Cilic Plays Peak Tennis, Wins Maiden Grand Slam Over 1st Time Finalist Nishikori

Cilic Plays Peak Tennis, Wins Maiden Grand Slam Over 1st Time Finalist Nishikori
Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast

It was a very eventful second week at the 2014 US Open on the men’s side and in the end, a brand new Grand Slam champion was crowned on Monday. Marin Cilic played some of the best tennis of his life in New York and pulled off a 6-3 6-3 6-3 victory over first time Grand Slam finalist Kei Nishikori.

Cilic played spectacular in the final while Nishikori appeared exhausted. He held serve comfortably, thumping aces, and the inside-out forehand was an effective weapon. He also dominated long and medium length rallies and absorbed Nishikori’s easily generated power. His movement was graceful as well as he blasted his way to a well-deserved victory.

It was a tremendous week for Cilic, who out of nowhere played lights out. His second week wins came against Gilles Simon in 5 sets, Tomas Berdych in straights, and a big upset of Roger Federer also in straight sets in the semifinals. Simon tested him in a grueling five setter but lacked the weapons to damage the Croat. Berdych was a big disappointment in the quarterfinals as he played very poor tennis, and Federer simply got overmatch as Cilic was overpowering him the entire match, and not missing either. The formula used to beat Federer was the same for Cilic as the one to beat Nishikori and he won the back to back matches handily.

Nishikori, meanwhile, considerably improved his net worth by reaching his maiden slam final. He’s still a hero back home in Japan, as he beat Milos Raonic and Stan Wawrinka in 5 sets in week 2, then Novak Djokovic in a massive semifinal upset in 4 sets to reach the final. Nishikori outlasted an assault of aces from Raonic and overcame his own struggles to close out sets to top the Canadian, who has to be wondering what might have been if he had pulled through that match. Wawrinka played quality tennis but Nishikori’s easy power and superior consistency won the day. Lastly, Djokovic played listlessly from the second set onwards. That match could have swung either way and it was Nishikori who won the day. In the fourth set, he pulled away from Novak and the world number 1 has to be disappointed with his performance in the semifinal.

For the first time since 2005, a grand slam final did not feature one of Federer, Djokovic, Nadal or Murray and it’s great to see some fresh faces excelling at the top of the men’s game. Cilic is one of the nicest guys on tour and he’s a hard worker. He’s had to battle back from a suspension that forced him to miss half of the 2013 season, and he’s been a man on a mission all year, at his best he appeared to be a top 5 player. This tournament was big for tennis in both Croatia and Japan, and also big for Cilic’s coach Goran Ivanisevic and Nishikori’s coach Michael Chang, both former Grand Slam champions. They have led their younger pupils to similar heights of success this season.

The season will begin to wind down now, but both Cilic and Nishikori with their fine seasons have cemented themselves as top 10 players and stars in the men’s game. As the ATP tour winds into the fall now that the final slam has concluded, stick with Tennis East Coast for all the coverage.

The juggernaut Bryans won tournament number 100 over Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez in the doubles final.

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2014 Szczecin, Istanbul, Bana Luka, Biella and Seville Challenger Previews, Picks

2014 Szczecin, Istanbul, Bana Luka, Biella and Seville Challenger Previews
Chris De Waard, Tennis East Coast

ATP Challenger Tour Official Page

A clay oriented week on the Challenger circuit, as only Istanbul will be played on hardcourt.

Pekao Szczecin Open

ATP Challenger Tour
Szczecin, Poland
8-14 September
Prize Money: €106,500

Seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)

1: Jan-Lennard Struff (77)
2: Dustin Brown (97)
3: Aleskandr Nedovyesov (107)
4: Albert Montanes (114)
5: Andreas Beck (115)
6: Pere Riba (116)
7: Facundo Arguello (120)
8: Marton Fucsovics (152)

The last direct acceptance is Ivo Klec, ranked 334th. Last week’s Brasov finalist Guillaume Rufin entered the tournament as a special exempt. Grzegorz Panfil and Christian Garin received a wild card. This will be Garin’s first tournament with Fernando Gonzalez as his coach.

First round match-ups to watch

(SE) Guillaume Rufin – Potito Starace

Rufin made a dream run last week, reaching the final of the Brasov Challenger after qualifying. Starace is a tricky opponent, but there will be chances if Rufin can build on his good form. Last week Starace lost 6-4 6-1 to Christian Lindell in the first round of the Genova Challenger.

