, but I have Zverev notching an upset against his countryman and making some waves.
World #1 Novak Djokovic has just one US Open title and was stunned in the semifinals last season, but that doesn’t stop him from being the favorite for the title this year. The Serbian superstar has about as good of a draw as he could hope for in the first week, as he will no doubt dominate journeyman dirtballer Joao Souza in round 1, and likely brush aside big server Vasek Pospisil in round 2, presuming Vasek takes care of business against dirtballer Andreas Haider-Maurer in his round 1 match. Djokovic is 3-0 against Pospisil and has never lost a set to him, so even though Vasek has built his game back up, he’s unlikely to pose a threat.
In the third round Djokovic should be able to continue his streak of sets won over either Seppi/Paul or Teymuraz Gabashvili/Pablo Andujar. Gabashvili, a journeyman with weapons, shocked Andy Murray for the win of his career in Washington, and his good form should put him past Andujar, and likely Seppi, but lighting shouldn’t strike twice against Novak who likely reaches week 2 entirely unscathed as long as his elbow issue has sorted itself out. Djokovic reached both Masters finals this summer, and is looking to make it 3/4 slams won this year after claiming the Australian and Wimbledon titles.
14 seed David Goffin has an excellent chance at reaching week 2, the undersized ball striker has put together a solid top 20 season and went 4-2 on hard courts this summer. He’ll have a potentially challenging round 1 match against Simone Bolelli, a big hitter than himself, but his superior form and consistency should see him through to face either Ricardas Berankis or Joao Sousa, both of whom are baseline ball strikers like Goffin. Berankis and Sousa have both shown inconsistency this summer, while the undersized Berankis, a quarterfinalist in Atlanta and Washington, should have more upside, and reach round 2 before falling to Goffin in a battle of two of the smallest players on tour.
In round 3 Goffin, or another player if an upset occurs, should face either the RBA/PHH winner, or Jerzy Janowicz, presuming the big serving Pole can live up to his abilities and see off surprise Winston-Salem quarterfinalist Pablo Carreno Busta, who usually much prefers clay. Janowicz beat RBA this year in Miami, and his 3-3 record this summer should be good enough to see him through to the third round. Janowicz-Goffin is a style contrast, but Goffin is the better player a this point in their careers and has a pair of h2h wins in his back pocket this season, thus the first section should be Djokovic vs. Goffin to start week 2.
Presuming Nadal gets past Coric he should win his next two matches, likely to be against qualifier Elias Ymer, another young gun, and American Steve Johnson with relative ease. Ymer opens with dirtballer Diego Schwartzman, but doesn’t have a big enough game yet to challenge Rafa. Johnson opens with Fabio Fognini, who hasn’t won a hard court match this year, and then will face the Pablo Cuevas/Dudi Sela winner. Sela recently won a hard court challenger and likely dispatches the dirtballer Cuevas in a veteran battle, but Johnson, a semifinalist in both Washington and Winston-Salem this summer, is in excellent form and could even take a set or more off of Nadal. If Coric gets through he could reach the second week, though Johnson will have a great chance to do the same.
Milos Raonic hasn’t won a match since Wimbledon, and he’s been a rusty out of form disaster this summer (0-2), that said this losses came to big servers who took the upper hand when his return game was exposed, and his serve dropped in quality. His round 1 opponent Tim Smyczek is on a seven match losing streak and a horrible matchup disadvantage, so Raonic should build confidence with a round 1 win and then defeat the Fernando Verdasco/Tommy Haas winner, because both veterans are in poor form. Haas hasn’t been the same player since returning from injury, and Verdasco is struggling but at least of ATP caliber. Raonic is 3-0 on hard courts over Verdasco should reach the third round by virtue of his weak draw.
#18 seed Feliciano Lopez will get a rematch against qualifier Nikoloz Basilashvili in his first match, Niko has had a breakthrough season and upset Lopez at Wimbledon this year on the Spaniard’s best surface. With that said, the Cincinnati quarterfinalist and veteran lefty likely finds a way to win and then sends Mardy Fish into retirement in round 2. Fish is playing his final professional matches at the US Open after a summer farewell tour, and the former top 10 American gave Andy Murray a test in Cincinnati after a round 1 win. Even semi-retired his form and talent should be enough to best Marco Cecchinato who is 0-7 in his career in tour level main draw matches. The Italian much prefers clay and Fish should outskill him presuming his body holds up. Lopez with his slice serve should be too much for Mardy if focused however.
Lopez just beat Raonic in Cincinnati, and though it’s hard to predict and likely a close match, I see the veteran doing so once more and bouncing Raonic out earlier than expected. The Canadian #1 simply hasn’t been the same player since foot surgery during the clay court season, and that direct h2h result demonstrates Lopez has an edge right now, their Australian Open meeting this year was also closely contested.
As long as Nishikori is in ok shape and gets past Paire, he should have little trouble against Marsel Ilhan/Radek Stepanek as the veteran Stepanek hasn’t been able to reach a top level since returning from injury. A third round match with the talented but inconsistent Alexandr Dolgopolov could prove trouble however. Dolgo, a semifinalist in Cincy, is a top 20 player when on his game, and will have to deal with Sam Groth and his big serve in the opening round, though he has never lost to Groth (2-0 h2h). I also see him as the favorite over Berrer/Robredo, and I’m going to go out on a limb and pick him over Kei given present physical condition. The reliable and steady Nishikori is 3-0 in the h2h, but I just see Kei disappointing with the pressure on him here. Dolgopolov is one the biggest dark horses in the draw and could catch fire, or bomb out in the opening round. Dolgopolov beat Robredo earlier this year in Miami.
The draw looks open for #19 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to impress. The Frenchman’s first two opponents, the retiring Jarkko Nieminen, and Lukas Lacko/Marcel Granollers are both in poor form, having not played in recent weeks, and the Montreal quarterfinalist should move past Nieminen and Granollers into the third round. There he should meet his fellow highlight reel countryman Gael Monfils. Monfils, who went just 2-2 this summer on hard courts, faces journeyman qualifier Illya Marchenko round 1 and then most likely John Millman, who faces struggling veteran Sergiy Stahovsky in his first match. Millman has been in excellent form on the challenger tour this season and recently, and he’s a quality hard court player, so Monfils could be exposed, but more than likely he conjures up enough talent and focus to reach round 3 before falling to Tsonga, who is in better form on hard courts at the moment.
With Nishikori, Dolgopolov, Monfils, and Tsonga in this section, expect a ton of highlights to come out of it. With that said, Monfils is just 2-5 against Tsonga, though he earned the win in Miami this year.
#7 seed David Ferrer returns to tour from an elbow injury and the 33 year old grinder should see off Radu Albot, who doesn’t have a tour level main draw win this season, though he’s been good at the challenger tour level. Presuming Ferrer is healthy he’s a favorite to reach the fourth round with wins over Filip Krajinovic/qualifier Alejandro Gonzalez in round 2, and likely Jeremy Chardy in round 3. Montreal semifinalist Chardy faces NCAA champ Ryan Shane in round 1, Shane got the wild card but hasn’t done much in pro tennis to suggest he can beat a veteran like Chardy. Chardy will also be the fave against a streaky Martin Klizan. Klizan opens with funky Florian Mayer, a struggling veteran who prefers clay, in the opening round, and though he could beat Chardy, I don’t see Klizan’s form as being a benefit to him. Ferrer is 7-1 in his career against Chardy.
Defending champion Marin Cilic is unlikely to drop a set in the opening round against dirtballing qualifier Guido Pella, and in round 2 against either French young gun Lucas Pouille or qualifier Evgeny Donskoy. Pouille is a talent but prefers clay and Donskoy will have a chance at an upset, however the Washington semifinalist Cilic should have a big enough game to get to round 3. Grigor Dimitrov is a step up in caliber however, and should await the Croatian #1 at that stage. Dimitrov faces journeyman qualifier Matt Ebden in round 1 followed by a likely match with Winston-Salem quaterfinalist Rendy Lu, presuming Lu beats Mikhail Kukushkin round 1. Dimitrov has had a poor season, and he could even be shocked by Lu, with that said, Cilic seems superior to Dimitrov right now in terms of form, and is likely to be more focused, as it has been a wasted season for Dimitrov, who failed to impress this summer. Cilic also has a 1-0 h2h edge.
Presuming Murray gets past Kyrgios he’s unlikely to drop a set into the fourth round. His second round opponent will be either a struggling Adrian Mannarino or in form journeyman qualifier Konstantin Kravchuk, and then #30 seed Thomaz Bellucci is his odds on third round opponent. Bellucci faces slumping James Ward round 1 and then a qualifier, either Paul-Henri Mathieu, a veteran, or Yoshihito Nishioka, a young gun. It’s possible either Mathieu or the speed demon Nishioka could slip into the third round, but the Winston-Salem quarterfinalist Bellucci is an experienced and steady big hitter. Murray, who rapidly improved in form after a shocking early exit in Washington also has a relatively positive early draw and should excel into week 2.
Winston-Salem champ Kevin Anderson is likely to be tested against confident and talented qualifier Andrey Rublev, another of the teenage young guns dotting the draw, Anderson served up to his best over the past week though and should prove too much for Rublev and likely veteran Santiago Giraldo, presuming Giraldo beats American Austin Krajicek. Neither Giraldo or Krajicek are up to the level needed to best Anderson right now, and the South African has snapped a slump, and should reach the fourth round with a solid showing against Dominic Thiem, the struggling #20 seed. Thiem has been poor this summer, but opens with Daniel Gimeno-Traver, a clay court veteran who shows up on hard courts to cash a check, and I also see him finding his way past Denis Istomin, after Istomin beats a struggling Benjamin Becker. Neither Istomin nor Becker are playing well at the moment and Becker has lost four straight. Form and a 2-0 h2h favors Anderson over Thiem to reach the round of 16.
#5 Stan Wawrinka should meet one of the top Americans, Jack Sock, in the third round. Wawrinka, a Cincinnati quarterfinalist, isn’t in the best of form at the moment but he’s known to find himself at the Grand Slam level and should have little trouble against Albert Ramos in round 1, as Ramos prefers clay. In round 2 I don’t expect young gun Hyeon Chung, or James Duckworth, to be able to deal with Wawrinka’s backhand power and with that in mind it should be Wawrinka over Ramos and Chung without dropping a set. Big serving Atlanta semifinalist Gilles Muller isn’t in the best of form, and though the serve and volleying vet should get past challenger level player Ruben Bemelmans in round 1, I see Sock beating him on home soil after he beats Victor Estrella in round 1. The Washington quarterfinalist Sock has had a breakthrough season, but Wawrinka, presuming he can sort out his form should prove to be too much. Wawrinka has been vulnerable in slams, but I don’t see him losing early, unless Muller starts serving lights out and notches a pair of upsets.
