2014 Orleans, Napa, Kenitra, Sibiu, Pereira and Porto Alegre Challenger Recaps

2014 Orleans, Napa, Kenitra, Sibiu, Pereira and Porto Alegre Challenger Recaps
Chris De Waard, Tennis East Coast

ATP

Orleans

World #24 Philipp Kohlschreiber took a wild card into the event after pulling out with injury in Metz the week before, which didn’t turn out well as he lost 7-6(3) 6-1 to Tim Puetz in the first round. Suspiciously enough, the last time he played a Challenger involved a similar scenario, when he took a wild card into Orleans ranked #18, losing in straight sets in the first round as well. Puetz went on to beat Dustin Brown and lose to #6 seed Sergiy Stakhovsky in the quarterfinal, 6-7(3) 6-1 6-3. Stakhovsky won an interesting encounter with Jiri Vesely in the semi-final, 6-7(5) 7-5 6-0. There to meet Stakhovsky in the final was fifth seed Thomaz Bellucci, who took out #2 seed Igor Sijsling and #7 seed Paul-Henri Mathieu in straight sets. The final went no further than straight sets as well, but this time it had Bellucci on the losing end, as Stakhovsky won the title after a 6-2 7-5 win over the Brazilian. This strengthened Stakhovsky’s top 100 position considerably, as he rose eighteen positions to #72. Bellucci is ranked just above him, rising eleven spots to #68.

Napa

#1 seed Sam Querrey survived a big scare in the second round against the young Swede Elias Ymer, going down a set and a break before winning 6-7(6) 7-6(5) 6-3. #3 seed Marcos Baghdatis hadn’t recovered from the ankle injury that made him pull out of the US Open. He won his first round match, but had to retire against John Millman in the following one. Millman lost in the quarterfinal to Alex Bolt, who took out #5 seed Peter Polansky in the first round. Another surprise semi-finalist was Jared Donaldson, who took advantage of both seeds in his section falling in the first round: #4 seed Bradley Klahn fell to Wayne Odesnik and #8 seed Frank Dancevic to qualifier Daniel Nguyen. In the semi-final, Donaldson almost managed to pull off the upset against #2 seed Tim Smyczek, but fell just short, 3-6 6-4 6-3. Querrey had no problems against Bolt, 6-2 6-3, and repeated that dominance in the final with a 6-3 6-1 victory over Smyczek. The victory meant a return into the top 100 at #47, improving seven spots. Smyczek stayed put at #99.

Kenitra

#6 seed Matteo Viola, who has been in great form as of late, got upset in the first round by Rui Machado, 7-6(3) 7-6(4). Outside of Viola, the seeds performed well, with three of the top four seeds reaching the semi-final. Only Roberto Carballes Baena squeezed himself in as an outsider, beating #8 seed Ramirez Hidalgo in the first round and beating #4 seed Aljaz Bedene in the quarterfinal after saving a match point, 7-6(3) 2-6 7-6(5). He continued his good form against #1 seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas, but came up just short, 4-6 6-4 6-3. In the bottom half, #3 seed Daniel Gimeno-Traver was on a roll after slumping in his past couple of tournaments. He didn’t drop a set en route to the final, humiliating #2 seed Damir Dzumhur, 6-3 6-0.

In the final, Ramos-Vinolas also wasn’t given a chance, as Gimeno-Traver won 6-3 6-4. Gimeno-Traver inches closer to the top 100, rising sixteen spots to #113. Ramos-Vinolas had a minor improvement, rising four spots to #66.

Sibiu

The two top seeds didn’t last long, as #1 seed Blaz Rola lost 6-3 7-6(1) to Radu Albot in the first round and #2 seed Albert Montanes lost 6-3 6-1 to Jason Kubler in the second. Both wins turned out to be far from flukes, as both men made it all the way to the final.

Albot got through after #3 seed Pere Riba retired while being 7-6(3) 3-1 down, while Kubler barely scraped through against #7 seed Potito Starace, 2-6 7-6(3) 6-0. In the final, Kubler did no such thing, however, as he dominated Albot and won his first Challenger title, 6-4 6-1. This also meant a new career high ranking for the 21-year-old Australian, rising 39 spots to #155. Albot dropped fourteen spots to #186, as he was defending a Challenger win in Uzbekistan.

Pereira

#1 seed Victor Estrella Burgos recovered nicely after his disappointing second round loss last week, marching all the way to the final without dropping a set. This includes victories against last week’s Quito runner-up Nicolas Jarry, Daniel Munoz-De La Nava and #7 seed Guido Pella. In the bottom half, the seeds fared less well. #2 seed Alejandro Falla fell in the first round to Agustin Velotti, 6-3 4-6 6-3. In reality, that’s not that big of a surprise considering Falla’s clay résumé. #3 seed Paolo Lorenzi’s loss was surprising, however, as he fell to Andres Molteni in the second round, 4-6 6-3 6-1. Last week’s Quito winner, #6 seed Horacio Zeballos, fell in the first round as well, 7-6(8) 4-6 6-3 to Christian Lindell. Velotti marched all the way to the semi-final, where he lost to #5 seed Joao Souza in a dramatic match, 3-6 6-4 7-6(4). Even more dramatic was the final, where Estrella Burgos prevailed over Souza in another thriller after saving a match point, 7-6(5) 3-6 7-6(6). The result makes Estrella Burgos creep closer to his career high ranking of #69, as he rises ten spots to #71. Souza is comforted by the fact he entered the top 100 again, rising eight spots to #93.

Porto Alegre

The slump of #3 seed Facundo Bagnis continued as he lost 6-7(4) 6-3 6-3 to Gianni Mina in the second round. Mina surprised by reaching the semi-final in Campinas last week and repeated that feat here. #1 seed Carlos Berlocq was way too strong, however, dismissing the French youngster 6-1 6-2. Berlocq took on #2 seed Diego Schwartzman in the final, who came off a Challenger win in Campinas the week before. In a strange, but high quality final, Berlocq eventually won 6-4 4-6 6-0. Schwartzman was up 40-0 at both 4-3 and 4-4 in the first set, but lost both games due to some spectacular points from Berlocq, but also a particularly easy volley miss at one of the break points. He then went on to produce a stunning tweener lob at 4-5 15-30, but he couldn’t save the set. After imitating Berlocq’s first set heroics and recovering from a 1-2 0-40 deficit in the second set, he clearly was too tired to put up a fight in the third. The victory meant a rise of ten ranking spots for Berlocq, landing at #59. Schwartzman improved six spots to #82, just shy of his career high ranking of #79.