(2) Dustin Brown (WC) Grzegorz Panfil

Panfil is a mysterious player à la Attila Balazs. He created quite the buzz for himself at the Hopman Cup in the beginning of this year, where he beat Andreas Seppi and Milos Raonic in straight sets and lost to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in three sets. But since then his best result at Challenger level has been a second round appearance and he is ranked lower than where he started the year: 357th. Perhaps a relatively high profile player like Brown can inspire him, resulting in a very entertaining match.

Top Half

Top seed Jan-Lennard Struff reached the second round of the US Open, where he lost to John Isner. He should be able to comfortably reach the quarterfinal here, but after that he is well capable of losing to guys like Marton Fucsovics, Christian Garin or Facundo Arguello, although he will still be the favorite to advance to the final. Upset-wise, I can see Garin beating third seed Aleksandr Nedovyesov in the second round.

Bottom Half

Dustin Brown leads this half and will look to make a start with battling himself back into the top 100, after falling out of it this week. He is projected to play fifth seed Andreas Beck in the quarterfinal, who has been solid in clay Challengers as of late, reaching two semi-finals and a final in his last five events. However, Brown won their only clay encounter last year comfortably in straight sets, so the second seed should still be favored here. #6 seed Pere Riba will try to overcome his disappointing first round loss of last week and will most probably face #4 seed Albert Montanes in the quarterfinal.

Predictions

Semis:

Struff > Garin
Riba > Brown

Final:

Struff > Riba

Riba leads the head to head over Brown 3-0, including a 7-6(6) 7-5 victory earlier this year in Kitzbühel. Struff will prove too strong in the final, however.

Amex-Istanbul Challenger

ATP Challenger Tour
Istanbul, Turkey
8-14 September
Prize Money: $75,000

Seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)

1: Tobias Kamke (73)
2: Malek Jaziri (88)
3: Adrian Mannarino (89)
4: Tatsuma Ito (126)
5: Yuichi Sugita (128)
6: James Ward (131)
7: Jimmy Wang (132)
8: Marsel Ilhan (144)

The last direct acceptance is Yaraslav Shyla, ranked 577th.

First round match-ups to watch

(1) Tobias Kamke – Vincent Millot

A tough draw for Kamke, coming up against someone who reached a Challenger final last week and probably feeling good. In his last four main draw matches on hardcourts, Kamke lost against someone outside of the top 80, so there are definitely chances for an upset here.

Alexander Kudryavtsev – Yoshihito Nishioka

Two players, who, in terms of their game, might as well have been seeded. Both qualified at the US Open, with Kudryavtsev also winning his opening round in the main draw. Nishioka went on to win his first Challenger title last week, so this is bound to be a very interesting encounter.

Top Half

#3 seed Adrian Mannarino has a favorable draw and with top seed Kamke already being in danger of going out in his first round match, he might be able to take advantage and go all the way to the final. In the semi-final, he might face #6 seed James Ward, who has been in good form lately and currently sits on a career-high ranking.

Bottom Half

The bottom section here is especially interesting, with seeds Marsel Ilhan and Malek Jaziri being complemented by Kudryavtsev, Nishioka and Philipp Petzschner, all of which are capable of going through. In the other section, Jimmy Wang, Alexander Zverev and Tatsumo Ito will battle it out for a semi-final spot.

Predictions

Semis:

Mannarino > Ward
Jaziri > Wang

Final:

Mannarino > Jaziri

Banja Luka 2014

ATP Challenger Tour
Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina
8-14 September
Prize Money: €64,000

Seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)

1: Blaz Rola (87)
2: Albert Ramos-Vinolas (95)
3: Andreas Haider-Maurer (110)
4: Aljaz Bedene (133)
5: Ante Pavic (138)
6: Chase Buchanan (158)
7: Jaroslav Pospisil (195)
8: Nikola Mektic (218)

The last direct acceptance is Boris Pashanski, ranked 432nd. Marko Djokovic received a wild card into the main draw.

First round match-ups to watch

(3) Andreas Haider-Maurer – Tristan Lamasine

The young Frenchman reached the semi-final of the Alphen Challenger last week, losing to the eventual winner Jesse Huta Galung, while Haider-Maurer took the title in Brasov. What makes this match even more interesting is the fact that they played each other in the quarterfinal of Meerbusch last month, which ended up being an absolutely epic encounter. Lamasine won 5-7 7-6(5) 7-6(9) and hopefully we will have another match in that category here.