#11 Gilles Simon is in a weak section, opening with a struggling Donald Young who he leads the h2h 5-0 with. Simon is a loser of three straight matches and in poor form, and Young upset Tomas Berdych in Montreal, but he’s lost momentum since and Simon should find a steady path given this is a slam. Many people would look to Ernests Gulbis as a potential dark horse in round 2, but Gulbis has suffered two straight bad losses after pushing Novak Djokovic to three sets in the Montreal quarterfinals, and still hasn’t escaped from his horrible season overall. The Latvian hitter has talent, but could well lose to the in-form Aljaz Bedene in round 1, and I have him losing to Simon in round 2. The h2h is 1-1 and Simon is more trustworthy than Gulbis this season. The winner of Tiafoe/Troicki should reach the third round, as neither Rajeev Ram, a veteran serve and volleyer, nor Ryan Harrison are in good form, and I have Tiafoe beat Troicki, and Harrison, just as he did in Winston-Salem, to reach the third round before falling to Simon.
The five-time US Open champion held off Andy Murray and secured the #2 ranking with a victory in Cincinnati, prepared and in-form Roger Federer should dominate his opponents and cruise into the second week. Leonardo Mayer, his first round opponent, pushed Federer to the brink last fall in Shanghai, falling in three sets, but Mayer is 2-3 this Summer and Federer is in much better form. Marcos Baghdatis, a finalist in Atlanta, also has a h2h win over Federer, but Fed leads the overall h2h 7-1 and both Baghdatis and his round 1 opponent Steve Darcis have recently been injured. Hopefully Federer vs. Baghdatis in round 2 produces some quality tennis. Federer could well face Zverev in round 3, if the youngster beats Kohlschreiber an either Lukas Rosol/Jared Donaldson in round 2. Donaldson has a winnable round 1 match and he’s had success this summer as a young gun American teen, I see Rosol winning in round 1, but an upset isn’t out of the question, and I have Zverev beating Rosol before falling to Federer.
American #1 John Isner had a successful Summer that saw capture the title in Atlanta, reach a final in Washington, and the quarterfinals in Montreal. Now rested, the big server should serve his way past Winston-Salem semifinalist Malek Jaziri,and either J.P. Smith or Mikhail Youzhny. The qualifier Smith is in good form and should reach round 2 but Isner has too much game for either of his first two opponents. In round 3 he’s likely to have a tiebreak fest against Ivo Karlovic. Dr. Ivo should see himself past Federico Delbonis and Jiri Vesely in his first two matches, presuming Vesely dispatches veteran clay courter Paolo Lorenzi. Karlovic leads the h2h 3-2 with Isner but at the US Open I give an in-form Isner the edge.
#6 Tomas Berdych has cooled off from his hot start in the spring but the Cincinnati quarterfinalist should hammer past USTA wild card Bjorn Fratangelo, who has had a solid run in challengers but has yet to translate that to the main tour level and is simply at several levels below top 10 players like Berdych. I also see Berdych powering past Denis Kudla, presuming Kudla beats veteran qualifier Jurgen Melzer in round 1. Kudla has had a career year this season and reached the semifinals in Atlanta, but Berdych should have too much power for him presuming his consistency doesn’t fail. Berdych has little chance against the big four right now, but he’s solid enough to make the second week and beat Kudla at the 2013 US Open.
American Sam Querrey has an excellent shot at reaching the third round and posting a positive result on home soil. He’ll open with veteran serve and volleyer Nicolas Mahut and then face the winner of Janko Tipsarevic/Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. Both veterans have been in poor form this Summer as they try to recover from injuries, and Querrey is the favorite to reach the third round, but fall to Berdych at that stage.
Gasquet/Kokkinakis, likely Gasquet, should get past Dustin Brown/Robin Haase in round 2, neither player is in good form though the highlight worthy Brown has more upside if he catches fire. Gasquet is another player with a favorable draw that should see him into the second week, #24 seed and Bogota champion Bernard Tomic is likely to be his toughest opponent in that path. Tomic opens with undersized baseliner Damir Dzumhur, a 23 year old Bosnian in poor form, and then should move past the retiring Lleyton Hewitt, who is playing his final US Open. Tomic is inconsistent, but superior to either his veteran countryman Hewitt, or Aleksandr Nedovyesov, Hewitt’s round 1 opponent. The 2001 US Open champion will be sorely missed after he plays his final match. Gasquet is 5-1 against Tomic in the h2h and in better form.
Dark Horses (one for each quarter of the draw): Borna Coric, Alexandr Dolgopolov, Gilles Muller, Thanasi Kokkinakis
If the talented Coric can beat Rafa twice in two years, he’ll have a path that that could see him reach the second week, and possibly as far as the quarterfinals. It’s a tough ask for a young player, but Coric is quite confident in himself and has the varied power game that can produce results. He beat Andy Murray this year as well.
I have the streaky Dolgopolov reaching the fourth round, and he could also go as far as the quarters, he’s not seeded but he has the talent to be, and if Nishikori slips up he should take advantage. The Ukrainian speedster is a deceptive shotmaker and demonstrated his peak abilities when he reached the Cincy semis and took a set off of Novak Djokovic. Like Coric, he’s proven the ability to challenge the game’s best.
Muller would need to get past Sock, but the big server has a reliable game an his crisp volleys could frustrate Wawrinka and result in an upset. I don’t see it happening personally but the veteran is known to perform well in Grand Slams.
The bottom section has a relative dearth of dark horses, and Kokkinakis form doesn’t suggest that he’ll get past Gasquet in the first round but he’s not lacking in ability, and if he shocks Gasquet and gets past Tomic he’ll be in the second week.
Week 1 Predictions (round of 16 matchups)
Djokovic d. Goffin
Goffin gave it his all and nearly upset Djokovic in Cincinnati but failing to do there, I don’t see it happening in best of five sets barring some type of injury. Djokovic is simply a superior ball striker and has far more weapons.
Nadal d. Lopez
Lopez has won his last two meetings against Rafa, including a couple of weeks ago in Cincy, but that match was quite close, and I don’t trust Lopez in the mental department in best of five sets against his fellow Spanish lefty. Lopez could win this but I trust Nadal to find a way to reach the quarters given this is a Grand Slam.
Dolgopolov d. Tsonga
Dolgo is 2-0 on outdoor hard against Tsonga, and with the Frenchman’s recent form in question I see Dolgopolov peaking and reaching the quarterfinals.
Cilic d. Ferrer
Ferrer has a h2h edge but the elbow injury makes me go with Cilic, especially at the US Open. A healthy Ferrer probably beats Cilic, but I’m not sure he’ll be quite up to form right now.
Wawrinka dominated Simon this year on clay, and given Simon’s poor recent form, if Stan pulls his game together he’s a heavy favorite to reach the quarterfinals.
Murray d. Anderson
Murray has a pair of h2h wins over Anderson this year and dominates the h2h overall, given his current form and style of play, one of the best returners in the game should beat one of the best servers.
Berdych d. Gasquet
Berdych has won his last three matches against Gasquet, including two wins this season. Gasquet may well be in better form, but I have to go with the consistent Berdych to reach the quarters.
Federer d. Isner
The world #2 is 3-0 on hard courts against Isner, and though an in-form Isner may challenge Federer and push him to tiebreaks, with the way Federer has played this summer you have to make him the favorite at this stage.
Picking the rest of the way
Djokovic d. Nadal
Cilic d. Dolgopolov
Murray d. Wawrinka
Federer d. Berdych
Djokovic is simply a better player than Rafa right now, especially on a hard court, and the same goes for Federer as he always dominates Berdych these days, with both of the top seeds appearing favorites for the semifinals.
Murray leads the h2h with Wawrinka by a close 8-6 and Wawrinka has won the last two meetings, including at the 2013 US Open. Wawrinka could well end Murray’s quest at a second US Open, and a first Grand Slam title this season but Andy is in some of the best form of his career and I see him reaching the semis.
Regardless of who he faces in the quarters, Ferrer’s elbow injury should help Cilic defend a large amount of his points from last season, and I see him getting past Dolgopolov, Tsonga, or Monfils.
Semis: Djokovic d. Cilic
Murray d. Federer
Djokovic shouldn’t be stopped in his quest for the final, and he consistently defeats Cilic. Murray has lost his last five meetings against Federer, including two this season and a match in Cincy, but they constantly play close and competitive tennis, and in best of five, a fit and fresh Murray at the US Open should pull off a minor upset in the battle for world #2.
Final: Djokovic d. Murray
Djokovic is the worlds best player in hard court tennis at the moment, and though he fell to Murray in a competitive Montreal final, he’s consistently been able to outwork and disarm the UK #1 when they meet at Grand Slams. Djokovic isn’t a lock for the title, but he’s a strong favorite.
Formerly top 25 Frenchman Benoit Paire, now 26, captured his maiden ATP title on clay in Bastad, Sweden as the talent, known for his erratic and streaky play, caught fire this week. Paire beat Spanish veteran Tommy Robredo 7-6(7) 6-3 as he saved the two break points he faced, holding serve all match as his elite backhand pushed the Robredo back.
It’s been a long road back to the top 50 for Paire, but hopefully he’ll find staying power this time, as his abilities were never in doubt. He started the week with a straight set win over Markus Eriksson and then he really picked up form, upsetting top seed David Goffin, and Denis Istomin with ease before shocking Pablo Cuevas in straights to reach the final. Paire was dominant all week, not dropping a set, and still poses a dark horse threat in ATP events to come if he continues to play like he did in Bastad.
Robredo played well to reach the final as his #2 seed would suggest, he didn’t drop a set against Albert Ramos, Paul-Henri Mathieu or the young gun Alex Zverev en oute to the final. At 33 Robredo remains in the top 25 and continues to be a threat to win smaller tournaments.
In doubles Jeremy Chardy and the serve and volleyer Lukasz Kubot won a close doubles final over Colombian’s Robert Farah and Juan Sebastian Cabal.
Dominic Thiem captured his second title of the season, and the second of his career (both on clay, both ATP 250 events, the other coming in Nice), with an underdog run in Umag, Croatia. The talented Austrian had to battle hard this week, and his 6-4 6-1 victory over Joao Sousa, who featured in his second ATP final this season, was perhaps his easiest win of the week.
Thiem won his first two matches in part by retirement, Dusan Lajovic decided he couldn’t continue with Thiem up 6-1 3-1, and his countryman Andreas Haider-Maurer collapsed up a set and retired 6-7 6-1 3-0 down. Thiem then had one more tough task ahead of him to reach the final, the talented Gael Monfils. Monfils got off to a great start in the match and was flawlessly transitioning from defense to offense in the first set, however Thiem turned it around and eventually won 1-6 6-3 6-1 in a rollercoaster match that is common for Monfils. The Austrian with his extremely visible young gun hair cut continues to rise up the ATP rankings and has especially shown his abilities on clay.
Sousa the Portugese #1 caught fire this week like he did in Geneva previously on clay, he rolled past Toni Androic and Andreas Seppi, neither of whom put up much resistance then upset Fabio Fognini in a third set tiebreak and Roberto Bautista Agut from a set down. He likewise has shown talent, but consistency will be required fo h im to reach the next level.
Maximo Gonzalez and Andre Sa took the doubles title over Mariusz Frystenberg and Santiago Gonzalez.
Bernard Tomic put his personal problems aside and won a deserved second title in Bogota, Tomic was the most talented player on paper in the field, and he continues to demonstrate solid, and surprisingly consistent play on hard courts this year. Tomic put on a serving clinic in the final against Adrian Mannarino winning it 6-1 3-6 6-2, as his game drifted in the second set but otherwise he controlled the match on his racquet against the in-form Frenchman as they both played junkball tennis.