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2014 Mons, Sacramento and Cali Challenger Previews, Predictions

2014 Mons, Sacramento and Cali Challenger Previews, Predictions
Chris De Waard, Tennis East Coast

ATP Challenger Tour Official Page

A light schedule of only three Challengers for this week, with Mons and Sacramento being played on hardcourt and Cali on clay.

Ethias Trophy

ATP Challenger Tour
Mons, Belgium
29 September – 5 October
Prize Money: €106,500

Seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)

1: David Goffin (32)
2: Igor Sijsling (72)
3: Jiri Vesely (77)
4: Thomaz Bellucci (79)
5: Dudi Sela (83)
6: Paul-Henri Mathieu (84)
7: Andreas Haider-Maurer (92)
8: Dustin Brown (94)
9: Tobias Kamke (102)

The last direct acceptance is Ilija Bozoljac, ranked 171st. Former world #24 and winner of two ATP tournaments Olivier Rochus received a wild card and will play the final tournament of his career. The next generation is also represented with Kimmer Coppejans receiving a wild card. Paul-Henri Mathieu withdrew due to injury.

Sergiy Stakhovsky withdrew as well in an odd boycott, protesting against Belgium asking the ITF to move their Davis Cup tie to a neutral venue due to the tensions in Ukraine. Tournament director Dominique Monami responded in humorous fashion:

First round match-ups to watch

(5) Dudi Sela – (PR) Steve Darcis

Sela is someone who flies under the radar, but he has rarely been outside of the top 100 in the past seven years. He faces the man who absolutely hammered him during a Davis Cup tie last year, 6-1 6-2 6-2. However, that was on clay, which is clearly Sela’s worst surface. A very interesting match, which can go either way.

(WC) Olivier Rochus – Gerald Melzer

As mentioned, this will be the last tournament for one of Belgium’s greatest players of all time. He might be able to prolong his career for one more match, as Melzer isn’t a hero on hardcourts. Rochus reached ten ATP finals, of which he won two: Palermo in 2000 and Munich in 2006, both on clay. His greatest Masters result was also on that surface, a quarterfinal at Hamburg in 2003. Ironically, Roland Garros is the only Grand Slam where he never reached the fourth round, peaking in the third. The surprise factor rests with his 2-0 record in clay finals and 0-8 on hardcourt and grass, since clay was his worst surface.

Top Half

It’s hard to see anyone other than top seed David Goffin winning here, considering he just comes off a tournament win at the ATP 250 event of Metz. However, he will probably have to face Nicolas Mahut and Dustin Brown to get through to the semi-final, both of them are very dangerous on one of their good days. Also in this half lurks Thomaz Bellucci, who reached the final of Orleans last week, although he has a tricky first round match against Kenny De Schepper.

Bottom Half

This half is fairly open. #2 seed Igor Sijsling has been in dodgy form and might well lose to Sela or Darcis. In the top section, Andreas Haider-Maurer comes off an impressive Challenger streak, but that all took place on clay, so it remains to be seen how he will adopt. There is a chance for #3 seed Jiri Vesely to seriously test Haider-Maurer in the quarterfinal, which is likely to end in a victory for Vesely.

Predictions

Semis:

Goffin > De Schepper
Sela > Vesely

Final:

Goffin > Sela

Sacramento Pro Circuit Challenger

ATP Challenger Tour
Sacramento, CA, USA
27 September – 5 October
Prize Money: $100,000

Seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)

1: Sam Querrey (54)
2: Tim Smyczek (99)
3: Bradley Klahn (115)
4: Michael Russell (123)
5: Denis Kudla (124)
6: Peter Polansky (125)
7: Thiemo de Bakker (143)
8: Frank Dancevic (144)

The last direct acceptance is Kyle Edmund, ranked 237th.

First round match-ups to watch

(7) Thiemo de Bakker – (SE) Jared Donaldson

An excellent opportunity for 17-year-old Donaldson to build on his great run at Napa last week, where he reached the semi-final. De Bakker is an extremely streaky player, who could either steamroll Donaldson or easily lose, depending on what mood he is in.

(WC) Stefan Kozlov – Ryan Harrison

It will be interesting to see if 16-year-old Kozlov can beat Harrison, who is playing his worst tennis in a long time. Harrison lost 6-3 7-5 to Donaldson in the first round of Napa last week, something he won’t want to repeat here.

Top Half

Just like last week, you simply can’t look past Querrey: the ranking difference between him and the rest of the field is enormous. The only player from this half I can see beating him is De Bakker, but chances of that happening are still low. #4 seed Michael Russell retired in the first set against Querrey last week, so it’s still a question mark as to whether he has recovered sufficiently.

Bottom Half

This one is really hard to predict. #2 seed Tim Smyczek is the best bet, also considering his final run last week, but he doesn’t have an easy draw with Jordan Thompson, Robby Ginepri/James McGee and Kudla/Ymer on his way to the semi-final. In the top section, #6 seed Peter Polansky lost in the first round last week and now faces Wayne Odesnik, another dangerous player. And if Ryan Harrison somehow finds his game, it would mean trouble for #3 seed Bradley Klahn in the second round.

Predictions

Semis:

Querrey > De Bakker
Smyczek > Klahn

Final:

Querrey > Smyczek

Querrey hammered Smyczek 6-3 6-1 in last week’s final, so it’s hard to imagine a different outcome here.

Claro Open Cali 2014

ATP Challenger Tour
Santiago de Cali, Colombia
29 September – 4 October
Prize Money: $40,000

Seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)

1: Alejandro Falla (73)
2: Paolo Lorenzi (75)
3: Victor Estrella Burgos (81)
4: Diego Schwartzman (88)
5: Alejandro Gonzalez (93)
6: Horacio Zeballos (96)
7: Joao Souza (101)
8: Facundo Bagnis (122)

The last direct acceptance is Nicolas Jarry, ranked 306th.