Top Half

Viktor Troicki made it into the draw without receiving a wild card or having to play qualifying and he is likely to at least make the semi-final, in which he would probably face top seed Blaz Rola. Last week, Troicki lost to Mate Delic in a third tiebreak in the quarterfinal, so he isn’t unbeatable, but he should still be marked a favorite in fields like these.

Bottom Half

The first round match between Haider-Maurer and Lamasine will most probably determine the semi-finalist of the top section. However, there, one of them is likely to face second seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas, who is in excellent form and convincingly won the Genova Challenger last week. That should be too much for the two as Ramos-Vinolas is simply the better clay court player between them.

Predictions

Semis:

Troicki > Rola
Ramos-Vinolas > Lamasine

Final:

Ramos-Vinolas > Troicki

Back-to-back titles for Ramos-Vinolas as he ousts Troicki in the final, but this would be an excellent result for Troicki as well in his battle to return to old heights.

Challenger Pulcra Lachiter Biella

ATP Challenger Tour
Biella, Italy
8-14 September
Prize Money: €42,500

Seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)

1: Benoit Paire (98)
2: Filippo Volandri (148)
3: Marco Cecchinato (160)
4: Andrea Arnaboldi (172)
5: Matteo Viola (193)
6: Jason Kubler (197)
7: Henri Laaksonen (280)
8: Dennis Novak (281)

The last direct acceptance is Walter Trusendi, ranked 453rd. Benoit Paire was by far the highest ranked player here, but he withdrew, citing a left knee injury. Benjamin Balleret takes his place in the draw.

First round match-ups to watch

(7) Henri Laaksonen – Alessandro Giannessi

This is bound to become a three set encounter. Both players have spent 2014 mixing up promising results with flops, eventually being unable to make their way up the rankings. This is a nice chance for both players to make a dent, especially considering they’re in the quarter of which top seed Paire withdrew.

Top Half

There are some other players who are looking to go deep here, of whom I give #5 seed Matteo Viola the biggest shot. He is projected to play #4 seed Andrea Arnaboldi in a quarterfinal, but his countryman is on a seven match losing streak. Viola isn’t in his greatest form either, but he leads the clay head to head 2-1 and should be able to profit. A Laaksonen – Viola semi-final is the most likely scenario here, with a healthy chance of Giannessi being in Laaksonen’s spot.

Bottom Half

This half is really open, with Dennis Novak, Jason Kubler, Marco Cecchinato and Filippo Volandri all having a good shot at making the final. Neither of them has displayed good form recently, so it is hard to predict who will take advantage. Last week, Kubler barely lost to Fucsovics in the quarterfinal of Genova, so when you absolutely have to pick one based on recent form you might go for him.

Predictions

Semis:

Viola > Laaksonen
Kubler > Volandri

Final:

Viola > Kubler

Pretty much a coin toss, this final, so I’m going for the easy way out and pick Viola because of the home advantage.

Copa Sevilla

ATP Challenger Tour
Seville, Spain
8-14 September
Prize Money: €42,500

Seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)

1: Pablo Carreno Busta (74)
2: Daniel Gimeno-Traver (101)
3: Pierre-Hugues Herbert (136)
4: Gerald Melzer (145)
5: Adrian Menendez-Maceiras (159)
6: Taro Daniel (186)
7: Roberto Carballes Baena (212)
8: Flavio Cipolla (225)

The last direct acceptance is David Perez Sanz, ranked 362nd.

First round match-ups to watch

(2) Daniel Gimeno-Traver – Daniel Munoz-De La Nava

A very tricky draw for the second seed against the man who comes off a final in Alphen last week, where Gimeno-Traver himself lost in the quarterfinal. However, Munoz-De La Nava is known to be very inconsistent, so it won’t be surprising either if he throws in a horrific performance here. Gimeno-Traver leads the head to head 5-1.

Top Half

It’s hard to look past Carreno Busta. He surprised everyone by reaching the third round at the US Open and should be even more comfortable at this clay Challenger, considering his immense success at these events in the past. One has to wonder how long he will keep up playing them. #3 seed Herbert played an event on hardcourts last week, so he might well go out against one of the six Spaniards in his section.