Bernie found it to be a tough go of things in his opening match as Adrian Menendez-Maceiras took the first set, but he bounced back, proving he’s not “Tomic the tank engine” as much this year, winning the next two frames and following that match up with a routine win over Tatsuma Ito. He then played a nailbiter of a match against the serve and volleyer Michael Berrer, Berrer took a second set tiebreak to force a third set, and then pushed the match to a third set tiebreak that Tomic took 7-3.
Mannarino beat Rajeev Ram in straights, Malek Jaziri in 3 sets, after a breadstick first set and defending finalist Ivo Karlovic in two impressive tiebreaks. The Frenchman has had a career year this year and is rising up the rankings under the radar, he’s also fun to watch.
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.
Murray, Hewitt, and Rublev Star in Weekend Davis Cup Action Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The Davis Cup had some exciting ties over the weekend as young guns, veterans, and a few top players starred in the action worldwide. Here is a recap of everything worth noting that went down.
Australia, Great Britain, Belgium and Argentina Advance From World Group Quarterfinals
The most anticipated tie of the weekend was between team GB and France at London Queen’s club on grass, and it did not disappoint as an emotional Andy Murray single handedly carried his team to a 3-1 victory in the tie. Murray had a part in all three of the needed wins for the players sporting the Union Jack, he beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga with ease on Friday, won a crucial doubles point with his brother Jamie in 4 sets on Saturday, and then closed out the tie with a win against Gilles Simon after dropping the first set. Simply put, the French team didn’t perform up to the level needed to defeat Murray, as their depth couldn’t beat the British star power.
James Ward lost the other rubber to Simon on Friday as he couldn’t repeat his Davis Cup heroics of previous ties.
The next opponent for the British will be their Commonwealth partners Australia, as the green and gold clawed back from 0-2 down on Friday against Kazakhstan and relied on the steady veteran presence of Lleyton Hewitt to push them into the semis. The Aussie young guns Thanasi Kokkinakis and Nick Kyrgios both played poorly with the pressure on Friday, Kokkinakis failed to win a set against the veteran Mikhail Kukushkin on grass, while Kyrgios lost a 4 setter to Aleksandr Nedovyesov, and stated after that he wasn’t sure he wanted to be there playing DC.
Aussie captain Wally Masur, and Captain in waiting Lleyton Hewitt seemed to take that statement to heart, as Hewitt stepped up himself in his final year as a pro player. The veteran took part in the doubles rubber with the big serving Sam Groth and won it over Nedovyesov and Andrey Golubev, and then Groth beat Kukushkin in four sets, and Hewitt closed out Nedovyesov in straights to win the tie. He’s struggled all year in singles, but in what could have been his final Davis Cup match, Hewitt played fantastic, and proved why he’s one of the most tenacious battlers the game will ever see.
GB vs. Australia could well be something special with Hewitt, Murray, the Aussie young guns with a chance to redeem themselves, and a pro British crowd filling the stands in the UK as they look for a spot in the Davis Cup final.
The fatally weakened teams of Serbia and Canada both slumped to defeat against Argentina and Belgium respectively, Team Serbia lacked Novak Djokovic and on the road in Argentina on clay they clearly struggled without his talent and leadership. Leonardo Mayer and Federico Delbonis scored singles wins on Friday over Filip Krajinovic and Viktor Troicki, Delbonis’ win coming from two sets to love down, and then on Saturday Mayer and Carlos Berlocq clinched the tie with a routine win over Troicki/Nenad Zimonjic. The dead rubbers resulting in the tie ending 4-1.
Team Canada was without their injured stars Vasek Pospisil and Milos Raonic and without their big serving, they were whitewashed 5-0 by an undersized Belgian team on clay in Belgium. The Canadian team was uncomfortable on the slow surface, as Steve Darcis beat veteran journeyman Frank Dancevic in four sets,and David Goffin rolled young gun Filip Peliwo in straights. The tie was then clinched by Ruben Bemelmans/Kimmer Coppejans who beat the veteran rock of Daniel Nestor, and Adil Shamasdin in the doubles tie. Coppejans and Darcis beat Dancevic and Peliwo in the dead rubbers to complete the rout.
Argentina will travel to Belgium in an interesting tie that will decide the other finalist spot.
Russia, India among teams with chance at 2016 World Group Participation
Group 1 ties also took place across the globe and the biggest story was Russia toppling a B-list Spanish Armada to book their spot in the world group playoffs. The Spanish team, led by veteran Tommy Robredo, got off to a good start on indoor hard on the Pacific coast city of Vladivostok far on the Asian side of Russia. Robredo beat young gun Andrey Rublev in straights, making Rublev extremely flustered, and Pablo Andujar beat Karen Khachanov also in straights for a 2-0 lead. However it was clear the Russians had more team unity and spirit, while the Spanish, with turmoil in their federation and a recent change in coaches, couldn’t seal the deal. Evgeny Donskoy and Konstantin Kravchuk beat Marc Lopez/David Marrero, one of the top doubles teams in the world in a shocking five set Saturday upset. On Sunday Donskoy upset Robredo in 4 sets, and then Rublev was the hero, winning a surprisingly routine 5th rubber over Andujar. After some time in the wilderness, Russia, a nation with a strong history in tennis, is close to returning to the top tier of the Davis Cup, while Spain will spend another year away from the spotlight.
Also advancing from Europe’s group 1 are the Netherlands, Poland, and Slovakia. The Dutch upset Austria on the road and on clay, as Dominic Thiem choked away a ton of break points to hand Thiemo De Bakker an opening rubber win in five sets, and though Andreas Haider-Maurer steadied the ship with a win over Robin Haase to make the tie 1-1, Haase and Jean-Julien Rojer won the doubles over Jurgen Melzer/Oliver Marach, and then Haase beat a disoriented Thiem in straights to clinch. The tie ended 3-2 as the Austrians won the dead rubber, but all the same it was a surprisingly clutch performance from a Dutch team made up of well known headcases, while the young gun Thiem failed under pressure and now has a lot to think about.
The Poles won 3-1 over Ukraine, their team had more depth and it showed on indoor hard in Poland. Alex Dolgopolov of Ukraine won the opening rubber over Jerzy Janowicz in straights, but Michal Przysiezny scored a minor upset in straights over Sergiy Stakhovsky, Lukasz Kubot and Marcin Matkowski beat Dolgopolov and Denys Molchanov in double, and Janowicz closed out the tie with a four set win over Stakhovsky.
Slovakia went 1-0 down on the road against Romania on clay,as Marius Copil beat Norbert Gombos in a thrilling 12-10 5th set tiebreak, but then they rolled off three consecutive rubber wins to clinch the tie between the two former Eastern Bloc nations. Martin Klizan beat Adrian Ungur and Copil in singles, and in between Andrej Martin/Igor Zelejnay upset Florin Mergea/Horia Tecau, a top 5 doubles team, to win the pivotal doubles rubber, as the tie again ended 3-2 with a Romanian dead rubber win.
In Asia’s group 1 Uzbekistan and India were winners, as expected. Denis Istomin carried his Uzbek team with a doubles rubber win partnering with Farrukh Dustov, and two singles wins over South Korea, as Hyeon Chung, the young gun leading the Korean team, came down injured in the 4th and decisive rubber. India beat New Zealand despite the best efforts of Michael Venus and company, Somdev Devvarman recovered from a five set loss from two sets up on Friday in singles, and beat Marcus Daniell on Sunday, while Yuki Bhambri was key as he scored two singles wins over Jose Statham and Venus, his routine win over Venus in a live fifth rubber.
In the America’s group 1 on clay, Colombia slipped past Uruguay 3-2, and the Dominican Republic slipped past Ecuador 3-1(3-2). Alejandro Gonzalez went a key 2-0 in singles as Pablo Cuevas’s Uruguay came up just short. Pablo and his brother Martin played all the matches for Uruguay, winning the doubles rubber and the 4th rubber (P. Cuevas d. Giraldo) to force a live fifth rubber from 2-0 down at the start of Saturday, but Gonzalez closed out Martin for the win. Victor Estrella did what Andy Murray and Denis Istomin did, carrying the load for the DR even at his age as they beat a weak Ecuador team that lacked any sort of top player. Estrella won the 1st, and 4th rubbers, along with the doubles rubber.
Results from Group 2 as Dimitrov and Sousa star in wins
Chile blanked Mexico 5-0 in the Americas’ group 2, Pakistan will face Taiwan in the 3rd round of round 2 in Asia, and in Europe it will be Portugal vs. Belarus and Hungary vs. Bulgaria. Of note, Grigor Dimitrov played for Bulgaria this weekend (they won 5-0 over Luxembourg) and Joao Sousa ensured the Fins lost 4-1, they were led by veteran Jarkko Nieminen.
2015 ATP Draw Challenge Week 15 (Estoril, Munich, and Istanbul) Staff, Tennis Atlantic
A trio of clay 250s in Europe are on the offering this week, and here are the picks of our experts, to compliment the rest of our full week of credentialed media coverage.
2015 Estoril Open Predictions
Steen Kirby’s picks
Round 2 matches: Lopez vs. Haase, Krajinovic vs. Ramos, Robredo vs. Carreno Busta, Montanes vs. Muller, Gasquet vs. De Schepper, Almagro vs. L. Mayer, Coric vs. Sousa, Garcia-Lopez vs. Anderson Quarterfinals: Lopez vs. Ramos, Robredo vs. Muller, Gasquet vs. Almagro, Coric vs. Garcia-Lopez Semifinals: Ramos vs. Robredo, Almagro vs. Coric Final: Robredo vs. Almagro Champion: Almagro
Niall Clarke’s picks
Round 2 matches: Lopez vs. Haase, Gonzalez vs. Kyrgios, Robredo vs. Carreno Busta, Montanes vs. Muller, Gasquet vs. De Schepper, Almagro vs. L. Mayer, Coric vs. Sousa, Garcia-Lopez vs. Anderson Quarterfinals: Lopez vs. Kyrgios, Robredo vs. Muller, Gasquet vs. Almagro, Sousa. vs. Garcia-Lopez Semifinals: Lopez vs. Robredo, Gasquet vs.Garcia-Lopez Final: Robredo vs. Gasquet Champion: Gasquet
Joe Craven’s picks
Round 2 matches: Lopez vs. Haase, Krajinovic vs. Kyrgios, Robredo vs. Carreno Busta, Montanes vs. Silva, Gasquet vs. Elias, Almagro vs. L. Mayer, Chardy vs. Sousa, Garcia-Lopez vs. Anderson Quarterfinals: Lopez vs. Kyrgios, Robredo vs. Montanes, Gasquet vs. Almagro, Chardy vs. Garcia-Lopez Semifinals: Lopez vs. Robredo, Almagro vs. Garcia-Lopez Final: Robredo vs. Almagro Champion: Almagro
Robredo is a consensus pick to reach the final, but nobody has him winning it, as Almagro-Gasquet is a pivotal quarterfinal matchup, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez is also expected to do well.