First round match-ups to watch

Daniel Munoz-De La Nava – Guido Andreozzi

Andreozzi comes off a good result at the Porto Alegre Challenger, where he reached the semi-final. Munoz-De La Nava has been in good form as well, racking up an 8-3 record in his last three Challengers and losing 7-6(6) 6-4 to eventual winner Victor Estrella Burgos in the quarterfinal last week.

Top Half

Given his latest clay ventures, it’s likely that top seed Alejandro Falla will bomb out in the second round against Munoz-De La Nava, who can profit and reach the semi-final to set up a repeat of last week’s quarterfinal against Estrella Burgos. Andreozzi should be capable of doing the same if he wins their first round encounter. In the bottom section, we will likely see Estrella Burgos and Horacio Zeballos square off, a match-up that should be in favor of Estrella Burgos, who leads their head to head 2-0.

Bottom Half

In the top section, we are likely to see a very interesting quarterfinal match between #7 seed Joao Souza and #4 seed Diego Schwartzman. Schwartzman clearly looked fatigued in the third set of his final against Carlos Berlocq last week, so perhaps that gives Souza an opportunity. In the bottom section, #5 seed Alejandro Gonzalez and #2 seed Paolo Lorenzi are projected to meet, which has been a nightmare match-up for Gonzalez so far, not winning a set in their previous four meetings.

Predictions

Semis:

Estrella Burgos > Munoz-De La Nava
Lorenzi > Schwartzman

Final:

Lorenzi > Estrella Burgos

Just like against Gonzalez, Lorenzi seems to match up well against Estrella Burgos, too. Lorenzi beat him 6-3 7-6(1) in the semi-final of the San Luis Potosi Challenger earlier this year, as well as 6-4 6-1 in the US Open qualifying draw three years ago.

Murray Wins First Title of 2014 in Shenzhen, Nishikori Starts Asian Swing With a Bang in Malaysia

Murray Wins First Title of 2014 in Shenzhen, Nishikori Starts Asian Swing With a Bang in Malaysia

ATP Shenzhen

shenzhen

Andy Murray has had his most disappointing season in years, but he did finally win a title in Shenzhen, becoming the first champion in the history of the tournament. The best player in the field this week earned a well-deserved victory in the final over Tommy Robredo 5-7 7-6 6-1. The final was a highly entertaining affair as Murray saved four consecutive match points in the second set tiebreak, and a total of five match points overall. Robredo would physically wilt after dropping the second set, as Murray gained momentum and rolled through the third set.

Murray showed further signs of turning the corner as he bids to qualify for the year end World Tour Finals. He beat Somdev Devarrman and Lukas Lacko early on without dropping a set, then topped surprise semifinalist Juan Monaco in 3 sets to reach the final.

Robredo continued his strong season. The Spaniard needed consecutive 3 set wins over Sam Groth and Andreas Seppi to reach the semis, but then he easily handled an erratic Santiago Giraldo, who was contesting yet another ATP semifinal this season.

Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau beat the Aussie duo of Sam Groth and Chris Guccione for the doubles title. The top doubles seeds now have six ATP titles together this season.

ATP Kuala Lumpur

kuala lumpur site

I didn’t see anyone in the draw to stop a red hot Kei Nishikori from winning in Malaysia, and he proved me right, obtaining a 7-6 6-4 victory over Julien Benneteau, who dropped his third consecutive Malaysian Open final and falls to 0-10 overall in career ATP finals.

The top Asian player on tour was untroubled by Rajeev Ram and Marinko Matosevic before facing stiffer competition in the semis from Jarkko Nieminen. He survived that in 3 sets and his returning and speedy pace redirection were just too good this week for any opponent.

Benneteau extended his perfect record outside of finals in KL. He beat Filip Krajinovic in straights, Pablo Cuevas in 3 sets from a break down in the third, and Ernests Gulbis, the number 2 seed, in straight sets in the semifinals.

Marcin Matkowski and Leander Paes beat Jamie Murray and John Peers for the doubles title, denying the Murray family multiple titles this week on tour.

—Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast

2014 ATP Beijing, Tokyo Previews & Predictions

2014 ATP Beijing, Tokyo Previews & Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast

Two star studded events on the ATP Tour this week as the Asian Swing kicks into full gear. Both are 500-level events on outdoor hard courts, and almost every top 20 player will be in action this week.

Beijing Open Site
ATP Beijing
China Open
ATP World Tour 500
Beijing, China
September 29-October 5, 2014
Prize Money: $2,500,470

Top 8 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Novak Djokovic (1)
2: Rafael Nadal (2)
3: Tomas Berdych (7)
4: Marin Cilic (9)
5: Grigor Dimitrov (10)
6: Andy Murray (11)
7: Ernests Gulbis (13)
8: John Isner (15)

Perhaps the best non-Masters level field on the ATP tour this season. Beijing is stacked with top players from top to bottom.

First Round matchups to watch:

(5)Grigor Dimitrov vs. Fernando Verdasco
Verdasco has a lone h2h win on clay, last year, against Dimitrov, but he will be an underdog regardless against the higher ranked Bulgarian. Dimitrov played reasonably well at the US Open and he should be eager to finish the fall swing strong, still in the hunt to make the World Tour Finals top 8 at the end of the year. I don’t think Verdasco will trouble him much, but it should be an entertaining match.

(6)Andy Murray vs. Jerzy Janowicz
Murray has a 2-1 h2h advantage over Janowicz, and he should have an edge in their first outdoor hard court meeting as well. He comes off the title in Shenzhen, and hopefully will be fresh enough to deal with the hard-hitting Pole, who played pretty well in Metz and perhaps is turning the corner with his form after a poor season overall. This should again be a high quality match, and I feel Murray is too solid to lose this one; Janowicz will need to keep the error count down to have a chance.

(8)John Isner vs. Santiago Giraldo
Isner has two h2h wins over Giraldo, but both ATP matches went three sets. Giraldo showed signs of great tennis in Shenzhen, where he reached the semifinals. Isner is a positive 6-1 in his last 7 matches, all on hard courts and thus he’s still the favorite for this one. Expect some big hitting in what should be a great watch, probably going 3 sets.

