The Citi Open in Washington D.C. is a joint event with interesting draws for both the ATP 500 and WTA International events.
|Juan Martin del Potro|
Juan Martin del Potro will make his first appearance after a sensational semi-final performance at Wimbledon where he pushed Novak Djokovic all the way in a classic. The injuries that he picked up at Wimbledon were not serious and it is very positive to see him back in action so soon. I strongly believe that Del Potro is going to be one of the names battling for the US Open, but for some reason I think he could struggle this week. His particularly tricky draw opens against the winner of the toughest first round match between Houston semi-finalists, Lleyton Hewitt and Ryan Harrison. Hewitt, very much like David Ferrer with his tireless retrieving, has always caused Del Potro problems and he won their most recent match at Queens earlier this year. Del Potro’s first projected seed is Bernard Tomic, a player who could upset the Argentine’s rhythm.
Tommy Haas heads up the second quarter and definitely will be the favourite to make the semi-finals from this section. Haas came up second best to Fabio Fognini in both his appearances after Wimbledon in Germany. He has played a lot of tennis this year, but should be fresh having not played last week. His first test is likely to come in the third round where he is seeded to meet Ivan Dodig. Grigor Dimitrov and Sam Querrey are set to meet in the third round of the Citi Open, but both have been playing below par in recent months. Since beating Djokovic in Madrid, Dimitrov has really struggled to live with the increasing hype that has surrounded his matches on tour. He fell early at Wimbledon and I cannot see him surviving long in D.C. with Denis Istomin my shout out for a surprise showing in the quarter-final.
Another player who has not been able to make any inroads in the big tournaments is Milos Raonic. Long hyped as someone that could do well on the grass, Raonic endured a torrid June where he won just one match on the grass. Back on the hard courts, I expect him to reach the latter stages of this draw although I would not back him as a champion. Gilles Simon was twice undone by Feliciano Lopez on the grass and should have more joy on the hard courts. A third round clash with a serve-and-volleyer is a possibility with former Washington champion, Radek Stepanek likely to take on Michael Llodra in the second round.
The final quarter hosts Kei Nishikori and John Isner. Nishikori has had a very consistent year, but did not perform well at Wimbledon as he fell in a tight five setter to Andreas Seppi. His first match will be against either Jack Sock or Igor Sijsling; Sock’s best results have always come on home soil, meanwhile Sijsling has had some good results on the tour this year including a win over Raonic at Wimbledon. Last year’s champion, Alexandr Dolgopolov has been in really poor form this year, but will face a qualifier in his first match and if he can get through that, a match with Isner in round three would be a possibility.
1st Round Predictions: Hewitt to beat Harrison in 2 tight sets, Lu to beat Goffin in 3 sets, Malisse to beat Ram in 2 sets, Istomin to beat Giraldo in 3 sets, Stepanek to beat Johnson in 2 sets, Blake to beat Matosevic in 3 sets and Sock to beat Sijsling in 3 sets
Moo’s Final Prediction: Nishikori d. Haas
The womens line-up in Washington continues to improve year-on-year and has attracted Angelique Kerber amongst a selection of the talented American crew. Kerber plays a qualifier in the first round and could meet last year’s champion, Magdalena Rybarikova in the quarter-finals. It was always going to be difficult for Kerber to reach the epic heights of her 2012 season, but I do not feel her game has considerably weakened. Yes, she has become a tad more defensive, but where she was sneaking out the wins last year, she has just been coming up short. She was unlucky at Wimbledon where she played a pretty great match for two sets before falling to an inspired Kaia Kanepi.
Ekaterina Makarova plays the most intriguing of the first rounders against the young Canadian, Eugenie Bouchard. Makarova can be very hit and miss these days and I see an upset in this match. Madison Keys started really well in Stanford, but suffered a disappointing loss to Vera Dushevina in the second round. I think she will do much better this week with a qualifier up first.
Sorana Cirstea and Alize Cornet are the two seeds in the third section. Cornet takes on Yanina Wickmayer in the first round, who continues to stutter. She has a very solid, albeit one-dimensional game, but should be much higher than her current ranking of 56. Cornet has become a consistent performer on the tour and should have the beating of Wickmayer based on recent form. Cirstea played three good matches in Stanford, but took a step backwards with a 6-4 6-0 defeat to Dominika Cibulkova in the semi-finals. Despite all her inconsistencies, she is my tip for the final this week with a very reasonable looking draw.
Sloane Stephens is the number two seed and her game looks to be in a pretty good place following a mid-season slump, which has been well and truly forgotten with a 4th round showing at Roland Garros and a quarter-final appearance at Wimbledon. She takes on Olga Puchkova in the first round, who will be no pushover. Mona Barthel has declared herself fit following an early exit in Bad Gastein where she was struggling with a shoulder injury. Her first rounder against Stefanie Voegele is not one I anticipate her winning. Andrea Petkovic should make the quarter-finals where Sloane could await. They last played at Wimbledon in a forgotten gem, which Sloane won 8-6 in the decider.
1st Round Predictions: Rybarikova to beat McHale in 3 sets, Bouchard to beat Makarova in 2 sets, Garcia to beat Tatishvili in 2 tight sets, Townsend to beat Niculescu in 3 sets, Cirstea to beat Tsurenko in 2 tight sets, Cornet to beat Wickmayer in 3 sets and Voegele to beat Barthel in 2 sets
Moo’s Final Prediction: Kerber d. Cirstea