2015 BMW Open by FWU AG Predictions
Steen Kirby’s picks
Round 2 matches: Murray vs. Struff, Stakhovsky vs. F. Mayer, Bautista Agut vs. Stepanek, Estrella vs. Tipsarevic, Kohlschreiber vs. A. Zverev, Bolelli vs. Goffin, Fognini vs. Thiem, Andujar vs. G. Melzer Quarterfinals: Murray vs. Mayer, Bautista Agut. vs Estrella, Kohlschreiber vs. Goffin, Fognini vs. Andujar Semifinals: Murray vs. Bautista Agut, Kohlschreiber vs. Fognini Final: Murray vs. Kohlschreiber Champion: Murray
Niall Clarke’s picks
Round 2 matches: Murray vs. M. Zverev, Stakhovsky vs. Rosol, Bautista Agut vs. Stepanek, Estrella vs. Tomic, Kohlschreiber vs. A. Zverev, Bolelli vs. Goffin, Fognini vs. Pospisil, Andujar vs. G. Melzer Quarterfinals: Murray vs. Rosol, Bautista Agut. vs Tomic, Kohlschreiber vs. Goffin, Fognini vs. Andujar Semifinals: Murray vs. Bautista Agut, Kohlschreiber vs. Fognini Final: Bautista Agut vs. Kohlschreiber Champion: Kohlschreiber
Joe Craven’s picks
Round 2 matches: Murray vs. Struff, Stakhovsky vs. Rosol, Bautista Agut vs. Dustov, Estrella vs. Tipsarevic, Kohlschreiber vs. A. Zverev, Bolelli vs. Goffin, Fognini vs. Pospisil, Andujar vs. G. Melzer Quarterfinals: Murray vs. Rosol, Bautista Agut. vs Estrella, Kohlschreiber vs. Goffin, Fognini vs.Andujar Semifinals: Murray vs. Bautista Agut, Kohlschreiber vs. Fognini Final: Murray vs. Fognini Champion: Murray
With the withdrawal of Monfils, Fognini or Kohlschreiber should reach the final from the bottom half, while Murray and RBA will fight it out in the top half.
2015 TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Open Predictions
Steen Kirby’s picks
Round 2 matches: Federer vs. Ilhan, Gimeno-Traver vs. Nedovyesov, Giraldo vs. Rublev, Darcis vs. Schwartzman, Bellucci vs. Paire, Kuznetsov vs. Cuevas, Haider-Maurer vs. Kokkinakis, Golubev vs. Dimitrov Quarterfinals: Federer vs. Gimeno-Traver, Giraldo vs. Darcis, Paire vs. Cuevas, Haider-Maurer vs. Dimitrov Semifinals: Federer vs. Giraldo, Paire vs. Dimitrov Final: Federer vs. Dimitrov Champion: Federer
Niall Clarke’s picks
Round 2 matches: Federer vs. Ilhan, Gimeno-Traver vs. Kukushkin, Giraldo vs. Rublev, Melzer vs. Schwartzman, Bellucci vs. Paire, Gabashvili vs. Cuevas, Haider-Maurer vs. Lajovic, Golubev vs. Dimitrov Quarterfinals: Federer vs. Kukushkin, Giraldo vs. Schwartzman, Paire vs. Cuevas, Haider-Maurer vs. Dimitrov Semifinals: Federer vs. Giraldo, Paire vs. Dimitrov Final: Federer vs. Dimitrov Champion: Federer
Joe Craven’s picks
Round 2 matches: Federer vs. Ilhan, Gimeno-Traver vs. Kukushkin, Giraldo vs. Rublev, Melzer vs. Schwartzman, Bellucci vs. Paire, Kuznetsov vs. Cuevas, Dodig vs. Lajovic, Golubev vs. Dimitrov Quarterfinals: Federer vs. Gimeno-Traver, Giraldo vs. Schwartzman, Bellucci vs. Cuevas, Dodig vs. Dimitrov Semifinals: Federer vs. Schwartzman, Bellucci vs. Dimitrov Final: Federer vs. Bellucci Champion: Federer
2015 ATP Estoril Preview Steen Kirby and Manuel Traquete, Tennis Atlantic
For the second year in a row, Tennis Atlantic will have Manuel Traquete reporting on all the happenings at the Estoril open, which has a new location this year, and has been titled the Millennium Estoril Open with a new ownership and management group. It’s still a 250 on red clay, and Portugal’s only ATP event.
2015 ATP Estoril Preview
Millennium Estoril Open ATP World Tour 250 Estoril, Portugal April 27-May 3, 2015 Prize Money: € 439,405
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Feliciano Lopez (12)
2: Kevin Anderson (17)
3: Tommy Robredo (20)
4: Leonardo Mayer (25)
The seed cutoff is 45, as the Estoril Open has three top 20 players headlining the field, it may be not be star studded at the top, but it’s a balanced field overall.
A rising young gun, and next gen star, against an experienced, mid-level dirtballer, describes this matchup. Kyrgios doesn’t have a lot of experience on clay, and it’s by far his worst surface, in fact he lost to another next-gen star, Elias Ymer in Barcelona in a third set tiebreak, Ramos comes off a disappointing loss to Pablo Andujar, but he qualified and Monte Carlo, and his form has been relatively good this year, all be it flaky. Kyrgios has more talent, but Ramos’ skill on clay should give him the short term advantage to win this match, as Kyrgios works on developing his clay court abilities.
(6)Jeremy Chardy vs. Borna Coric
Chardy defeated Coric in four sets at the Australian Open this year, but the teenage Croat will look to get his revenge on clay. He comes off a round 2 loss to Sergiy Stakhovsky in Bucharest, and his last two losses have been gut punch three setters (to Ivo Karlovic in Bucharest, and Alex Dolgopolov in Monte Carlo), now he will look to right the ship against Chardy, who reached a quarterfinal in Houston on clay, and lost to Federer in MC. Chardy is decent on clay, and he’s one of those reliable mid-tier players that stays at the ATP level, but doesn’t quite have enough in him to challenge for titles. This is the type of match Coric should win if he is to break through and get himself into the top 40 by the end of the year, and I do have him winning this one.
Top seed Feliciano Lopez, who has not played well on clay the past two weeks, is in grave danger of going out in his opening match, presuming Robin Haase is able to defeat Ricardas Berankis, who is riding a three match losing streak, in round 1. Haase has beaten Lopez twice on clay, and could do so for a third time, though his form is unpredictable, and in fact the form of both players is. Though Lopez has struggled in Houston and Barcelona, Haase is not a trustworthy player, and thus Flopez should be favored for the quarters.
The Kyrgios/Ramos winner will have an inside track to reach the quarters below Lopez, as they will face the winner of Filip Krajinovic/Alejandro Gonzalez. Krajinovic comes off a challenger semi on clay, while Gonzalez has lost two straight matches. I have Ramos beating Krajinovic, and then Lopez to reach the semis. He’s 2-0 against Lopez, and those were hard court wins, on clay, he should actually be the superior player as their seems to be a matchup issue there.
Tommy Robredo will open with a qualifier or Pablo Carreno Busta. Robredo comes off the quarters in Barcelona and is 4-2 in his last two tournaments on clay (Monte Carlo the other), additionally, he’s 3-0 against PCB (who hasn’t won a match since Rio in February (7 straight losses), so look for Robredo in the quarters. In those quarters, he could face Gilles Muller, who hasn’t won an ATP match on clay since 2012, or perhaps faded veteran Albert Montanes, a 34 year old pensioner who was formerly reliable but hasn’t won consecutive matches since Quito. Montanes opens with a qualifier, in a section a qualifier could bust open, while Muller will play wild card Frederico Ferreira Silva of Portugal (20). I have Muller in the quarters, losing to the more accomplished clay courter Robredo in my own bracket, though Montanes may have something left in the tank.
Kevin Anderson vs. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez is likely to be the most intriguing second round matchup, Garcia-Lopez comes off a his second ATP title of the season in Bucharest, where he found form, and though fatigue may play a factor, I’d still favor him to defeat Anderson on a clay court. GGL opens with a qualifier, and Anderson has two previous hard fought hard court wins against the versatile Spaniard. Anderson last played in Houston where he reached the semis with a pair of solid wins.
The winner of GGL/Anderson will have to deal with the strongest section of the draw, as home favorite Joao Sousa, the Portugese number 1, opens against wild card Rui Machado, a former top 70 player, who has seen his ranking fall outside the top 200 at 31 years of age. Sousa will face the winner of Chardy/Coric, and Coric-Sousa will be another huge second round match, should it take place. That contest looms large, and Sousa is 2-2 on clay in Europe so far. I personally have Coric into the quarters but it’s a difficult pick.
I also have Coric beating Garcia-Lopez (and I feel Sousa would too) simply due to the fatigue factor, if Anderson wins however, he could well reach the semis.
4 seed Leonardo Mayer will get a difficult match against Nicolas Almagro Round 2, presuming Almagro beats washed up journeyman Stephane Robert, who is playing under a protected ranking. Almagro is 2-0 in the h2h against Mayer, and Mayer is struggling, at least to an extent right right now, while Almagro was a semifinalist in Buenos Aires, and a quarterfinalist in Casablanca and Sao Paulo. Look for the veteran former top 20 Spanish fighter to reach the quarters and setup a big match against Richard Gasquet, who is also coming back from injury this week. Gasquet should be able to ease in against Marinko Matosevic, who struggles on clay, and then defeat Gastao Elias, a Portugese wild card, or a qualifier. Almagro has beaten Gasquet twice on clay (3-2 h2h overall) and it should be a close match, however I give the slightest of edges to Nico given Gasquet’s lack of matchplay as of late, and the adjustment to clay.
I have the unseeded Almagro taking the title this week, thus he’s the obvious dark horse pick, he has a h2h edge in most of his possible matchups, and this draw isn’t that imposing. Almagro has been a top player before, and the 29 year old has the ability to impose himself on this field if he plays well. He has 12 previous ATP titles, and has reached 9 additional ATP finals, all of those have come on clay.
Semis: Robredo d. Ramos
Almagro d. Coric
Robredo is 2-1 on clay against Ramos, and likely in better form, Almagro should also have an edge on clay against Coric, though that match could go either way.
Final: Almagro d. Robredo
Robredo is in theory in better form, but Almagro has a remarkable 7-1 h2h record, including two wins this year against his fellow Spanish veteran, with that wide of a h2h gap, Almagro is my pick to win the title in Estoril this week.
2015 ATP Monte Carlo Preview, Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The spring European clay court season begins in earnest with the third masters event of the season, the Monte-Carlo Masters in the wealthy seaside playground of Monte-Carlo, Monaco. It’s not a mandatory masters, but all the same most of the top players are participating.
2015 ATP Monte Carlo Preview
Monte Carlo Rolex Masters ATP World Tour Masters 1000
April 12-April 19, 2014
Prize Money: €3,288,530
Top 8 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Novak Djokovic (1)
2: Roger Federer (2)
3: Rafael Nadal (5)
4: Milos Raonic (6)
5: David Ferrer (7)
6: Tomas Berdych (8)
7: Stan Wawrinka (9)
8: Marin Cilic (10)
15 of the top 20 are in the MC field, with notable exceptions Andy Murray, Kei Nishikori and Feliciano Lopez.