Bottom Half

The deciding match of this half will probably be played in a quarterfinal between Taro Daniel and Daniel Gimeno-Traver, with the Japanese perhaps being able to surprise. He lives in Valencia and is very comfortable on Spanish clay, while Gimeno-Traver has been looking shaky as of late, having dropped almost 40 ranking spots compared to the start of 2014. The other two seeds, Flavio Cipolla and Gerald Melzer, have been in bad form and are unlikely to pose a threat, just like any of the unseeded players in that section.

Predictions

Semis:

Carreno Busta > Cervantes
Daniel > Gimeno-Traver

Final:

Carreno Busta > Daniel
Carreno Busta is simply too strong at the moment and it wouldn’t even surprise me if he won the tournament without dropping a set.

ATP Shanghai, Brasov, St. Remy Challenger Previews, Predictions

ATP Shanghai, Brasov, St. Remy Challenger Previews, Predictions
Jeff McMillan, Tennis East Coast

ATP Challenger Tour Official Page

Road To The Shanghai Rolex Masters
ATP Challenger Tour
Shanghai, China
August 31-Septmebr 7
Prize Money: $50,000

Seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)

1. Go Soeda (106)
2. Somdev Devvarman (143)
3. Yuki Bhambri (151)
4. James Duckworth (154)
5. Luca Vanni (170)
6. Ze Zhang (182)
7. Di Wu (210)
8. Thomas Fabbiano (224)

First round matchups to watch:

Danai Udomchoke vs Hyeon Chung
Battle of young vs old here as 33 year old veteran Udomchoke battles against 18-year-old rising star Chung. Chung is coming off a big challenger win in Bangkok last week where he beat Udomchoke 7-5 6-3 in the first round. These two will have a rare back-to-back week rematch here in Shanghai. It will be a big test for the 18-year-old’s stamina to see how he can cope with playing the very next week after a long week in Bangkok.

Go Soeda vs Jason Jung
Soeda is going through a very rough patch at the moment. He was blasted in US Open qualies by out of practice Oscar Hernandez. Despite being the 31 seed here in Shanghai, Soeda is largely not expected to win this title. He has a formidable test in round 1 vs gritty American Jason Jung. Jung, the former college player for the Michigan Wolverines, is good on hard courts and can give Soeda a tough test and potentially pull the upset over the top seed and end the Japanese’s run before it even begins.

Top half preview:

Soeda is the top seed in the top half but is in poor form, leaving the draw wide open for anyone to make a semifinal run. The top half also includes James Duckworth and Ze Zhang, two players who had disappointing losses in New York as they attempted to qualify for the US Open. It will be interesting to see if Zhang can put his heartbreaking loss to James McGee behind him and show up in his home country, where he has semifinal points from a year ago to defend.

The most interesting player in the top half of the draw is Yoshihito Nishioka, the Japanese youngster who just qualified for his first major at the US Open. He had to retire in his match vs Lorenzi in round 1 in NYC, but he is thought to be near 100% here in Shanghai. He is likely headed for a big 2nd round match with James Duckworth and then potentially a quarterfinal vs Ze Zhang.

Bottom Half Preview:

The more interesting half of the draw is the bottom half. It boasts the top two Indian players in the world, Somdev Devvarman and Yuki Bhambri, as well as Chinese #2 Di Wu, who will be playing close to home in Shanghai.

This section is another wide-open one, as just like the top half, the top seed in the half (#2 seed Somdev Devvarman) is in dreadful form. Despite the poor form, Devvarman has found himself in a soft quarter and should reach the quarters with little sweat and likely to face Di Wu, who is also in a soft quarter.

A potential sleeper in this section is Sanam Singh. The former elite college player at the University of Virginia has been on a roll lately. He won 8 matches just to get into the US Open qualies and qualified here. He is best on fast hard courts and could do damage here.

Predictions

Quarters:

Fabbiano def Uchiyama
Zhang def Duckworth
Bhambri def Singh
Wu def Devvarman

Semis:

Zhang def Fabbiano
Bhambri def Wu

Final:

Bhambri def Zhang

I look for Yuki Bhambri to get a big challenger win here in Shanghai. He has been in relatively good form and really needs this to boost himself closer towards the top 100. Wu and Zhang will give great efforts in their home countries but come up just short for the title. An all-Chinese final is not out of the question if Wu can get past Bhambri in the semifinals.