Mikhail Youzhny vs. (WC)Viktor Troicki
These two have met often since 2009: Troicki has 2 hard court wins, while the overall h2h is tied at 3-3. Viktor has been on a tear since returning to the ATP tour and he is playing motivated, passionate, and entertaining tennis right now. He has dictated play with his serve, which was untouchable for periods in Shenzhen, where he qualified and reached the second round. Troicki is an incredible 23-5 this year while Youzhny is an abysmal 14-19. Youzhny is higher ranked, but Troicki has to be the favorite here and he should win this one.

(3)Tomas Berdych vs. (WC)Feliciano Lopez
A match with some great upset potential: I have Lopez defeating Berdych because the Czech is struggling, while Lopez seems to be in good form and he has a h2h edge, including two wins this year one of which came on hard courts in Toronto. The hard court h2h is 3-1 in favor of Lopez and Berdych is on a two match losing streak. This is a great style contrast between his heavy hitting and Lopez’s quality net play.

(2)Rafael Nadal vs. Richard Gasquet
Nadal is returning to tour in Beijing against Gasquet, who has never beaten him before in over a dozen h2h meetings. Gasquet is struggling, and Nadal’s form is uncertain given he’s coming off an injury and should have some rust. However, he’s played some exhibitions and should advance given the H2H differential. The fact Gasquet is a round one opponent for the number two seed, and isn’t a seeded player himself demonstrates the quality of the Beijing draw.

Top Half:

Four-time and defending champion Novak Djokovic opens with Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. Novak is 6-0 against GGL, so even if it’s an entertaining match, he should get through to face Lukas Rosol or Vasek Pospisil. Neither Vashy nor Rosol are in great form, but they are players with talent who can play very well at times. Look for an exciting Djokovic vs. Dimitrov quarterfinal.

After Verdasco, Dimitrov should face Kuala Lumpur finalist Julian Benneteau, who opens with KL quarterfinalist Pablo Andujar. Dimitrov has a lone marquee win over Djokovic in Madrid last season, but since then, Novak has won two meetings, both in slams, including a four setter at Wimbledon this year. Djokovic also has two hard court h2h wins, once in 2013 and once in 2012, both in straight sets.

Given Novak’s perfect 19-0 record in Beijing, he should get through to the semifinals.

US Open champ Marin Cilic, a two-time finalist in Beijing, opens with Chinese wild card Yan Bai, then will face the Joao Sousa/Teymuraz Gabashvili winner. The Metz finalist, Sousa, is looking to continue playing well but Cilic should safely make the quarterfinals to face Murray/Janowicz. The winner of that match will face Pablo Cuevas or Mikhail Kukushkin, Cuevas played reasonably well in Kuala Lumpur while Kukushkin was playing the Asian Games in Korea. I favor Cilic over Murray given the fatigue factor, Murray having played some tough matches in Shenzen.

Bottom Half:

Nadal/Gasquet will face Ivo Karlovic or Peter Gojowczyk in round 2. That will be an easier opponent than their round 1 match, and unless Nadal is really rusty he should reach the quarters to face most likely Ernests Gulbis, a semifinalist in Kuala Lumpur. Ernie opens with a struggling Fabio Fognini before the Martin Klizan/Leo Mayer winner. Nadal is 6-0 against Gulbis and 3-0 on hard courts, including a win this year in Doha.

With that record in mind, Nadal should be a safe pick for the semifinals.

The Berdych/Lopez winner will face the Youzhny/Troicki winner. Troicki has a great chance to sneak into the quarterfinals, though Lopez could also be formidable. Isner/Giraldo potentially await at that stage, with Shenzhen finalist Tommy Robredo also a possibility. Robredo faces Andreas Seppi again this week; he beat him in 3 sets in the Shenzen quarterfinals and this time faces him in round 1, with Isner/Giraldo to follow.

Given the fatigue factor, I have a Troicki vs. Isner quarterfinal penciled in. Troicki is 3-1 against Isner, with a 1-1 outdoor h2h record and has a chance to sneak into the semis, but I’m going with Isner based upon gut feeling.

Dark Horse: Viktor Troicki
As I mentioned above, Troicki has a great shot at the semifinals this week. He will need to blitz past Youzhny and sneak past Lopez/Berdych and Isner/Robredo/Giraldo, but those are all winnable matches if he serves well and comes up with some big shots, he seems on the precipice of an ATP-level revival.

Predictions

Semis:
Djokovic d. Cilic
Nadal d. Isner

If Cilic plays like he did at the US Open and Djokovic stumbles, he could very well take the title this week, but given the fact Djokovic is 10-0 against Cilic with 3 wins this season, albeit in close contests, he should still have an edge. Nadal’s form is hard to judge coming off the injury, but he’s 4-0 against Isner and I’m sure he’ll be motivated, so I have him in the final this week.

Final:
Djokovic d. Nadal

Given this is a hard court and Nadal is coming off an injury layoff, Djokovic should remain perfect in Beijing and take his fifth title here. He beat Nadal in the final last year.

Rakuten Open Official Site
ATP Tokyo
Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships
ATP World Tour 500
Tokyo, Japan
September 27-October 5, 2014
Prize Money: $1,228,825

Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Stan Wawrinka (4)
2: David Ferrer (5)
3: Milos Raonic (6)
4: Kei Nishikori (8)
5: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (12)
6: Roberto Bautista Agut (17)
7: Kevin Anderson (19)
8: Alex Dolgopolov (23)

Though outshone by Beijing, Tokyo sports five of the top fifteen players and should also feature a lot of quality action this week.

First Round matchups to watch:

(8)Alex Dolgopolov vs. Jack Sock
Dolgopolov is playing his first match back since knee surgery, and he had to skip all of the tournaments this summer. Sock is playing his first match since the US Open and this is the first head-to-head matchup between the pair. Sock has posted his best results on hard court this year, including one quarterfinal and one semifinal on the surface. Dolgo had a strong early start to the year but he should be rusty going into this one. It’s hard to predict and Dolgopolov is the more talented, and higher ranked player, but I have Sock advancing given the rust factor. Dolgo is known to past erratic performances and a knee injury isn’t the easiest thing to come back from right away.