AHM and Gulbis have a split h2h record, but shockingly AHM beat Gulbis on hard court, which is not his surface, and Gulbis has the win on clay, both matches being competitive. Gulbis is higher ranked and the seed here, but this is not as much of a mismatch as it seems on paper. AHM has had a relatively good season on clay, as he comes off a quarterfinal showing in Casablanca and also reached the semis in Rio. Gulbis has only won 1 match this year, hasn’t played on clay, and though he posted a remarkable 17-5 record on the surface last year, he’s not playing anywhere near that level at the moment, with his game entirely lacking confidence and belief at the moment. In theory a return to clay could help Gulbis post resurgent results, but I’m picking Haider-Maurer to continue Ernests misery this season and advance into round 2.
Dominic Thiem vs. (WC)Lucas Pouille
Thiem is the favorite and should win this, but both players are 21 year old young guns with great promise and it’s an intriguing matchup. Thiem started the season off slow but still has two quarterfinals, including one in Miami, and he went 16-7 in clay court tournaments last year (12-7 at the ATP level) after going 46-12 on clay in 2013 at all levels. Pouille went 23-14 on clay last year, primarily at the challenger level and has an ATP semi (Auckland) and a challenger semi from last week on his 2015 resume. He’s an intriguing talent who can hit a wide variety of shots, especially on his forehand side, and he gave Gael Monfils quite the match in Australia. Thiem likely wins in straights, but enjoy it if it goes three sets, presently he’s the more well rounded and accomplished player, and his form in Miami bodes well for his clay court season.
Viktor Troicki vs. Martin Klizan
ATP Casablanca champion Martin Klizan will take on Troicki, a player four years his senior but similar in ranking and ability. Troicki beat Klizan in Sydney this year (2-2 h2h) and they have never met on clay. Troicki went just 1-2 on the hard court masters swing in the US but he has two quarterfinals and an ATP title (Sydney) on his record this year. Klizan just posted his best tournament of the season with the title in Monte Carlo. Last year Klizan went 23-6 on clay while Troicki went 25-4, though that was almost exclusively at the challenger level. Both are accomplished and talented, and given fatigue factor, I give Troicki a slight edge to advance.
These two ATP level American men have played twice before, with a split 1-1 h2h. This will be their first meeting on clay. Johnson comes off a loss to Sam Querrey in the second round of Houston and has slowed down a bit after a strong start to his season that featured three ATP quarterfinals and a third round showing at the AO. Isner by contrast caught fire after a terrible start to his season and went 6-2 between Indian Wells and Miami, only losing to Novak Djokovic twice. He suffered a shocking hangover loss to Teymuraz Gabashvili in Houston, but still he’s been able to maintain a positive clay court record over the past two years (8-5 in 2013 6-5 in 2014). Johnson comparably is still learning the surface, and thus Isner is the favorite but I could see this match going either way.
(16)Tommy Robredo vs. Andreas Seppi
Robredo is the higher ranked seed but he has not had a particularly strong season and he comes off two match losing streak coming into Monte Carlo, after previously going just 2-3 on the clay court golden swing. That said he’s still an accomplished veteran with great acumens on clay. Seppi has slowed down after a hot start to his season where he reached the final in Zagreb and also the round of 16 at the AO with a win over Federer. He’s just 3-4 since Zagreb and hasn’t had a positive tournament record on clay since 2012. h2h wise though Seppi is 2-1 on clay with a long h2h history (Robredo has won the last three meetings, one on clay, and two on hard courts both of which were last season). Given Robredo’s relative dearth of form this season, I’m going with Seppi in an upset.
(9)Grigor Dimitrov vs. Fernando Verdasco
Dimitrov is higher ranked but he’s struggled all season long, while Verdasco has been hot as of late. The Spanish veteran lefty reached the semis in Houston and is 6-3 over his last three tournaments with a win over Nadal in Miami. The h2h is 1-1 with Verdasco havng the clay court win, and both of their prior matches went 3 sets. Verdasco went 13-7 in 2014 on clay and 14-9 in 2013, while Dimitrov went 12-4 and 11-6, as this is a hard matchup to parse.That said, with the jetlag factor from Houston, I give Dimitrov the slightest of edges to advance and find some form on the red dirt after a poor winter/spring hard court season.
Borna Coric vs. Alex Dolgopolov
The 18 year old Coric is a dangerous talent and is likely to do damage on clay this year, that said he did not get the best of draw luck when he drew the in-form Dolgopolov in the opening round. Coric went 8-8 on clay in 2014 after going 14-4 in 2013 while Dolgopolov went 9-9 and 4-8 over the past two seasons on the surface, as fast surfaces likely favor his aggressive approach to tennis. That said Dolgo is 9-4 in his last four tournaments with three of those losses coming at the hands of top 10 players Nishikori, Raonic and Djokovic. He has two ATP quarterfinals in that span and a round of 16 in Miami, where he nearly beat Djokovic. Given his gilbert’s syndrome, Dolgopolov is always unpredictable, but I give him a slight edge to advance over Coric in this must see matchup that will feature big hitting.
Novak Djokovic, one of two Monte Carlo champions not named Rafael Nadal since 2005, and the world number 1 will start off against Denis Istomin or Albert Ramos. Ramos is a qualifier, and should be favored to beat the lucky loser Istomin. He suffered a shock loss in Casablanca round 1 but qualified with relative ease in MC, and he also gave Djokovic a good match on hard court in Indian Wells. Clay is his better surface, but still its Novak Djokovic, so at minimum Novak should get a decent test before the later rounds but a miracle can’t be expected from Ramos. Similarly I expect Djokovic to roll past either the Gulbis/AHM winner or Bernard Tomic. Tomic got past Lukas Rosol in 3 sets in one of the three Sunday main draw matches. He’s had a great season but he’s not a clay courter by any means, so should he beat AHM/Gulbis (AHM actually has a good chance at the third round) I still don’t expect him to get a set off of Novak.
Marin Cilic will open with Florian Mayer, as both of these players are on the comeback from injury path. Mayer had been out for 13 months, while Cilic was out for about 4, and did not play well in his comeback match against Juan Monaco in Indian Wells. Funky Flo just beat Mikhail Youzhny, who is in a terrible slump, on Sunday and the 31 year old is an accomplished clay court player who went 18-10 on clay in 2013, after missing the 2014 clay court season. That said Cilic went 11-6 on the surface last year, and he’s a more talented player all-around, so he should advance and find his form on the dirt.
However, the winner of this section is less likely to be Cilic, compared to the action at the top of it, with 11 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, a one time semifinalist in MC, and David Goffin. Goffin went a remarkable 28-5 on clay last year (mostly at the challenger level) while Tsonga went 10-5, and just played his comeback tournament in Miami where he won a round and lost to Gael Monfils. Presuming Tsonga beats current Houston finalist Sam Querrey, and Goffin beats qualifier Norbert Gombos, it will setup a marquee second round matchup. Their h2h is 2-1 in favor of Tsonga but they have never met on clay, Goffin is 3-1 in his last four matches after a slow start to his year and with Tsonga still working into things, I’m going with Goffin in an upset, as I have him beating Tsonga, and then Cilic to reach the quarterfinals. Goffin and Cilic have never met.
Rafael Nadal will open with the Thiem/Pouille winner, the 8 time MC champion hasn’t won the title since 2012, and he’s not near the player he once was as of late. No matter, he has only lost on clay since 2013 to Nicolas Almagro, David Ferrer, Novak Djokovic, Fabio Fognini (this year in Rio), and randomly, Horacio Zeballos. Though he isn’t the player he was, he’s still the king of clay, and he destroyed Thiem at the French Open last year, conceding just 7 games over three sets. Thiem is almost certain to outdo that performance, and I don’t write him off entirely, but Nadal still should be able to get the opening round win, if he doesn’t, the decline is real and worsening. After Thiem/Pouille, Nadal is likely to face Troicki/Klizan. though Isner/Johnson are also in this section. Klizan beat Nadal last year on a hard court, so this section of the draw contains danger for Nadal, but Troicki is most likely to be his opponent, and Nadal is 4-0 against him (though they haven’t met since 2010 and all the matches were on hard courts). As an aside Troicki is 3-1 against Isner and has a clay court h2h win, which is part of the reason why he should advance. Look for Nadal to beat Thiem and Troicki to reach the quarters.
David Ferrer, a one time finalist in Monte-Carlo, who has had a great season with three ATP titles, including one on clay in Rio, will open with the veteran Victor Estrella, who beat Simone Bolelli in an upset on Sunday. Ferrer should have little trouble defeating him, and also 10 seed Gilles Simon to setup a matchup with Nadal that should prove to be quite interesting. Look for Simon, a former semifinalist, to demolish wild card Benjamin Ballaret, and then get past a qualifier, either Denis Kudla or Benoit Paire. Paire, who qualified with ease, has been improving his results and working his way back up the rankings from the challenger tour, after previously losing focus and seeing his career go to ruins, but Simon is still a step up in level. Paire is actually 3-1 against Simon and will certainly have his chance, but they have never met on clay. Simon is 5-3 in his last 8 matches, and lost to Ferrer in routine fashion in Miami.
Roger Federer will open with Jeremy Chardy/Diego Sebastian Schwartzman in the opening round. Chardy comes off a quarterfinal showing on clay in Houston, while DSS qualified comfortably after a shock loss in Casablanca in the opening round. I favor the young Argentine to upset Chardy, but Federer should demolish him, like he did in Indian Wells a month ago. The four-time finalist and world number 2 should be in for a test against 14 seed Gael Monfils in the third round, presuming Monfils beats qualifier Andrey Kuznetsov and the Coric/Dolgopolov winner. Monfils against either Coric or Dolgopolov, is a must-watch match, and he’s 2-0 against Dolgopolov with both matches coming on hard court. He’s never played well in MC (4-8 career record), but he’s still in a good form and has yet to suffer an opening round loss this season, with 1 quarterfinal, a semifinal, a final and a round of 16 in Miami on his record. Monfils upset Federer in Davis Cup play last winter but Federer is 4-1 against him on clay in his career, and thus should have the advantage in what is an exciting matchup.
Defending champion Stan Wawrinka looms in the section above Federer, Wawrinka is in atrocious form at the moment with losses to non-top 20 players Robin Haase, Sergiy Stakhovsky, and Adrian Mannarino on his record in his past three tournaments. He hasn’t played a straight set match since Marseille, and was the walking dead in the spring hard court Masters tournaments.Thus, though he is 30-10 over the past two seasons on clay, and he’s the defending champion, I have him losing to Juan Monaco in a second round upset. Monaco, who is in great form, and has had a career resurgence as of late, after being left for dead rankings wise, opens with Jiri Vesely, who broke a losing streak and reached the semifinals in Casablanca. That match will be a good warm up for Wawrinka, and though he is 0-3 (0-2) on clay against the Swiss, he’s a tremendous 10-3 over his last three tournaments with a quarterfinal in Miami, a final in Buenos Aires on clay, and also before that a quarterfinal in Rio on clay. It’s one of the bolder upsets I’ve picked in a while, but Wawrinka doesn’t appear to be fixing what is wrong with his game at the moment and Monaco is an in-form player and a clean ball striker who is in the right place at the right time and should frustrate Wawrinka.