BRD Brasov Challenger
ATP Challenger Tour
Brasov, Romania
August 31-September 7
$45,950

Top 8 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses):
1. Andreas Haider-Maurer (110)
2. Pere Riba (116)
3. Facundo Arguello (120)
4. Adrian Ungur (137)
5. Gerald Melzer (145)
6. Chase Buchanan (158)
7. Marius Copil (175)
8. Jarsolav Pospisil (195)

Top Half Preview:

The Top half is well balanced with a few players who could make a semi or final run. Haider-Maurer is the favorite to emerge from the section, but home country Romanian Adrian Ungur could be a spoiler in the section for the top seed. American and former Ohio State Buckeye player Chase Buchanan is in the top half, making an interesting choice to venture out and play on European clay after spending most of his career on American hard courts. It is hard to see him beating more experienced clay courters on European soil.

Bottom Half Preview:
The bottom half is the stronger of the two halves as even the unseeded players are dangerous. Players like Guillame Rufin and Lucas Pouille lurk, and they could be sleepers in this tournament. Despite the strength of the unseeded players, the seeds are favored to move on to the quarters here. Copil, Arguello, Melzer and Riba are all pretty good players on the dirt and make their livings grinding out European challenger events. How much advantage will the hometown venue and crowd give Copil here vs the more established clay players Arguello and Riba? That is the question in this part of the draw.

Predictions:

Quarters:

Haider-Maurer def Buchanan
Ungur def Veic
Arguello def Copil
Riba def Rufin

Semifinals:

Haider-Maurer def Ungur
Arguello def Riba

Final:

Haider-Maurer def Arguello

There will be some long 3 setters late in this tournament that will decide the winner. I expect Arguello vs Copil to be a war in the quarters as well as the semifinal. Coming off of two hard fought matches, Arguello will be a little bit too spent to overcome Haider-Maurer, who will have had an easier road to the final.

Trophee Des Alpilles
ATP Challenger Tour
St. Remy, France
September 2-September 7 2014
$55,763

Top Seeds: (ATP rank)
1. Paul Henri Mathieu (81)
2. Sergei Stakhovsky (93)
3. Nicolas Mahut (103)
4. Kenny De Schepper (105)
5. Evgeny Donskoy (118)
6. Norbert Gombos (129)
7. Pierre Herbert (136)
8. Hiroki Moriya (149)

First round matches to watch:

Paul-Henri Mathieu vs Alexander Zverev

ATP veteran Mathieu is the top seed here in St.Remy. He probably possesses the most ability of all the players in the draw, but his motivation can be questioned for a challenger event for a player used to ATP level matches. Meanwhile, Zverev is one of the hottest prospects in the game right now. The 17-year-old German burst onto the scene with a semifinal run in his hometown Hamburg 500 event in July and has had people talking since. This will be a very intriguing match to follow. Experience vs promise.

Top half Preview:

Mathieu is the top seed here and looms at the top of the draw. The rest of the seeds in this section are not the most intimidating, as Mahut is in poor form while Gombos and Herbert are very beatable despite their seeds. That leaves the door open for players like Josselin Ouanna and Fabrice Martin.

Bottom half Preview:

Stakhovsky is the favorite in this section, but dangerous floaters loom. Evgeny Donskoy has a good shot to get out of this section and to the final, as does unseeded Ruben Bemelmans. The winner of Donskoy vs Stakhovsky could very well win this whole tournament.

Predictions:

Quarterfinals:

Zverev def Herbert
Martin def Mahut
Bemelmans def De Schepper
Donskoy def Stakhovsky

Semifinals:

Martin def Zverev
Donskoy def Bemelmans

Final:

Donskoy def Martin

A little bit of a surprise here. Martin has no recent results to indicate he can make the final here, but the others in the section are either in poor form, lacking in proper motivation or too inexperienced and that is why Martin will emerge as the surprise finalist here. Donskoy overcomes Stakhovsky in a very tight match and from that big win will roll to the title herein St. Remy.

