This week’s ATP events are headlined by the ATP 500 event in Rotterdam, which boasts five top ten players including Andy Murray, who has been granted a wildcard. Kei Nishikori and David Ferrer are the top seeds in Memphis and Buenos Aires respectively. Here are my previews and predictions for all three ATP events.
Stanislas Wawrinka has withdrawn from Rotterdam meaning that Juan Martin del Potro is the number one seed. It is somewhat of a surprise to see DelPo still in the draw after there were confirmed reports that he was struggling with a wrist injury, which saw him travel to Rochester in America to consult the same doctor he saw for the other wrist, which sidelined him for a year in 2010. He faces Gael Monfils in the first round, a repeat match-up from the 2013 edition of Rotterdam where Del Potro won 6-3 6-4. Taking into account Del Potro’s recent injury woes and Monfils’s stark improvements in 2014, this is bound to be a much close match than last year’s clash.
Del Potro is projected to meet Australian Open quarter-finalist, Grigor Dimitrov in the last eight. Dimitrov has made a promising start to the year and made the semi-finals in Rotterdam last year. This is a tournament he has always flourished in having beaten Tomas Berdych in 2009 and pushed Rafael Nadal to three sets. He also qualified for the main draw in 2011. Dimitrov has a workable draw that I believe will see him build further on his performances down under.
At the bottom of the draw, Murray will play Edouard Roger-Vasselin in the first round. I think it is a wise move from Murray, who will also play the formerly clay, but now hard court event in Acapulco later this month. Murray could meet Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarter-finals. Realistically, I see the winner of this quarter being crowned champion. I feel that Murray is not quite there yet, but matches over the next couple of weeks should make him a legitimate contender for Indian Wells next month. Tsonga opens against Florian Mayer and could then meet Zagreb finalist, Marin Cilic in the second round. Cilic has a 2-1 head-to-head lead over Tsonga, but like the Australian Open, I like the Frenchman’s chances here on the fast indoor court.
The second quarter features Tomas Berdych and Tommy Haas. Both will play top 35 players in their first round matches as the Berd takes on Andreas Seppi and Haas will play Fernando Verdasco. Haas reached the final in Zagreb, but has been injury prone of late and despite being a complete legend, is not a player I hold confidence for in producing solid performances back-to-back. Jerzy Janowicz, who reached the semi-finals in Montpellier was in rather impressive form considering his recent foot injury and would be my tip to make the quarters.
The third quarter, which includes Richard Gasquet and Mikhail Youzhny is by far the weakest. Youzhny has struggled for form in 2014 with a second round defeat at the Australian Open and losing his first match in Zagreb from a set up to Bjorn Phau. Philipp Kohlschreiber is also in this section and had a disappointing loss in Zagreb too, going down to Dan Evans in the quarter-finals. Gasquet looks to be the clear favourite to come out of this quarter and he has shown decent form in Montpellier where he didn’t lose a set en route to the final.
1st Round Predictions: Del Potro to beat Monfils in 3 sets, Dimitrov to beat Tursunov in 2 tight sets, Berdych to beat Seppi in 2 sets, Janowicz to beat Benneteau in 2 tight sets, Verdasco to beat Haas in 3 sets, Youzhny to beat Sijsling in 3 sets, Tsonga to beat Flo. Mayer in 3 sets and Murray to beat Roger-Vasselin in 2 tight sets
Moo’s Final Prediction: Tsonga d. Dimitrov
Kei Nishikori headlines a pretty slack draw in Memphis. The 24-year-old Japanese player put in a richly encouraging performance at the Australian Open where he went down fighting to Rafael Nadal in three tight sets. He returns as the defending champion and will be the heavy favourite to retain his title. Nishikori’s first match will be against Lukas Lacko or Benny Becker and his first projected seed is Sam Querrey. The American has shown more promise in 2014 compared to 2013 with victories over two top 30 players in Ernests Gulbis and Dmitry Tursunov; however on both occasions, he failed to back up those wins.
The second quarter features Lleyton Hewitt and Michal Przysiezny, meanwhile the third quarter is headlined by Yen-Hsun Lu and Mikhail Kukushkin. The talented Australian, Nick Kyrgios, who rightfully grabbed the headlines in Melbourne after pushing Benoit Paire to five sets, has received a wildcard and takes on Tim Smyczek in the first round. Donald Young, who has been greatly improved this year could play Lu in the second round.
The final quarter is the most interesting with seeds, Feliciano Lopez and Marinko Matosevic joined by dangerous floaters, Ivo Karlovic and Jack Sock. Matosevic opens against Jiri Vesely and could meet the American, Sock in the second round. Sock beat Milos Raonic in the first round of Memphis on his way to the quarter-finals and I believe this will be another strong week for him. Karlovic could play Lopez in the second round if he gets past Matthew Ebden first up and like Sock, is extremely capable of causing an upset or two in this tournament.
1st Round Predictions: Lacko to beat Becker in 2 sets, Phau to beat Harrison in 2 sets, Kyrgios to beat Smyczek in 3 sets, Przysiezny to beat Russell in 3 sets, Kukushkin to beat Gabashvili in 2 sets, Matosevic to beat Vesely in 2 sets, Sock to beat Mannarino in 3 sets and Karlovic to beat Ebden in 2 tight sets
Moo’s Final Prediction: Nishikori d. Sock
ATP Buenos Aires
Rafael Nadal has been replaced at the top of the draw by David Ferrer after the world number one was forced out by a stomach virus. Ferrer returns to the clay for the first time in 2014 and although often a slow starter after a break from competitive action, he has the beating of all the players in the draw. After a bye in the first round, he will play Albert Montanes or Santiago Giraldo in the second round. His first projected seed is Juan Monaco; the Argentine faces a testing opener against Albert Ramos, who holds a 2-0 lead in their head-to-head.
The draw is somewhat similar to Vina del Mar with Fabio Fognini, Nicolas Almagro, Tommy Robredo, Marcel Granollers and Jeremy Chardy all competing in Argentina. Almagro and Chardy are seeded to meet in the quarter-finals, as are Fognini and Granollers. Robredo had a disappointing defeat in Vina del Mar, but I think he will do better this week. His first match is against Pablo Carreno-Busta, who has struggled so far on the main tour in 2014 with one ATP win to his name coming in Vina del Mar. It is a difficult tournament to call because there are at least half a dozen very competent players who could take home the title. I fancy it will be a Spaniard…
1st Round Predictions: Giraldo to beat Montanes in 3 sets, Ramos to beat Monaco in 3 sets, Almagro to beat Zeballos in 2 sets, Dolgopolov to beat Cuevas in 2 sets, Chardy to beat Gonzalez in 2 sets, Berlocq to beat Sousa in 3 sets, Robredo to beat Carreno-Busta in 2 tight sets, Granollers to beat Bedene in 2 sets, Andujar to beat Delbonis in 3 sets and Fognini to beat Reister in 2 sets