(4)Kei Nishikori vs. Ivan Dodig
Nishikori, who just won Kuala Lumpur, is bidding to win his second Tokyo title in front of the home fans and keep his momentum going. Dodig, meanwhile, is looking to string some wins together and garner some of his own momentum, improving on his poor record of 1-5 in his last six matches. I’m mainly interested to see how Nishikori will play coming off of Kuala Lumpur. Dodig has beaten him once before, last year in Basel, and we’ll see if he can catch the top Asian player sleeping, This match has just a bit of upset potential, though I have Nishikori through.

(7)Kevin Anderson vs. Dominic Thiem
Thiem is looking to avenge his loss to Anderson at the Aussie Open at the start of the year, and he has had a meteoric rise since that meeting. Now in the top 50, he is bidding to follow up his strong showing at the US Open with a good fall swing. Anderson is as always a solid big serving, strong hard court competitor. Thiem will have a reasonable chance at pulling this off, but I have Anderson through. He’s too reliable and consistent to lose this one.

(3)Milos Raonic vs. Bernard Tomic
Milos Raonic appears to be in excellent form, and as the finalist in Tokyo the previous two seasons is looking to do one better and capture the title this year. Tomic isn’t the easiest first round opponent by any means though, and he could pose a threat to the Canadian number one if he can get on a hot streak. He lost a poor match in Kuala Lumpur though and I don’t see that being likely, so Raonic should get through in straight sets.

(6)Roberto Bautista Agut vs. Gilles Simon
Bautista Agut has a great chance to get back into form in Tokyo. It starts with Simon, who has been poor all season and lost a bad match in Shenzen last week to Ricardas Berankis, showing signs he might be injured. RBA has struggled a bit as of late, but hopefully he will grab a rather comfortable win here.

Top Half:

Stan Wawrinka should roll past Tatsuma Ito in his opening match. Jarkko Nieminen could prove to be a tough test in round 2, assuming the Finn who made the semifinals in Kuala Lumpur can beat Benjamin Becker, who reached the quarterfinals in the same tournament. I fully expect Stan the Man to get into the quarterfinals and most likely play Sock, as the other options, Dolgopolov, Andrey Golubev and qualifier Pierre-Hugues Herbert are far from imposing at present. All in all, Wawrinka has a reasonable route to the semifinals for a 500-level event.

The Nishikori/Dodig winner will play Donald Young or Go Soeda in round 2. Since Nishikori comfortably handled DY at the Aussie Open this year, I don’t expect that one to be much of a contest. It should be Nishikori vs Anderson/Thiem in the quarterfinals, as qualifier Rajeev Ram and Jeremy Chardy, the other options in this section, are both not playing that well at the moment. The semifinalist should come down to whether Nishikori is fatigued enough to lose or not. I’m going to garner he’s not and he’s certainly going to be motivated given he’s playing on home soil. Anderson will have a chance but I have Nishikori in the semifinals of my own bracket.

Bottom Half:

David Ferrer suffered another bad loss in an early round match, this time to Viktor Troicki in Shenzhen, and he is looking to rebound against his compatriot Marcel Granollers. He could be on upset alert again against Steve Johnson in round 2, assuming the much improved American gets past Hiroki Moriya. Still, unless the American serves lights out, Ferrer should get through to the quarterfinals. In the quarters, it should be Ferrer/Johnson against one of RBA/Simon or Gilles Muller. Muller is a dangerous big server when he gets hot, and he opens with Argentine Federico Delbonis. I have RBA in the quarters of my own bracket but it’s a difficult pick, and I also have him over Ferrer into the semis. Ferrer beat him twice last year, but he’s in a bit of a funk right now and I think RBA will capitalize on that.

The Raonic/Tomic winner will face Edouard Roger-Vasselin or Jurgen Melzer in round 2. Melzer and ERV are both struggling, so it should be a routine path to the quarterfinals for Raonic. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga should be Raonic’s opponent in an exciting quarterfinal matchup. Jo has to defeat Michal Przysiezny and the Taro Daniel/Denis Istomin winner to reach that stage. Raonic beat Tsonga this year on clay after two previous losses on hard and grass respectively. Given the form factor, I have Raonic through to the semifinals in 3 sets.

Dark Horse: Gilles Muller
It’s highly unlikely that a non-seed will reach the quarterfinals, but Muller has the best chance. He will need to defeat the RBA/Simon winner, but given their recent form, that’s doable if he serves well. After that, Ferrer/Johnson are also susceptible to defeat.

Predictions

Semis:
Wawrinka d. Nishikori
Raonic d. Bautista Agut

Kei beat Stan at the US Open in 5 sets recently, but prior to that, Wawrinka had won both their head to head meetings. Given Nishikori played a weeks worth of tennis in Malaysia the previous week, that should be enough to swing this match in Wawrinka’s favor.

I like Raonic over RBA or Ferrer, given how well he has played on hard courts both recently and this season as a whole.

Final:
Wawrinka d. Raonic

Two top players should meet in the Tokyo final, and I have Wawrinka over Raonic, given the 2-0 hard court h2h record and 3-0 overall h2h including a win on clay this season. Raonic will have a chance at taking this title too, and both guys have had a bit of a layoff but they should be ready to perform this week.

2014 NCAA Tennis Kick-Off at Southern Inter-Collegiate Championships in Athens, GA

2014 NCAA Tennis Kick-Off at Southern Inter-Collegiate Championships in Athens, GA

Jeff McMillan, Tennis East Coast

 

ncaa-tennis-logo

 

September 21, 2014–The 2014-2015 college tennis officially kicked off this past weekend in various fall individual tournaments. The dual (team vs team) season will begin in January, but in the fall, college tennis players compete in individual events that help their rankings and prepares their teams for the grueling season ahead. It is the only collegiate sport to have two full seasons (fall and spring).

The major tournament of the past weekend was the Southern Intercollegiate Championships in Athens, Georgia at the University of Georgia’s Dan Magill tennis center, which is the premier college tennis facility in the country. Players from various schools around the south competed in 3 flights of singles with the Division 1 draw being the premier draw of this tournament.