ATP Genova, Alphen aan den Rijn, Medellin Challenger Previews, Predictions

ATP Genova, Alphen aan den Rijn, Medellin Challenger Previews, Predictions
Chris De Waard, Tennis East Coast

ATP Challenger Tour Official Page

AON Open Challenger

ATP Challenger Tour
Genova, Italy
2-7 September
Prize Money: €85,000

Seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)

1: Albert Ramos-Vinolas (95)
2: Dustin Brown (97)
3: Benoit Paire (98)
4: Albert Montanes (114)
5: Andreas Beck (115)
6: Damir Dzumhur (119)
7: Aljaz Bedene (133)
8: Gastao Elias (142)

The last direct acceptance is Pedro Sousa, ranked 312th. Viktor Troicki entered this tournament on a special exempt after his victorious run last week and plays second seed Dustin Brown in the first round.

First round match-ups to watch

(2) Dustin Brown – (SE) Viktor Troicki

Obviously. This is a match that easily could’ve taken place at Grand Slam or 500 level, but in a way it’s better for us on Challenger level since we are now guaranteed a stream. Brown must hate his draw. Not only did he as the second seed draw someone who won a Challenger last week, he is the defending champion and now there is a very reasonable chance he crashes out in the first round. Brown currently sits just inside the top 100 at #97, but if Troicki beats him he would drop out of the top 120, so it’s a crucial match for him. He has to hope for one of his good days, since he’ll need to overpower Troicki while keeping the unforced error count lower than he usually does.

Top Half

#4 seed Albert Montanes starts off with a tricky match against Marton Fucsovics, a man who is twelve years his junior and is well capable of upsetting him. However, after moving away from the main tour, Montanes has picked up his results again, winning the Cordenons Challenger two weeks ago, so he should still be favored to get past Fucsovics. After that, a potential meeting with Gastao Elias awaits him should the Portuguese beat Volandri, who beat him 6-4 6-3 at Hamburg earlier this year. Top seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas should be able to get through his section, although seventh seed Aljaz Bedene may put up some stiff resistance. After all, the last clay Challenger Bedene played he won, in Italy, even: Todi in early July.

Bottom Half

This is an interesting one. Second seed Brown could fall to Troicki and with third seed Benoit Paire, you never know what you are going to get. Put some dangerous floaters like Marco Cecchinato and Potito Starace in the mix and it becomes a very difficult half to predict. The other two seeds, Damir Dzumhur and Andreas Beck, are in pretty good form as well, so it’s basically anyone’s final to reach. Nevertheless, I have to pick someone, but I wouldn’t advise putting your house on it.

Predictions

Semis:

Ramos-Vinolas > Elias
Paire > Dzumhur

Final:

Ramos-Vinolas > Paire

Ramos-Vinolas has played Elias twice already this year, with Ramos-Vinolas winning both matches in three sets. He also played against Paire, in Umag, where he beat him 7-5 6-3, so Ramos-Vinolas has to be favored over his opponents partially due to this 2014 head to head advantage.

TEAN International 2014

ATP Challenger Tour
Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands
2-7 September
Prize Money: €42,500

Seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)

1: Robin Haase (70)
2: Igor Sijsling (72)
3: Daniel Gimeno-Traver (101)
4: Thiemo de Bakker (140)
5: Victor Hanescu (150)
6: Axel Michon (180)
7: Matteo Viola (193)
8: Roberto Carballes Baena (212)

The last direct acceptance is Inigo Cervantes, ranked 303rd.

First round match-ups to watch

(1) Robin Haase – Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo

Haase has been playing on hardcourt in past weeks and his last clay court match didn’t leave him with pleasant memories, as he lost 6-2 6-3 to Paolo Lorenzi in Kitzbühel, a tournament where he normally excels. To play a solid veteran grinder like Ramirez Hidalgo isn’t ideal when you have a lack of rhythm and he might make Haase pay here. Haase’s previous Dutch Challenger didn’t end all that well either, as he needed three sets to beat world #494 Dino Marcan in the first round and fell in straights to Jesse Huta Galung in the next round.

Top Half

There is quite the ranking difference between the two top seeds, Haase and Gimeno-Traver, and the rest of the field, making them the clear favorites to face off against each other in the semi-final. The second highest seed, Michon, is ranked eighty ranking spots below Gimeno-Traver and a massive 110 above Haase. That said, Haase is projected to play Huta Galung in the second round, who beat him at the Sport1 Open in July. Although Huta Galung pulled out injured in his qualifying match at the US Open, when he is healthy he may well beat Haase.