The Wawrinka/Monaco winner is due to face either Dimitrov/Verdasco or Fabio Fognini/Jerzy Janowicz in round 3. This is a stacked and interesting section, as either Dimitrov over Verdasco could make a run, as could Monaco of course. Fognini is only competent on clay these days, as the headcase hasn’t won a match on hard courts this year, but did reach the final in Rio on clay and beat Nadal. Nobody knows how he will play, and likewise Janowicz is an emotional player, who was very much struggling but did win a couple of rounds in Miami. Clay doesn’t suit his power game as well though, so Fognini should win but I have him losing to Dimitrov in the next round (and I feel Verdasco would beat him as well). Dimi and Fogna have a 1-1 h2h. Monaco and Dimitrov have a 3-1 h2h in favor of Monaco, though Dimitrov won their last meeting on clay in 2013. It’s a difficult match to pick, but again I’m going with form and picking Monaco as a quarterfinalist.
4 seed Milos Raonic, who is better on clay than he gets credit for (11-5 last year and 18-10 over the past two seasons), will face Joao Sousa or qualifier Edouard Roger-Vasselin in the second round. ERV is in great form after qualifying, as he’s 8-2 in his last 10 matches, while Sousa has lost three straight. The Portugese number one, being European, is perceived to be better on clay than he actually is (just 7-13 in 2014 on the surface), and I have ERV winning in an upset. Raonic is 2-1 against ERV and beat him on clay so thus Milos should be safe to reach the third round. After that it will be Seppi/Robredo or Adrian Mannarino/Marcel Granollers. Presuming my prediction holds, Seppi should beat Robredo, and then have an easier time against Mannarino/Granollers. Mannarino is in great form and has an ATP final, a semi, and two round of 16s in the srping hard court Masters on his resume with wins over Wawrinka, Gulbis, Fognini and Bautista-Agut this season, while Granollers is slumping and retired in his last match in Casablanca, however Granollers is far and above better on clay, and he may have enough of a surface edge to prevail. Raonic has a lone hard court h2h win over Seppi, and all the same, even though it could be close, look for the Canadian to prevail and reach the quarters, he’s proven to be able to avoid losses against all but the top players with how reliable his serve+forehand power game is, even on clay.
8 seed Tomas Berdych will open with Sergiy Stakhovsky/Pablo Carreno Busta, both players are struggling and PCB has just 1 win since the AO, though he’s a clay courter, while Stako, who prefers fast surfaces is 2-3 in his last five and went just 3-6 on clay last year. I see PCB breaking his losing streak to win that match but Berdych should crush him. Both Benjamin Becker and Roberto Bautista Agut are struggling as well, RBA has lost three straight including a loss in Houston, but still he went 13-6 on clay last year, and Becker is a fast surface player so he should win that match. Philipp Kohlschreiber has had an awful season and has yet to string together consecutive match wins, but he is still the favorite to reach the third round. His opening round opponent Mikhail Kukushkin went just 5-10 on clay last year and retired in his last match in Casablanca (though he upset Albert Ramos in the previous round), and he has a 1-0 h2h with the similarly struggling RBA. He’s an accomplished clay courter who compiled a 29-17 record on the surface over the past two seasons, still Berdych should dispatch him to reach the quarters (8-1 h2h on top of everything else). Berdych went 11-6 last year and 9-6 in 2013 on clay. The Czech has had a great season with two ATP finals (Doha and Rotterdam), the AO semis, quarters in Miami, and two semis in Dubai and Indian Wells.
Dark Horses: David Goffin, Dominic Thiem, Andreas Seppi, Juan Monaco
As mentioned if Goffin beats Tsonga he becomes a small favorite to reach the quarters over Cilic or perhaps Mayer, Djokovic should prove too much for him that but that would still be a great result. Thiem would have to stun Nadal, but I don’t count him out, and I figure he has as good of a chance as Benoit Paire does of beating Simon and Ferrer consecutively, should Thiem upset Nadal he very well could, and likely should reach his second straight Masters quarterfinal.
Seppi has to upset Robredo to get the wheels in motion, but if he does, he should reach the round of 16, and you never now with Raonic if the Italian can hang in there with his serve. Monaco has to get past Wawrinka, but I think he does that, and then also upsets the 9 seed Dimitrov to setup a match with Federer in the quarters.
Djokovic d. Goffin
Nadal d. Ferrer
Berdych d. Raonic
Federer d. Monaco
Djokovic beat Goffin in straights at the French in 2013, Ferrer upset Nadal at this same stage in Monte Carlo last year, and he very well could do so again, I want to pick that upset but I can’t bring myself to do so given Nadal has won all of their numerous other clay court meetings, given this is perhaps his best tournament, one has to think Nadal will find a way no matter the circumstance.
Berdych is better than Raonic on clay even with the 1-3 h2h (all hard court meetings), given his consistent play this season he has to be the favorite to reach another semi, and Federer should deal with Monaco (or Wawrinka/Dimitrov/Verdasco) without too much trouble.
Semis Djokovic d. Nadal
Federer d. Berdych
Nadal may be the king of clay, but he’s not the same player he was and the last four clay court matches between Djokovic and Nadal are a 2-2 split, including the 2013 final where Djokovic beat Nadal. Novak is the undisputed best player in the world right now, while Rafa has slipped from the top three and even with this being Monte Carlo, I don’t see it being an unreasonable pick to take Djokovic over Nadal at this stage in their careers, given the 2 out of 3 set format, Djokovic should be able to conjure a victory.
Federer-Berdych is another interesting matchup, and Federer is 3-0 in the clay court h2h. Berdych’s power can bother the maestro at times, but on clay, the advantage swings to the Swiss and thus he should prevail.
Final: Djokovic d. Federer
Once again Federer should fall short in the Monte Carlo final, what would be a fifth time. Djokovic just beat him in IW, and though Federer beat him in the MC semis last year, Djokovic won the previous two meetings before that on clay and their clay court h2h is just 4-3 in favor of Federer since 2006. Unless their are verifiable reasons to believe otherwise, going against the world number 1 to win a title seems like a mistake right now.
Tsonga wins comeback match, Dolgopolov, Djokovic thrill in Miami (Saturday Day 5 Miami OpenRecap) Esam Taha for Tennis Atlantic
Photo Credit: Esam Taha
The ATP side of the draw provided the primary highlights on an action packed Saturday at the 2015 Miami Open. Most of the top players advanced, as upsets were few and far between, meaning the fans will get the big name tennis that they wanted in the later rounds. With so many matches around the grounds, here is a handy synopsis.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga d. Tim Smyczek 6-4 3-6 6-3
The crowd gathered in anticipation in the main stadium to witness the return of the always entertaining Tsonga to the courts following his injury lay-off. This would be his first match in 2015, his last match was back in November of 2014 in the Davis Cup final when he lost to Stan Wawrinka in 4 sets. Tim Smyczek became a popular player this year after the amazing fight he put up against Rafael Nadal back in the Australian Open, especially related to the incredible moment of sportsmanship he displayed in a pivotal point during that match. Regardless it’s an opponent Jo would expect to beat, but of course after 4 months of not playing competitive tennis anything could happen, as the two fan favorite players met on Stadium court.
The Frenchman didn’t look rusty at all as he held with ease at the start, backed by an impressive serve that flummoxed Smyczek. Tim on the other hand didn’t look like he was dealing with pace of Tsonga’s groundstrokes very well, but regardless he would be able to hold serve the first few games. The first break would come at 3-3 in the 1st. Tim failed to keep up with the powerful Tsonga who was overpowering him in the rallies, and would get broken at 3-3. The Frenchman would continue his excellent serving as he consolidated the break to go up 5-4. A funny moment would present itself when Jo was serving for the set. the Frenchman would completely whiff a forehand on a short ball. Tsonga would then joke with the crowd as he pretended to not be able to catch the ball handed to him by the ballboy, he was in good spirits out there. The world # 13 would close out the set in style blasting a DTL backhand which Tim can only watch fly past him. The set was Tsonga’s 6-4.
Tsonga moved well in his return (Photo Credit Esam Taha)
The crowd would start to sense that Jo would continue to steamroll past the American in the 2nd, and with the way the Frenchman was serving it seemed so. The 2nd set began with both players holding serve, but Tim still didn’t look comfortable out there, as errors were flying off his racquet. He would appear to threaten Jo’s serve with a brilliant backhand pass only to follow it up with a silly unforced error, the story of the match for him at this point, all square at 2-2 in the second. Tim despite his inconsistent play was holding serve rather comfortably, he was hanging around and you could sense he just needed Jo to blink to turn things around. That’s exactly what would happen as Jo was serving at 3-2, the Frenchman would make a couple of unforced errors and just like that American would go up 4-2. At this point the pendulum was truly swinging as Tsonga was starting to lose focus and miss routine shots. Tim would hold at ease and go up 5-2, Jo was now serving to stay in the 2nd. The two players were starting to play some incredible points putting on a show in the main stadium, Tim’s lob would sail long forcing him to serve out the set himself. Jo would get a little help from the net-cord to generate a break point but Tim would save it. Jo was now uncharacteristically slicing everything back waiting for the American to make the mistake, however Tim would keep his composure and take the set at 6-3.
Photo Credit: Esam Taha
Tsonga would come out in the 3rd with a more intensity right off the bat, beautifully mixing up a cheeky drop shot with a forehand winner to the delight of the Miami crowd. The condition were unusual for Miami this time of year, relatively cold temperatures with a little bit of wind to spice things up. Both players would hold, 1-2 3rd set. Jo was definitely back to his 1st set form, playing a beauty of a cross court pass ending a marathon of a game to draw blood first in the 3rd, Tim meanwhile would let the wall behind him know how frustrated he was. Tsonga would continue serving efficiently to consolidate and go up 4-1 in the decider. At this point you got the feeling that it was all going to happen on the Frenchman’s racket, there was little Tim could do about it. Brimming with confidence, Tsonga would break again to get to just one game away from his first win in 2015. Jo would show no nerves as he serves out the match. The Frenchman was elated, jumping around waving to the crowd as the winner was announced. Even with rust, Tsonga had more raw talent than Smyczek and his serve, mixed with variety from the ground, were very effective weapons on the day.
Alexandr Dolgopolov d. Tommy Robredo 6-7(1) 6-3 7-5
Last year’s quarterfinalist in Miami, Alex Dolgopolov put on a spectacular showcase in his second round match with baselining, veteran Spaniard Tommy Robredo. Dolgo’s speed, shotmaking, and variation was on full display as he fired 33 winners and broke Robredo 6 times over the course of three long, and competitive sets. Dolgo got off to a fast start, breaking 2-0, but he couldn’t maintain the break, and likewise, Robredo failed to serve out the set 5-4 in the first, as he was broken back himself. At 6-5 Dolgo had a lone set point that he failed to convert, and then Robredo rose up, battling hard from the ground to take the first set tiebreak 7-1.
