Along with the men’s event in Dubai there is a joint event in Acapulco, a WTA event in Florianopolis and an ATP event in Sao Paulo. There are big changes to the event held in Acapulco, which has now been converted from clay to bright blue hard court. The men’s draw features Andy Murray and David Ferrer and has more depth to it than the adjacent 500 event in Dubai. The women’s draw is interesting too with some good qualifiers set to be added to the list. I will be aiming to follow Dubai and Acapulco in my daily previews this week subject to time differences!
Dubai has attracted the big stars in Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, but the Acapulco draw on the whole, is far more intriguing. David Ferrer tops the draw and will play Mikhail Kukushkin in the first round. Ferrer has played two weeks on clay and is now back on the hard courts. He is seeded to meet Kevin Anderson in the quarters, who reached the final of Delray Beach. The second quarter features John Isner and Vasek Pospisil. Isner is set for an all-serving, all-acing first round clash with the in-form, Ivo Karlovic. Pospisil is making his first appearance since the Australian Open so therefore could be rusty. Jeremy Chardy, who play Matt Ebden in the first round, has a neat looking draw and has been impressive at times in 2014.
Ernests Gulbis, who won Marseille this week and reached the semi-finals of Rotterdam, is still in the Delray Beach draw. He faces a lengthy trip before his first round match against Yen-Hsun Lu, who has been withdrawing from events, left, right and centre. Gulbis is projected to meet Grigor Dimitrov in the quarter-finals. If this match-up were to happen, it would be a rematch of their fast paced quarter-final from Rotterdam. On that occasion, Gulbis prevailed in a tight two setter, but this time round, I would be backing Dimitrov based on Gulbis’s recent exploits.
The draw is bookended by Andy Murray, who plays Pablo Andujar in the first round. Andujar had match points to beat Rafael Nadal in a crazy semi-final in Rio although transitioning from clay to hard courts, I would be surprised if he poses a threat to Murray. It is a great draw for the Brit as he is seeded to meet Gilles Simon in the quarters. Simon hasn’t done anything noteworthy since playing on one leg at the Australian Open. He does have the habit of springing into life after a few losses and / or injuries; however I think this could be the week when Murray’s game starts to click.
1st Round Predictions: Ferrer to beat Kukushkin in 2 sets (1 tight, 1 easy), Roger-Vasselin to beat Lopez in 3 sets, Isner to beat Karlovic in 3 tiebreak sets (A GIVEN), Chardy to beat Ebden in 2 sets, Gulbis to beat Lu in 2 sets (possible Lu retirement?), Dimitrov to beat Matosevic in 3 sets, Sousa to beat Mannarino in 3 sets and Murray to beat Andujar in 2 sets
Moo’s Final Prediction: Murray d. Isner
The women’s draw in Acapulco is reasonable this week although with a significantly stronger men’s draw, it is likely to be overshadowed by the schedulers. Dominika Cibulkova is the top seed and hasn’t enjoyed any success since reaching a first Grand Slam final in Melbourne. She suffered two losses in Fed Cup action and was then forced to pull out of her first match in Doha through illness. She takes on Urszula Radwanska in the first round, who is making her first appearance in 2014 after being sidelined by a shoulder injury. The pair played three times last year with Cibulkova winning the last two.
The top half features Bojana Jovanovski, Zhang Shuai and Magdalena Rybarikova. Cibulkova could have a tricky match with Yanina Wickmayer in the second round, but this should be a tournament for her to do well. She will be eager to prove that the Australian Open wasn’t a flash in a pan. Iveta Melzer (formerly Benesova) is making her first appearance since the 2012 US Open and will take on a qualifier in round one.
Eugenie Bouchard is the number two seed in Acapulco. Despite reaching the semi-finals of the Australian Open, I haven’t actually seen any matches this year where I feel Bouchard is playing her best tennis. She struggled in Doha (losing first round to Bethanie Mattek-Sands) and in Dubai (lost in final round of qualifying to Annika Beck), but she has a very workable draw in Acapulco and this could be a fine chance for her to claim a first WTA title.
Kaia Kanepi is another name to watch out for. She has a habit of clicking at these tournaments and we are still waiting for the Estonian to really find her best form in 2014. She does have the toughest draw of the top four seeds; first up is Dubai quarter-finalist, Jana Cepelova. In the second round she could meet Julia Goerges, who is hit and miss, but still a dangerous opponent on a rare on-day, and then Stefanie Voegele in the quarter-finals, who has beaten Kanepi before.
1st Round Predictions: Cibulkova to beat U.Radwanska in 2 sets (1 easy, 1 tight), Wickmayer to beat Oprandi in 2 sets, Tomljanovic to beat Rybarikova in 3 sets, Voegele to beat Date-Krumm in 2 sets, McHale to beat Mladenovic in 3 sets, Kanepi to beat Cepelova in 3 sets and Bouchard to beat Peer in 2 sets
Moo’s Final Prediction: Bouchard d. Cibulkova
This tournament is headlined by Carla Suarez Navarro, who is still searching for her first WTA title. The draw isn’t particularly strong and Carla will probably be the favourite although based on previous experience, I would be surprised if she can pull it out of the bag. Garbine Muguruza is the number two seed and following several weeks off since a first round exit at Pattaya, she will be one to watch. Also noteworthy is Francesca Schiavone still searching for her first win on tour in 2014. She may struggle against Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, one of the more dangerous unseeded players in the draw.
Quarter-Final Predictions: Suarez Navarro v Niculescu, Larsson v Pereira, Pfizenmaier v Zahlavova Strycova and Ormaechea v Muguruza
Moo’s Final Prediction: Muguruza d. Suarez Navarro
ATP Sao Paulo
Sao Paulo wraps up the South American swing with Tommy Haas and Nicolas Almagro headlining the event. Many of these draws have featured the same players and unsurprisingly, there are some repeat match-ups. Almagro and Marcel Granollers are the highest seeds in the bottom half. If widlcard, Thomaz Bellucci can get past Santiago Giraldo for the second straight week, he could go a long way. The top half looks incredibly weak with the out-of-form, Juan Monaco and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez joining the highest seed, Haas. I am sure there will be shocks, but it seems a safe call to go for the top two to make the final.
Quarter-Final Predictions: Haas v Leo.Mayer, Ramos v Garcia-Lopez, Bellucci v Granollers and Haase v Almagro