There were many storylines during the weekend results. Freshman Aleks Vukic from Australia showed up in his collegiate debut representing the Fighting Illini of Illinois. Vukic knocked of hometown UGA senior star Nathan Pasha 1-6 6-2 7-5 in the round of 16 in a surprising result showing that Vukic will be a name to watch this season. Vukic eventually fell in the semis to Oklahoma Sooner sophomore Alexandru Ghilea of Romania. Ghilea had a very interesting year last year as a freshman at OU. He started the year with big expectations but found himself outside of the top 6 for most of the year. As the year wound down, however, OU started to struggle at the 5 and 6 positions, which was putting their national title chances on hold. Ghilea was inserted at 6 and it made an immediate impact for the Sooners. Ghilea knocked won a 7-6(5) 3rd set breaker vs Karue Sell of UCLA in the clincher that propelled Oklahoma to a big 4-3 upset of many people’s national title favorite UCLA in the final four. Ghilea looks like he has improved dramatically from last year based on his run this weekend to the final in Athens. A runner-up result for Alexandru Ghilea is a very impressive result for a player who played #6 last year. He will be an even bigger contributor to OU this season.

The biggest story of the weekend was Wayne Montgomery taking the title. Montgomery finally made his long- awaited collegiate debut this past weekend. Montgomery, a freshman from South Africa was actually supposed to play for the Georgia Bulldogs last year, but eligibility requirements prevented him from competing in the 2013-2014 season. But this year, Montgomery is ready to instantly become one of the top players in the NCAA. Entering as the 4 seed, Montgomery lost 9 games in total in his first 3 matches, rolling to the semifinals where he would face his first huge test as a college player.

Looming in the semis was top seed Axel Alvarez-Llamas of Oklahoma.

Alvarez-Llamas, the junior from Spain, was one of the top players in the country throughout the season last year. He eviscerated eventual NCAA champ Marcos Giron of UCLA in the NCAA team semifinals in two easy sets, showing what type of player he is. After dropping the first set 1-6, Montgomery came roaring back with the help of the home crowd to claim his first big scalp, knocking off Alvarez-Llamas 1-6 6-0 6-3. Montgomery won the championship by beating Ghilea 6-1 3-6 6-2 in the final and cementing himself as a top NCAA player.

This regional tournament (full draw here) served as a good primer for the upcoming college season. College tennis fans will have their appetites whet even more with the national individual event in Tulsa beginning in late September.

2014 Orleans, Napa, Kenitra, Sibiu, Pereira and Porto Alegre Challenger Previews, Picks

2014 Orleans, Napa, Kenitra, Sibiu, Pereira and Porto Alegre Challenger Previews, Picks
Chris De Waard, Tennis East Coast

A packed schedule on the Challenger tour this week. There will be two hardcourt events in France and the United States, plus four on clay, played in Morocco, Romania, Colombia and Brazil.

Open D’Orleans

ATP Challenger Tour
Orleans, France
22-28 September
Prize Money: €106,500

Seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)

1: Philipp Kohlschreiber (24)
2: Igor Sijsling (74)
3: Jiri Vesely (78)
4: Andrey Kuznetsov (81)
5: Thomaz Bellucci (82)
6: Sergiy Stakhovsky (90)
7: Paul-Henri Mathieu (91)
8: Nicolas Mahut (93)

The last direct acceptance is Yann Marti, ranked 209th. French youngsters Laurent Lokoli and Tristan Lamasine have received wild cards. An extremely tough field, with all seeds being top 100 players.

First round match-ups to watch

(2) Igor Sijsling – Alexander Zverev

Zverev disappointed with a first round loss last week, but he can avenge himself here with a win over a top 100 player. Sijsling has been in shaky form ever since his semi-final run at Rotterdam in February, although he did push eventual finalist Joao Sousa to a third set tiebreak in the second round of Metz last week.

(6) Sergiy Stakhovsky – (WC) Tristan Lamasine

The young Frenchman has been making some waves on the clay Challenger circuit, so it will be interesting to see how he translates onto hardcourt. He had some good results in Futures event this year, but a player like Stakhovsky is obviously an entire different ball game.

Top Half

World #24 Philipp Kohlschreiber took a wild card into the event after retiring in Metz last week, so one has to assume that his injury isn’t too serious. Dustin Brown is sure to test that in the second round and take revenge for his lost third set tiebreak in Halle this year, when they went all the way to 18-16. But in this strong of a field anything can happen, he also has fellow seeds Jiri Vesely and Nicolas Mahut, in the bottom section, to compete against.

Bottom Half

Igor Sijsling leads this half, but as said he has a tough opener against new kid on the block Alexander Zverev. If he survives that Kenny De Schepper awaits, so it remains to be seen if he even makes the quarterfinal. #7 seed Paul-Henri Mathieu had a good showing in Metz last week, where he choked painfully to Joao Sousa in the quarterfinal (missed 4 MP), who beat Sijsling the round before.

Predictions

Semis:

Kohlschreiber > Mahut
Mathieu > Sijsling

Final:

Kohlschreiber > Mathieu

If Kohlschreiber is fit he should be able to keep up his #1 seed, even though the road to the title is sure to be a tough one with Brown, Stakhovsky, Mahut and Mathieu on his way. Regardless of Kohlschreiber’s superior ranking it would be no surprise if he falls to one of them. One thing is sure, this tournament is bound to provide us with a lot of high quality matches.

Napa Valley Challenger

ATP Challenger Tour
Napa, CA, USA
20-28 September
Prize Money: $50,000

Seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)

1: Sam Querrey (52)
2: Tim Smyczek (102)
3: Marcos Baghdatis (107)
4: Bradley Klahn (118)
5: Peter Polansky (122)
6: Michael Russell (124)
7: Denis Kudla (125)
8: Frank Dancevic (147)

The last direct acceptance is Bjorn Fratangelo, ranked 348th.

First round match-ups to watch

James McGee – Elias Ymer

This will be McGee’s first tournament since his great US Open, where he managed to qualify for his first Grand Slam. He takes on 18 year old Ymer, who is having a breakthrough season of himself, starting the year outside of the top 750 and now is ranked inside of the top 250.

(4) Bradley Klahn – Wayne Odesnik

A tough draw for Klahn against the veteran. Last year’s encounter between the two at Aptos ended in a 7-5 4-6 6-2 victory for Klahn, so he surely will be warned for what is waiting for him in this match. Odesnik has been performing well at American hardcourt Challengers, with a semi-final and a final at respectively Lexington and Binghamton in July.

