On the mens side, there are two events this week in Barcelona (ATP 500) and Bucharest (ATP 250). The clay court event in Barcelona has drawn a reasonable line-up which as always, is spearheaded by Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer. The top 16 players have byes into the second round. Let’s take a (slightly different) look at the draw with the key talking points…
Can Rafael Nadal find his form?
Nadal suffered a surprising quarter-final loss to David Ferrer in Monte-Carlo, a first on clay to Ferrer since 2004. It’s fair to say he really hasn’t displayed his best tennis since winning the US Open in 2013. Excluding his loss in Madrid on blue clay, this was the first time that Nadal had failed to make a final on red clay since losing to Robin Soderling in 2009 at Roland Garros. The Barcelona draw is littered with players who Nadal owns so it would be a major surprise if he didn’t prevail with the title. His first match of the week will be against Albert Ramos or Nikolay Davydenko, and the first seed he could meet is Feliciano Lopez.
There are Spaniards EVERYWHERE
Unsurprisingly, the draw is littered with Spanish players, all 15 of them. There were so many double-barrelled Spanish names that I have never heard off before in the qualifying draw… Enrique Lopez-Perez, Jordi Samper-Montana, Jose Checa-Calvo, Oriol Roca Batalla and Pol Toledo Bague!
Nicolas Almagro and Fernando Verdasco on set to meet again
The third round is where this tournament is likely to kick into gear and there could be an all-Spanish third rounder between Almagro and Verdasco. The pair met in the final of Houston where Verdasco won 6-3 7-6(4) to win his first title since 2010. Both players have won this tournament in Barcelona and if they did meet again, it would be another tight tussle.
What’s going on with Jerzy Janowicz?
The Pole is in complete freefall right now having lost his last five matches. I don’t think he’s going to have a great clay court season, but I do remain adamant that he will turn his form around by the end of the year. Janowicz has a bye in the first round and will play either Mikhail Kukushkin or Jurgen Melzer in the second round. You wouldn’t bet your house on him getting past either of those players…
The third quarter is the most difficult to call
Tommy Robredo, Kei Nishikori, Marin Cilic, Pablo Carreno Busta, Roberto Bautista-Agut and Benoit Paire are all present in this section of the draw. Robredo and Cilic are scheduled to meet in the third round; Cilic’s form has dipped since winning two titles in February and Robredo is a really great clay courter so I like Robredo’s chances to make the quarter. Nishikori will be playing his first match since having to pull out of the semi-finals of Miami. He will meet Lukasz Kubot or Roberto Bautista-Agut in the second round; the latter could be a right handful.
Alexandr Dolgopolov and Ernests Gulbis on collision course again
They met in the first round of Monte-Carlo where Dolgopolov beat Gulbis, 6-2 6-4, and they could play each other again in the third round of Barcelona. Both players are likely to have to pass Spaniards in the second round. Despite Dolgopolov winning their first encounter of 2014, I certainly wouldn’t write off Gulbis from making a deep run in this draw.
David Ferrer bookends the draw
Monte-Carlo semi-finalist, Ferrer is the number two seed and will open his tournament against Teymuraz Gabashvili or Michal Przysiezny. The first seed he could meet is Dmitry Tursunov. The Dolgopolov/Gulbis section could throw up a dangerous match in the quarters, but it’s hard to see Ferrer not making the final. Whether he can dust off Nadal for a second time on clay, if they were to meet in the final, is another question up for debate…
1st Round Predictions: Ramos d. Davydenko in 3 sets, Dodig d. Arguello in 2 sets, Giraldo d. Sijsling in 3 sets, Kukushkin d. Melzer in 3 sets, Sousa d. Matosevic in 2 tight sets, Bautista-Agut d. Kubot in 2 sets and Gabashvili d. Przysiezny in 3 sets
Quarter-Final Predictions: Nadal v Almagro, Fognini v Kohlschreiber, Robredo v Nishikori and Gulbis v Ferrer
Moo’s Final Prediction: Nadal d. Ferrer