2017 ATP Houston Preview and Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
It’s time to preview and predict the last USA ATP Tour stop until the Summer, it’s the U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championships in Houston, which is also the only ATP Tour event played on har-tru clay.
Fayez Sarofim and Co. U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championships
ATP World Tour 250
Houston, TX, USA
April 10-16, 2017
Prize Money: $535,625
Top 4 seeds (who all recieve first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Jack Sock (15)
2: John Isner (23)
3: Sam Querrey (25)
4: Steve Johnson (29)
The top 4 seeds are all American, something quite fitting for the U.S. Clay Court Championships
First round matchups to watch:
(6)Feliciano Lopez vs. (WC)Bjorn Fratangelo
Having lost five straight Lopez badly needs some momentum and a win here, he’s favored against the American wild card Fratangelo, but Fratangelo is actually competitive on clay and with Lopez playing so poorly, I have Frantangelo pulling an upset.
(8)Thomaz Bellucci vs. Frances Tiafoe
Tiafoe has limited tour experience overall, and even less on clay, but the veteran Bellucci is coming off of putting in road work in the Davis Cup and could be fatigued. Tiafoe showed good form in Miami and with the home fans behind him he has a great shot at knocking off a seed in this one.
2015 champion Jack Sock is returning from Australia, and he’ll be thankful for the bye in round 1, both Reilly Opelka and Tommy Haas are tricky opponents, but Sock should beat the big serving Opelka, then defeat Victor Estrella, who I have beating Hyeon Chung, returning from injury, and the Fratangelo/Lopez winner.
Steve Johnson looks set to defeat two-time and defending champion Juan Monaco, who opens with Dustin Brown and needs form having barely played this season, before falling to Fernando Verdasco in the quarterfinals. Verdasco opens with Kevin Anderson, who has yet to return to his former top 30 form, Nicolas Kicker or qualifier Noah Rubin will follow. Verdasco has a great draw and should emerge from this section.
John Isner is also traveling back from Australia, he could have trouble against qualifier Leonardo Mayer, but having formerly won this tournament he should find things comfortable enough in round 2, before defeating Donald Young in the quarters. Young needs to beat Thiago Monteiro and either Ernesto Escobedo or qualifier Tennys Sandgren, who is making his ATP main draw debut. Young has a great shot against Isner, but on clay I give Isner an edge.
Rogerio Dutra Silva comes off a challenger title, after facing Horacio Zeballos he should take on Sam Querrey, Querrey will then have Jared Donaldson/qualifier Maximo Gonzalez or Bellucci/Tiafoe in the quarters, most likely Donaldson. Querrey, like Sock, has had a good season thus far and should beat Donaldson to reach the semis in this open section.
Dark Horse: Leonardo Mayer
Mayer has shown his ability in the past to perform at a level beyond his current ranking, including on clay, if Isner is in poor form or simply jetlagged, the qualifier has a great shot at reaching the quarterfinals and beyond.
Verdasco d. Sock
Isner d. Querrey
Verdasco should be fresh and Sock did not impress in the Davis Cup, Isner on clay should edge past Querrey just given past performance at this tournament.
Verdasco d. Isner
This is a great opportunity for the veteran Verdasco to snatch a title late in his career.