Top Half

On one hand you would say that Querrey should definitely win this. On the other he is prone to random losses and tight matches against a wide variety of players. However, he has an overwhelming head to head advantage of 7-0 against the other seed in his quarter, Michael Russell, so it would be very surprising if he lost to him. Marcos Baghdatis won back to back Challengers before retiring at the US Open against Marin Cilic in the first round, so if he is healthy again he could pose a major threat.

Bottom Half

This half is dominated by Northern Americans, with Tim Smyczek, Bradley Klahn, Denia Kudla and Frank Dancevic being the seeded players. Along with them you have guys like Wayne Odesnik, Ryan Harrison and Robby Ginepri who are all well capable of making a deep run. It’s pretty much impossible to make an accurate prediction since they’re all so close to each other, it really will come down to their form of the day more than ever.

Predictions

Semis:

Querrey > Baghdatis
Harrison > Ginepri

Final:

Querrey > Harrison

Harrison really needs to regroup after bombing at the main level this year and struggling with injury, he surely has the potential to do so. Querrey leads the head to head against Baghdatis 3-0, two of them very close however, and I see him as the favorite against Harrison as well. Yes, Harrison beat him at straight sets in Auckland almost three years ago, but that was a different Harrison.

Morocco Tennis Tour Kenitra

ATP Challenger Tour
Kenitra, Morocco
22-27 September
Prize Money: €42,500

Seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)

1: Albert Ramos-Vinolas (71)
2: Damir Dzumhur (115)
3: Daniel Gimeno-Traver (135)
4: Aljaz Bedene (144)
5: Adrian Menendez-Maceiras (160)
6: Matteo Viola (182)
7: Lucas Pouille (199)
8: Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo (213)

The last direct acceptance is Inigo Cervantes, ranked 297th.

First round match-ups to watch

(7) Lucas Pouille – Henri Laaksonen

Pouille comes off a great week at the previous Moroccan Challenger in Meknes, where he reached the final, in which he lost to Kimmer Coppejans in three sets. He isn’t used to playing that much tennis, so perhaps Laaksonen can take advantage here if Pouille is suffering from tiredness.

Top Half

Top seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas should be marked a clear favorite here. He lost in the final of the Banja Luka Challenger two weeks ago and lost in the second round in Meknes last week, but that was against Matteo Viola, who is in great form. Pouille is in his quarter and Coppejans in his half, so if they can continue their forms of last week he will have tough competition. If they’re tired and can’t back it up he might cruise all the way to the final.

Bottom Half

#3 seed Daniel Gimeno-Traver has been in bad form lately, but he has a good draw here and should create some momentum for himself by reaching the semi-final at the very least. There he will most likely face in form Matteo Viola or second seed Damir Dzumhur. Dzumhur trashed Viola 6-1 6-2 earlier this year, so against him and a slumping Gimeno-Traver he should be the favorite to reach the final.

Predictions

Semis:

Ramos-Vinolas > Bedene
Dzumhur > Gimeno-Traver

Final:

Ramos-Vinolas > Dzumhur

Sibiu Open 2014

ATP Challenger Tour
Sibiu, Romania
22-28 September
Prize Money: €42,500

Seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)

1: Blaz Rola (85)
2: Albert Montanes (110)
3: Pere Riba (112)
4: Adrian Ungur (132)
5: Victor Hanescu (139)
6: Marton Fucsovics (142)
7: Potito Starace (149)
8: Marco Cecchinato (151)

The last direct acceptance is Tomislav Brkic, ranked 294th.

First round match-ups to watch

(4) Adrian Ungur – Andrea Arnaboldi

The high seeded player might be in danger here. The last time the two met on Moroccan clay, in 2010, Arnaboldi took the match in three sets: 2-6 6-2 6-4. He nearly beat Viola during his run to the Biella title, so it looks like Arnaboldi is recovering some form after his losing streak before.

Jaroslav Pospisil – Marius Copil

33 year old Pospisil has been stringing some good results together in his latest clay Challenger appearances, reaching two semi-finals and a quarterfinal. In the mean time Copil just can’t seem to force the breakthrough a lot of people were predicting him to make, although he did hammer Elias Ymer in straight sets at their Davis Cup tie last week.

Top Half

It’s hard to look past top seed Blaz Rola here, although he has a very tricky draw with Radu Albot in the first round, who reached the semi-final at Trnava last week, where he lost in three sets to the eventual winner Andreas Haider-Maurer. #3 seed Pere Riba has been slumping and might be taken out by veteran Filippo Volandri in the second round. Marco Cecchinato is my pick to advance to the semi-final from that section.

Bottom Half

The players who have the best chance to reach the final are all in the bottom section. Albert Montanes, Antonio Veic and Marton Fucsovics should all be able to beat the threats coming from the bottom section, Potito Starace, Andrea Arnaboldi and Adrian Ungur.

Predictions

Semis:

Rola > Cecchinato
Fucsovics > Starace

Final:

Rola > Fucsovics

Seguros Bolivar Open

ATP Challenger Tour
Pereira, Colombia
22-28 September
Prize Money: $40,000


Seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)

1: Victor Estrella Burgos (72)
2: Alejandro Falla (75)
3: Paolo Lorenzi (79)
4: Alejandro Gonzalez (89)
5: Joao Sousa (109)
6: Horacio Zeballos (114)
7: Guido Pella (158)
8: Austin Krajicek (164)

The last direct acceptance is Theodoros Angelinos, ranked 361st.

First round match-ups to watch

(8) Austin Krajicek – Gonzalo Lama

Krajicek is back in Colombia after surprising everyone by winning the Medellin Challenger on clay three weeks ago. He faces Lama, who did pretty well himself there by reaching the quarterfinal. It will be interesting to see if Krajicek can repeat his form and make another deep run here.

Top Half

Estrella Burgos disappointed last week with a loss against low ranked Gonzalo Escobar after missing several match points. He now faces Nicolas Jarry in the first round, who reached the final at the same tournament. Given Estrella Burgos’ shaky last tournament I would favor fourth seed Alejandro Gonzalez to get out of this half and quite possibly go all the way in his home country, as long as he doesn’t face his nightmare match-up Paolo Lorenzi in the final.

Bottom Half

#4 seed Horacio Zeballos comes off a tournament win at Quito last week, but given his dodgy fitness as of late it remains to be seen if he will handle playing back to back tournaments well. #2 seed Alejandro Falla isn’t playing on his best surface, so this might be an opportunity for the other two seeds, who are both in the top section: Joao Souza and Paolo Lorenzi.