In the second, Dolgopolov recovered, securing a double break to take it 6-3, as he closed out the set with a break, something he had failed to do in the third set. The match was incredibly high quality, and positively intense throughout, as both players delighted spectators both in person, and in front of their video screens. The third set however, was something else, as both players rose to a level that made this match, the match of the tournament thus far. Similar to the previous two sets, an early break was found, as Robredo generated it and converted, but again, Dolgo would break back, and they would hold serve all the way to 4-4, as Robredo saved a lone break point to hold. The tennis from 4-4 in the third was magical, and defined everything great about the ATP game, and the sport itself. Dolgopolov committed himself to using athleticism to overcome the crafty Robredo, showing off his wheels, and his ability to create shots from all variety of court positions, as the highlight video below demonstrates. The tennis in this match was jaw dropping, and Dolgopolov broke in the final game for a 7-5 third set. It took him three match points, and on the final one, he drilled the ball from the whipping forehand side directly at Robredo who was approaching the net, drawing the error, and a match victory. These two fan favorite players were a delight to watch, and it was a must witness match.
Fans were treated to all shades of both Novak Djokovic and Martin Klizan, in their stadium court, night session clash. Djokovic got off to a fast start with the bagel, though Klizan was still showing signs of life, as none of the games within the set were love games, and he was hitting his forehand crisply. Even still, given the bakery products, it seemed Klizan might have thrown in the towel going into set 2, however, that was not the case as the Slovak recommitted himself. Klizan broke in the opening game to show he had his head in the game, and though Novak would break twice to go up 6-0 5-3, Kizan hit an amazing drop shot, and utillized power to break back at 15 against the world number 1. This sent the crowd into a frenzy, as they wanted to get more bang their buck, and though they appreciated Novak, it was clear most in the stadium wanted to see a third set.
Klizan, and Novak would give the crowd what they paid to see, as Klizan broke late, and then held, after saving two break points, for a 7-5 second set. It seemed Novak had gotten tense late in the second, and had taken his foot off the throat of his streaky opponent, who previously had beaten Rafael Nadal last fall in Beijing. Klian couldn’t conjure up that magic though, as Novak righted the ship, and was simply too firm from the baseline, redirecting the shots that Klizan wacked his way. Djokovic notched his second bakery product of the evening, taking the third 6-1, and he was pleased to have avoided a crisis in his opening match from Crandon Park.
Grigor Dimitrov d. Vasek Pospisil 6-2 6-2
Dimitrov won easily (Photo Credit: Esam Taha)
Dimitrov was coming off a rather disappointing early exit in Indian Wells, and clearly had the desire to make a deep run down in Miami. He would play the Canadian Vasek Pospisil, who has presently failed to matriculate into the player that many thought he could be. The 24 year olds would clash on the Stadium court, and Grigor would not waste anytime breaking the Canadian right out the gate, the Bulgarian looked like he was on a mission. He would jump to a 2-1 lead in the 1st, Pospisil meanwhile looked shaken up. Dimitov would continue putting in an efficient display of tennis with a stunning DTL backhand winner to get the 2nd break going up 4-1. As good as the Dimitrov was today Vasek looked completely out of sorts, his timing seemed to be off. Grigor would have a minor hiccup after sloppy start to the next game but would eventually string 4 points in a row to save double break point and consolidate the 2nd break. The world #11 would comfortably continue on to take the 1st set 6-2. The crowd was in a bit of lull, due to the lack of competitiveness in the match.
Photo Credit: Esam Taha
Vasek would start off the 2nd set looking just as shaky but eventually regain his composure to avoid getting broken right away. Pospisil was starting to play a bit better now but still not putting any sort of pressure on Grigor’s serve. Dimitrov was in the zone today, he was simply too good for the Canadian breaking him at 2-2 to take a 3-2 lead. That seemed to be the one that finally knocke all the fight out of Pospisil. It was one way traffic from there-on, with the Bulgarian winning all the remaining games to wrap up a convincing 6-2, 6-2 domination of VasekPospisil. He will be facing the big serving John Isner in the 3rd round which should prove to be a tougher test for him.
We caught up with Grigor after the match, he would speak about facing Isner the next round and talk candidly about the constant pressure he faces on tour.
Kei Nishikori d. Mikhail Youzhny 6-2 6-1
Kei blitzed the Colonel (Photo Credit: Esam Taha)
Day 6, in fact kicked off with a matchup between two players with quite contrasting career trajectories. Fans gathered in the Grandstand to watch the Japanese shotmaker Kei Nishikoti take on the veteran Russian Mikhail Youzhny. Nishikori is coming off an underwhelming performance in Indian Wells and looking to at least replicate the deep run he made here in Miami in 2014 which included beating Roger Federer before withdrawing due to injury. Meanwhile, the wheels on Youzhny’s career were rusting, as he only had two wins in 2015 coming into this one.
The very first game was a sign of things to come in this encounter as Youzhny struggled to hold serve right off the bat. He would face a break point before winning 3 straight points to get avoid the early break. In contrast, Nishikori would hold easily as the Russian was struggling to hit his spots sailing a couple of forehands long. Kei would pounce quickly. Youzhny’s groundstrokes weren’t on the same level as the Japanese, he would find himself facing triple break point. The veteran would stick a volley into the net to give Kei his first break as he stared up into the bright, Miami, sun. Nishikori would once again hold easily to consolidate and go up 3-1. Mikhail would finally start serving better, to hold, and keep the lead at a single break. Nishikori’s groundstrokes were looking as good as ever, bringing back memories of the match he played against Dimitrov in this same stadium a year ago. Youzhny still wouldn’t be able to find his rhythm as he continued making silly mistakes. This time it was an ill-advised poorly executed drop shot that would open up a double break opportunity for Kei. The Japanese was in unforgiving form as he converted the break points to take a 2 break lead 5-2. Youzhny with his back to the wall would take Kei to deuce but it would prove to be a futile attempt, the latter would hold his nerve, and take the set 6-2.
The match so far has been one-sided and even though the crowd was trying to urge Mikhail on, the Russian wasn’t responding. In fact he would kick off the 2nd set with back to back double faults. Mikhail would continue making unforced errors to give Kei 2 break points, causing him to yell something to himself in Russian, seeminly not of the positive sort. Kei on the other hand would fist pump as he converted the break point to take the lead right away. Youzhny would follow that game with probably his best tennis of the match, pushing Nishikori to 4 deuces on his service game. However even that effort wouldn’t be enough to break through.
Mikhail would eventually commit a couple of unforced errors as Kei hed and consolidated the break to go up 2-0. The crowd wanted to see a more competitive match but they were starting to feel this was going to be one way traffic. Nishikori would win 4 straight points on Youzhny’s serve to take go up 2 breaks, 4-1 in the 2nd set. The outcome was inevitable when Kei hit a couple of aces to consolidate the 2nd break and go up 5-1. The final game would actually prove to be entertaining marathon of 6 deuces but just like the rest of the match the Japanese would come out on top as he break for a 3rd time and claim the victory. Nishikori won it in straight sets in just over an hour.
We caught up with Kei after the match to give his insight on how he deals with the increasing number of defensive player on tour.
Americans Sock, and Isner, Frenchmen Simon, Monfils, and Chardy score successes in ATP singles, Bellucci wins late night thriller
American and French players both had good results in second round singles action on Saturday. Jack Sock continued his good form, winning a competitive first set over slumping Italian Fabio Fognini, before, as is almost expected at this point, Fognini tanked hard in the second, as the match ended 7-6 6-1 in anti-climatic fashion. John Isner dominated the Russian teenager Andrey Rublev 6-3 6-4, as Rublev had zero familiarity with Big John’s serve. He struggled to even get a racquet on the second serve of the American #1, and thus the result was never in question. Gilles Simon played graceful tennis in the third set and took out Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3 6-7 6-0, Kukushkin lost momentum early in the third, but Simon was brilliant from both the baseline, and the net, having lulled his opponent into a poor course of play. Jeremy Chardy won all but two games from 0-4 down in his match against Jurgen Melzer, as the Austrian may have injured himself, the final scoreline 6-4 6-1. Gael Monfils won a thriller against underdog Filip Krajinovic, 3-6 6-2 7-6. Monfils failed to convert four match point chances in the third set, but finally won the tiebreak to take out the pesky Serb.
After the match Monfils was asked about having to play his good friend Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in round 3.
Thomaz Bellucci won a late night thriller over Pablo Cuevas 2-6 6-2 7-5. The grandstand court was packed with fans of the Brazilian veteran, and though he got off to a slow start, 1-4 down in a short span of time, his passion showed as he battled back to make it a match against the higher ranked Cuevas. Bellucci took a nasty fall early in the second set, twisting his ankle, and was visibly grimacing in pain as he received a medical timeout and treatment for his fall, which primarily involved stretching and testing his ankle. However, instead of retiring, he was capable of continuing, and rather than merely dragging himself the rest of the way through, he rose up and broke Cuevas to go 2-1 up. This outraged a frustrated Cuevas, who yelled at him when they were crossing sides during the changeover, with some harsh words (in Spanish or Portuguese I’m not certain). As a result of this outburst, the fans really got behind Bellucci, and started to get into Cuevas head. Bellucci broke twice more in the second to force a third as things got messy for Cuevas.
In the third set, both players battled on serve to 5-5, and then Bellucci would score a crucial break, as his heavy hitting, primarily from the forehand side with spin, was pushing Cuevas back and putting him into an uncomfortable position to generate angles with his one-handed backhand. Serving for the match at 6-5, Bellucci got tight and went 0-30 down, but he played amazingly from that point, with two go for broke forehands that just about broke the sound barrier, and two untouchable serves to convert his lone match point opportunity of the long battle. The hitting was heavy, and though both players got tight and weren’t the most accurate, Bellucci was hitting the ball, perhaps the hardest I’ve ever seen from him, as the fans danced and cheered in the stands, having traveled to Crandon Park to see their national hero play against a fellow South American.
Other mens second round winners on the day, in straight sets, included David Ferrer, who didn’t mess around today, winning 6-1 6-1 over Federico Delbonis, Lukas Rosol, who continued his uptick in recent form with a 7-6 6-3 win over Alex Zverev, Alejandro Falla, who upset Ivo Karlovic 6-4 6-2 as the Croat didn’t have much game on the day, Milos Raonic, who comfortably rode his serve to a 6-1 6-4 win over Teymuraz Gabashvili, David Goffin, who shellacked Borna Coric 6-0 6-4, in a surprising scoreline, the Croat having a poor tournament this time out, and Juan Monaco, who extended the terrible form of Ernests Gulbis 6-2 6-4.
The winners in three sets in mens singles were Fernando Verdasco, who eased past James Duckworth 4-6 6-2 6-1, Adrian Mannarino, who won the continuation match with Albert Ramos 6-4 3-6 6-2, Viktor Troicki, who grinded past Simone Bolelli 7-5 3-6 6-4, Steve Darcis, who upset Gilles Muller 6-4 6-7 6-3, and Jerzy Janowicz, who beat Roberto Bautista Agut and his injured eye, 6-1 1-6 6-4. The win is the best for Janowicz in quite some time as he was in poor form coming into Miami but is now into the third round.
Wozniacki, Radwanska and Williams sisters win, Bouchard upset
Caroline Wozniacki survived Kaia Kanepi 4-6 6-1 6-3, Aga Radwanska fended off a challenge from Irina-Camelia Begu 6-2 4-6 6-2, and the Williams sisters scored routine wins, Serena beat the junkballer Monica Niculescu 6-3 6-1, and Venus beat Sam Stosur 6-4 7-6. Fan favorite Eugenie Bouchard was not as lucky, she was listless in a shocking upset loss to German qualifier Tatjana Maria, who is ranked outside of the top 100, as Bouchard had a disappointing third round exit.
