Four of the world’s top ten are in Rotterdam including the Australian Open finalist, Andy Murray. The ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament, which is an ATP 500 event, always attracts a solid line-up and this year is no different. February is normally regarded as a pretty quiet tennis month but there were plenty of notable results this time last year. 2014 was the first time that I was able to watch any coverage from Rotterdam (love you, TennisTV) and i’m looking forward to watching more next week. Let’s take a look at the draw…
There are no byes in the Rotterdam draw, which has helped to produce some excellent first round matches. The top two seeds, Andy Murray and Milos Raonic have both drawn qualifiers in the first round. Returning to number four in the world rankings after reaching the final of the Australian Open just last weekend, this is a pretty sharp turnaround for Murray. In the final, he had the ascendancy in the third set before falling in four sets. Murray admitted in his press match conference he had been distracted by Djokovic’s fitness problems. If Murray beats a qualifier in the first round of Rotterdam, his second round match will be against Vasek Pospisil or Philipp Kohlschreiber.
Pospisil and Kohlschreiber will be play each other for the first time in their career. Pospisil has shown rare flashes of brilliance, most notably reaching the semi-finals of Montreal in 2013 and the final of Washington in 2014. However his form has been inconsistent; after the career best performance in DC, he failed to win back-to-back matches through his last nine tournaments in 2014. He’s also struggled quite a bit with injuries and was sidelined during this stage of the season in 2014 with a back injury. Kohlschreiber is another player I enjoy watching, but he hasn’t had a great start to the year. In Montpellier, he lost to Joao Sousa in the quarter-finals. In this first rounder, i’d give the edge to Kohlschreiber.
Tomas Berdych could be set for a Australian Open rematch with Murray in the semi-finals, which would be pretty tasty. Berdych returns as the defending champion and will have a tricky opening match against Jerzy Janowicz. The Pole has looked in good form since winning the Hopman Cup with Agnieszka Radwanska. He reached the third round of the Australian Open beating Gael Monfils along the way and then in this past week, reaching the semi-finals of Montpellier (tournament still in action at time of writing). I watched some of his second round match against Benoit Paire and he didn’t put a foot wrong in the first set, serving HUGE. Unsurprisingly he couldn’t keep that up, but he did come through that particular match in three sets. The other seed in this section is Roberto Bautista Agut, who opens against 17-year-old wildcard, Alexander Zverev. Gael Monfils is also lurking as a potential second round opponent for Bautista Agut / Zverev.
The third quarter houses Stan Wawrinka and Grigor Dimitrov, who are seeded to meet in the quarter-finals. After reaching the semi-finals of Wimbledon last year, Dimitrov has stuttered. He played some fine tennis during his fourth round match against Andy Murray at the Australian Open., but really faltered in the fourth set. There have been a number of alarming mental lapses in the last six months… the other one that springs to mind was his loss to Monfils at last year’s US Open. He takes on a qualifier in the first round before a potential second round match against David Goffin and Gilles Muller. Both are quality players and i’m not confident in Dimitrov at the moment to say either of those would be a bankable win. The new world number nine, Wawrinka did a pretty good job at reaching the semi-finals of the Australian Open before coming unstuck in a wackadoodle match with Novak Djokovic. In Rotterdam, Wawrinka opens against the Dutch wildcard, Jesse Huta Galung and could meet Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in the second round. Stan and GGL met in the fourth round of the Australian Open where Stan won in four sets. 7-6(2) 6-4 4-6 7-6(8).
The final quarter features the pick of the first round matches between BFFs, Ernests Gulbis and Dominic Thiem. In an uncomfortable match-up for the pair, it will be a crucial one too with both searching for their first win of the season after going 0-2 in Auckland and Melbourne. Gulbis and Thiem both did well in Rotterdam last year; Gulbis beat Dimitrov and Del Potro on his way to the semi-finals, while Thiem announced himself with an excellent performance against Murray losing out in a tight three setter. Of the top four seeds, Milos Raonic has the most favourable draw on paper. He’s become extremely reliable in beating the players ranked below him and it would be a great surprise to see him fall before the quarter-finals.
Raonic is actually my tip for the title this week. He’s made a solid start to the year and I feel this would be a huge tournament for him to win with the calibre of the field. I’m not feeling Murray for this week, particularly so soon after the Australian Open. Berdych has struggled to string together big wins back-to-back and I don’t think the surface will suit Wawrinka…
1st Round Predictions: Kohlschreiber d. Pospisil in 3 sets, Benneteau d. Chardy in 3 sets, Simon d. Sousa in 2 sets, Berdych d. Janowicz in 2 tight sets, Bautista Agut d. Zverev in 2 sets (1 tight, 1 easy), Goffin d. Muller in 3 sets and Gulbis d. Thiem in 3 sets
Quarter-Final Predictions: Murray v Benneteau, Berdych v Monfils, Dimitrov v Wawrinka and Gulbis v Raonic
Final Prediction: Raonic d. Berdych