Predictions

Semis:

Gonzalez > Estrella Burgos
Lorenzi > Zeballos

Final:

Lorenzi > Gonzalez

Lorenzi absolutely dominates the head to head against Gonzalez, not having dropped a set in four meetings. This includes two meetings on clay this year: 6-4 6-2 and 6-2 6-1.

Aberto de Tenis do Rio Grande do Sul

ATP Challenger Tour
Porto Alegre, Brazil
22-28 September
Prize Money: $40,000

Seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)

1: Carlos Berlocq (67)
2: Diego Schwartzman (98)
3: Facundo Bagnis (116)
4: Facundo Arguello (117)
5: Gastao Elias (137)
6: Guido Andreozzi (171)
7: Axel Michon (181)
8: Guilherme Clezar (191)

The last direct acceptance is Fabiano De Paula, ranked 385th.

First round match-ups to watch

(4) Facundo Arguello – Andre Ghem

Arguello disappointed with a second round loss this week in Campinas, while Ghem surprised and went all the way to the final, where he lost to Diego Schwartzman. Ghem is having an amazing last couple of tournaments, going from outside of the top 250 to close to the top 150, all at the age of 32. If he keeps his form the #4 seed is in trouble here.

Top Half

#1 seed Carlos Berlocq is the clear cut favorite here and I can’t see anyone getting close to him. Maybe in the final someone like Ghem or Schwartzman can push him, but otherwise this seems like a breeze for the Argentinian veteran. #8 seed Guilherme Clezar is a good pick to upset #3 seed Facundo Bagnis for the other semi-final spot, Clezar has won their past two meetings in straight sets, both last year.

Bottom Half

Like I said above, I see Ghem and Schwartzman making it to the SF again, after battling it out in the final of Campinas last week. Given their respective ages you would say Schwartzman can handle the back to back deep runs a bit better, so I see no reason why the result would be any different here.

Predictions

Semis:

Berlocq > Clezar
Schwartzman > Ghem

Final:

Berlocq > Schwartzman

Berlocq is simply the big favorite to win this tournament, after which we will surely be treated to one of his trademark shirt rippings.

2014 Izmir, Meknes, Trnava, Campinas and Quito Challenger Recaps

2014 Izmir, Meknes, Trnava, Campinas and Quito Challenger Recaps
Chris De Waard, Tennis East Coast

Izmir

The early round match-ups that we were looking forward to either didn’t happen or didn’t deliver. Philipp Petzschner had to retire in his first round match against top seed Malek Jaziri, while Alexander Zverev lost in the first round to qualifier Yaraslav Shyla to deny us of an interesting match-up of 17 year olds between him and Borna Coric. That same Coric didn’t disappoint, however. Not only that, he went all the way to the final, where he took down Jaziri 6-1 6-7(7) 6-4 to win his first Challenger title. He showed great tenacity in the final, keeping his composure after missing five match points in the second set and facing break points at 4-3 and 5-4 in the third.

The win puts him inside of the top 150 for the first time in his career, at #140, an increase of 38 spots. Jaziri jumps 14 spots to #18.

Meknes

The aspirations of Pablo Carreno Busta to win back to back titles quickly ended when he got absolutely hammered by Lucas Pouille in the quarterfinal: 6-3 6-0. Matteo Viola continued his excellent form by beating #2 seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-4 6-3 in the second round, before losing to Kimmer Coppejans in the semi-final: 0-6 6-2 6-4. Pouille also reached the final, which guaranteed another young winner, since both are 20 years old. Coppejans won the encounter 4-6 6-2 6-2 to win his first title on the Challenger circuit. After a jump of 64 ranking spots it also means his first top 200 position, at #196. Pouille rises 29 spots, landing at #170, also a career high ranking.

Trnava

Unsurprisingly, the tournament of top seed Robin Haase didn’t end well. The Dutchman has been slumping and lost eleven games in a row against Radu Albot in their second round encounter 1-6 6-3 6-0. Albot lost in the semi-final to Andreas Haider-Maurer, who made his second final in three Challengers. There he faced Antonio Veic, who took out second seed Blaz Rola in the quarterfinal: 7-5 6-3. In the semi-final seventh seed Marton Fucsovics got routined as well: 6-3 6-2. In a very close final Haider-Maurer eventually prevailed to take down his second Challenger title of the month: 2-6 6-3 7-6(4). Veic can’t be too displeased, however, as he was ranked outside of the top 300 only two months ago and after two finals finds himself at the verge of the top 200: #204. Haider-Maurer jumped 21 spots and finds himself in the top 100 again at #92.

Campinas

For three of the four top seeds, the tournament already was over before the quarterfinal. #2 seed Facundo Bagnis lost 2-6 6-3 7-5 in the first round to Richard Becker, #4 seed Gastao Elias lost 6-4 7-5 to Ivo Klec in the same stage and #3 seed Facundo Arguello lost to Jose Pereira in the second round. The top seed didn’t disappoint, however, as Diego Schwartzman took down the tournament after two very tough three set matches 5-7 6-4 7-6(5) in the semi-final against #5 seed Guido Andreozzi and 4-6 6-4 7-5 against #8 seed Andre Ghem in the final. For Ghem, it’s yet another great run after a final and a semi-final and Prague and Medellin in his past tournaments. He rises 26 spots to #171, a new career high ranking, not too shabby for a 32 year old. Schwartzman rises 10 spots to #88.

Quito

A disappointing tournament for top seed and defending champion Victor Estrella Burgos, losing 4-6 6-3 7-6(4) to Gonzalo Escobar in the second round after missing several match points. #2 seed Joao Souza got upset in the semi-final by the surprise of the tournament Nicolas Jarry, an 18 year old Chilean. Another surprising semi-finalist was Andres Molteni, who took #3 seed Horacio Zeballos to the edge: 5-7 6-3 7-5. Zeballos got pushed again by Jarry in the final, but eventually prevailed: 6-4 7-6(9). He remarkably managed to win the tournament without beating a single seed, only facing players ranked outside of the top 300. Jarry jumped 61 places to #244, while Zeballos re-entered the top 100 at #96, rising 18 spots.