Ekaterina Makarova beat Elina Svitolina 6-0 6-4 in just over an hour, Carla Suarez Navarro beat Alize Cornet by the same 6-0 6-4 scoreline, Karolina Pliskova beat Paula Bedosa Gibert 7-5 6-1, Andrea Petkovic, who was enjoying the Cuevas-Bellucci match on twitter last night, earlier in the day had beaten Kristina Mladenovic in a 6-0 6-2 blowout. Angelique Kerber won the most competitive WTA match of the day over Heather Watson 7-5 3-6 6-4, Sara Errani beat Ana Pavlyuchenkova 6-1 7-6, and Daria Gavrilova followed up her massive win over Sharapova with a 6-0 7-6 win over Kurumi Nara.
Doubles specialists score victories
The Bryans beat Becker/Lipsky 6-2 7-6 in men’s doubles, and two other doubles specialists pairings on the men side also won. Rojer/Tecau 6-4 6-2 over Inglot/Mergea, and Cabal/Farah 7-6 6-3 over Lopez/Mirnyi. Bolelli/Fognini continued their remarkable form in doubles with a 6-4 6-2 win over the quality pairing of Klaasen/Paes, and Americans Harrison/Ram beat Mahut/Roger-Vasselin 7-5 7-6.
Chan/Jankovic beat Parra-Santonja/Soler-Espinosa 7-5 6-4, Dushevina/Martinez Sanchez beat Goerges/Groenefeld 7-6 3-6 10-7 in a battle, Hantuchova/Knapp beat Dulgheru/Halep 7-5 6-3, Niculescu/Panova beat the veteran pairing of Lisa Raymond/Sam Stosur 6-2 6-3. Hsieh/Pennetta won 6-1 6-3 over Cornet/Svitolina, Garcia/Srebotnik beat Puig/Watson 6-3 6-3, Jans-Ignacik/Klepac beat Bertens/Maria 7-5 6-4, and Muguruza/Suarez-Navarro beat Savchuk/Torro-flor 6-3 6-2.
Monfils-Tsonga headlines Miami Sunday
With action already underway in Miami on Sunday, Gael Monfils will take on good buddy Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Fernando Verdasco and Rafa Nadal will renew their rivalry, 15 year old Cici Bellis will take on Serena, and Sabine Lisicki will battle against Ana Ivanovic in some of the big matches on the day.
2014 ATP Clay Court Season In Review Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast
In review: The 2014 ATP Clay Court Season
After Kitzbuhel concluded last week, the clay court calendar portion of the 2014 ATP season came to an end. With that conclusion, we can now review which players performed the best, and which players underachieved on the dirt this season. Clay courts comprise a large portion of the ATP calendar so there is a much larger sample size to draw from compared to, say, the grass court season.
27 year old journeyman Argentine Leonardo Mayer has transformed himself into a top 30 player this season and his best results have come on clay. He posted 18 wins on the surface compared to just 10 losses this season at the ATP level and scored wins over household names David Ferrer, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Joao Sousa and Tommy Robredo on the surface; he also pushed top 6 player Tomas Berdych to three sets in Oeiras.
He reached his first career final in Vina Del Mar, but fell short against Fabio Fognini there, and he finally got his maiden title in Hamburg over Ferrer in 3 sets. Winning that final set tiebreak ended a long journey to the top 30 for Leo and he remains an under recognized and underappreciated Argentine player. With Del Potro perpetually injured and Nalbandian now retired, Argentine will have to look to the likes of Mayer to carry Davis Cup and national hopes for a while. He reached the third round of the French Open and had quarterfinal appearances in both Oeiras and Nice to round out his best results on clay for 2014.
Honorable mentions for clay court surprise: Carlos Berlocq, Santiago Giraldo, Kei Nishikori, Roberto Bautista Agut
Carlos Berlocq joins his countryman Mayer as a surprising player this season. He won an ATP title for the second year in a row, this time coming in Oeiras where he upset and outlasted Tomas Berdych. The loud and flamboyant dirtballer also posted quarterfinals in Nice and a semifinal in Bastad to compliment his win in Oeiras. This highlights an overall 16-9 record on clay at the ATP level for 2014. He tends to get overmatched in the masters level and grand slam events but against a 250 level field he often flourishes. Notable opponents he defeated this year on clay include Andreas Seppi, Milos Raonic, Ferrer and Lleyton Hewitt at the French, along with the aforementioned Berdych.
Santiago Giraldo, a shotmaking Colombian with a huge forehand, has also had some of the best success of his career this season. He went 19-11 on clay and though he did not win a title, he reached the final in Barcelona, his second career final, along with semis in Houston and Vina Del Mar, and a pair of quarterfinals in Madrid and Stuttgart. Giraldo beat top players Tommy Robredo, Andy Murray, Nicolas Almagro, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga this season. Giraldo joins Mayer as a first time top 30 player after success on clay.
Kei Nishikori had an underappreciated clay court season this year, partially due to the fact that he had to battle injuries during that portion of the season, He played just three tournaments but posted a 10-2 record in them with a title in Barcelona and a final in Madrid, where he took a set off Nadal but had to retire during the third set of the match. He had top tier wins over Roberto Bautista Agut, Marin Cilic, Ferrer, Ernests Gulbis, and Raonic among his 10 overall and should he be able to stay healthy he has shown himself to be a threat on clay.
Bautista Agut is the last player I’ll discuss. He went 12-5 on clay and won his first title on the surface in Stuttgart over Lukas Rosol. Success on clay has helped him reach the top 20 for the first time in his career and he beat Robredo, Fernando Verdasco, and Fognini this year on the surface. RBA doesn’t play prototypical Spanish tennis but he’s still a top performing Spaniard on red clay.
Biggest upset: ATP Barcelona quarterfinals: Nicolas Almagro d. Rafael Nadal 2-6 7-6(5) 6-4
The powerful Spaniard Almagro had been outclassed by his much more successful countryman Nadal eight previous times on clay. Finally, Nico was able to get a victory against perhaps the greatest clay courter of all time. The first set was a routine affair, but Almagro fought back hard and Rafa played poorly, resulting in Nadal’s first loss on clay after winning the first set in over six years. Nadal had his chances to close out the match in the second, and didn’t face break points himself, but he couldn’t convert and the tiebreak went against him, giving Almagro an opening he took advantage of by winning a decisive fifth and final break in the third set to seal the victory. Nadal struggled to win his service points, and at the time, many were deeply worried about how he was playing going into the French Open. The fact Rafa did win the French perhaps makes this victory by Almagro look even more improbable and top quality, given Rafa showed his career wasn’t in serious decline yet.
Clay court breakthroughs: Dominic Thiem, Alex Zverev and Dusan Lajovic
A trio of young players found maiden ATP success on clay, while new Austrian number one Dominic Thiem was a mere 12-8 on clay at the ATP level. He went 4-0 in qualifying matches on the surface and won multiple main draw matches in Barcelona, Madrid and Hamburg. He finally reached his first career ATP final on home soil in Kitzbuhel and appears very close to his first career ATP title. Thiem had notable wins over Radek Stepanek and Stan Wawrinka this year on clay.
Alex Zverev, a teenager, notably made the semifinals in Hamburg, a one off showing but clearly a sign of things to come for the young German. Zverev had wins over Mikhail Youzhny and Giraldo en route. I have a feeling Thiem vs. Zverev may develop into a clay court rivalry in the future. Both players have things to work on but we could have a Germany vs. Austria French Open final come 2018 or beyond.
Dusan Lajovic established himself as a top 70 player with a strong clay court season. He also established himself as the Serbian number 2 behind Djokovic and should feature on their Davis Cup team for quite some time. He went 14-11 in both ATP main draw action and qualifying on clay this season and along with quarters in Hamburg and Bastad, he reached the round of 16 at the French Open, his best ever result in a major. He didn’t beat many top names this season but he still proved he can grind out matches to increase his ranking.
Clay Court Disappointments: Tommy Robredo, Stan Wawrinka, Gilles Simon, Joao Sousa and Andreas Seppi
The well-liked veteran Spaniard Robredo went just 15-12 this year on clay after going a tremendous 25-10 on the surface in 2013. His age may finally be catching up with him as he reached just one final, one semi and one quarterfinal this season along with posting seven early round exits. Once he finishes this season he will have a lot to think about going into to 2015.
Wawrinka did not have a terrible clay court season, but he underachieved after high expectations were placed on him after winning his first grand slam in Australia at the start of the year. He won Monte Carlo, but that was the only highlight of his 6-3 clay court season. He had a trio of surprising early exits in Madrid, Rome and the French Open, and next season he will have much to gain during the clay court portion of the year. He posted a 43-17 record on clay over the previous two seasons before this one and has the ability to do much better than he did in 2014.
Veteran Frenchman Gilles Simon has struggled to stay healthy in 2014 and he had a disappointing clay court season that has contributed to his fall from the top 30. He won consecutive matches in a clay court tournament just twice this season and failed to beat any players ranked above him on the surface. He also had bad losses to Teymuraz Gabashvili, Lukasz Kubot and Pablo Andujar. He was a subpar 8-9 on the surface overall in 2014. ‘
After a breakthrough 2013, top Portugese player Joao Sousa was a disappointing 7-13 on clay in 2014, struggling against ATP level competition on the surface. He reached one quarterfinal and one final but suffered ten opening match exits and eleven early round exists overall with multiple losses to players ranked below him. Sousa will need to improve considerably and adjust his game if he hopes to be more successful on clay in the future.
After struggling on clay in 2013, Italian veteran Andreas Seppi did so again in 2014. He is just 18-22 on the surface over the past two seasons and was 11-12 this season. He failed to reach a semifinal in any clay court tournament this year.
First time winners: Federico Delbonis, David Goffin and Pablo Cuevas
23 year old Argentine Federico Delbonis won his maiden title in Sao Paulo and has been successful on clay overall this season, posting an 18-13 ATP record. He later made a final in Nice, semifinals in Casablanca and a quarterfinal in Stuttgart to complement his Sao Paulo victory. Delbonis also showed his prowess on the red stuff last season when he reached the final in Hamburg and he should be a name to watch in many clay court tournaments to come.
David Goffin snagged a maiden title in Kitzbuhel at the tail end of the clay court season after getting red hot on the ATP Challenger Tour prior. Goffin, who had that run to the fourth round as a qualifier at the 2012 French Open, and has seen his once promising career fade from the spotlight since then, returned to the challenger tour to find his game and hopefully he will be able to keep himself at the ATP level this time. Goffin is undersized and many players were able to hit him off the court at the top level but perhaps he has rediscovered a path to success for himself given the limitations of his physical stature.
Lastly, Pablo Cuevas, who has overcome multiple knee and shoulder injuries and built his ranking back up to ATP status from the challenger tour, won his maiden title at 28 years old in Bastad, then followed it up with a title in Umag a couple of weeks later. Cuevas makes his living on clay and has been rapidly improving as of late. He pushed Fernando Verdasco to five sets at the French Open and has wins over Robredo, Fognini, Seppi, Sousa, and Verdasco this season. Cuevas’ rise is a testament to his tenacity and the work he has put into his game.