Bottom Half

Thiemo de Bakker is in a perfect position to make a run here, with two relatively easy first rounds and a projected match against slumping fifth seed Victor Hanescu or Hans Podlipnik-Castillo in the quarterfinal. Second seed Igor Sijsling, despite his form crisis, should be the slight favorite to reach the semi-final from the other section, but against De Bakker he will be the underdog, as De Bakker is quite clearly the more natural clay court player.

Predictions

Semis:

Gimeno-Traver > Huta Galung
De Bakker > Sijsling

Final:

Gimeno-Traver > De Bakker

This final would be a repeat of last year’s semi-final, when Gimeno-Traver managed to oust De Bakker in three sets. Top seed Haase has a tricky draw with Ramirez Hidalgo and Huta Galung back to back, with especially his countryman being a real danger as shown in past meetings.

Claro Open Medellin 2014

ATP Challenger Tour
Medellin, Colombia
2-7 September
Prize Money: $50,000

Seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)

1: Alejandro Gonzalez (100)
2: Facundo Bagnis (109)
3: Joao Souza (113)
4: Guido Pella (155)
5: Wayne Odesnik (176)
6: Guilherme Clezar (190)
7: Gonzalo Lama (198)
8: Austin Krajicek (202)

The last direct acceptance is Martin Cuevas, ranked 376th.

First round match-ups to watch

(7) Gonzalo Lama – Kevin King

Not only does his name remind one of his legendary countryman Fernando Gonzalez, Gonzalo Lama’s game shows similarities as well, most notably his forehand, on which he can create similar rotation. The 21 year old won his first Challenger title in Colombia in April of this year, so he should feel comfortable coming back to the country. He plays Kevin King, who made an interesting choice coming here to play on clay, a surface which he hasn’t played on since April, when he reached the second round of the San Luis Potosi Challenger in Mexico.

Top Half

Top seed Alejandro Gonzalez should cruise through his section, which contains #8 seed Austin Krajicek, who isn’t impressive on clay in the slightest. #4 seed Guido Pella might look threatening in name, but has been struggling with injury for quite some time and probably isn’t ready yet to pose a serious challenge. It should, however, be an interesting battle between him and Wayne Odesnik for a semi-final spot.

Bottom Half

#2 seed Facundo Bagnis performed above expectations at the US Open, coming through the qualification draw and falling to Philipp Kohlschreiber in the first round. He most likely will face Lama in the quarterfinal, a match which I’m looking forward to very much. They have already played earlier this year at Caltanissetta in Italy, with Bagnis winning 6-4 6-4. In the other section third seed Joao Souza will probably get through to the semi-final, considering the good form he is in. In his last three Challenger events he made two semi-finals and a quarterfinal.

Predictions

Semis:

Gonzalez > Pella
Bagnis > Souza

Final:

Bagnis > Gonzalez

In a match-up between Bagnis and Gonzalez, it’s hard to ignore their previous match, played at a Challenger in Santiago last year, where Bagnis absolutely hammered Gonzalez 6-0 6-3.

2014 ATP Bangkok, Como Challenger Recaps

2014 ATP Bangkok, Como Challenger Recaps
Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast

 

Bangkok Official Site

Bangkok

Top seed Go Soeda fought through his US Open disappointment, where he lost in the first qualifying round against Oscar Hernandez, to comfortably go through to the semi-final without dropping a set. However, he got upset by unseeded 18 year old Hyeon Chung, who went through after a tough three set match, 6-4 2-6 6-4. This tournament was a great place to be for the new generation, as another unseeded youngster in the other half of the draw made a deep run as well: 20 year old Jordan Thompson.

Thompson showed incredible form as he didn’t just beat the higher ranked opponents on his path: he obliterated them. First up was second seed James Duckworth in the second round, as the Australian fell 6-2 6-4 to his younger countryman. In the quarterfinal, sixth seed Kyle Edmund had no chance as Thompson comfortably beat him 6-3 6-1. A similar pattern followed in the semi-final, when third seed Luca Vanni fell 6-1 6-3.

An all-youngster final between Chung and Thompson it was, in which Chung went down 2-5 in the first set, but ultimately ousted Thompson 7-6(0) 6-4 to win his first title on the Challenger tour. Needless to say that their rankings will rise significantly after this success: Thompson jumps approximately 50 spots from his current ranking of #278, while Chung will crack the top 200 for the first time and lands around 185th spot, a jump of 65.

Como

Prior to the tournament the biggest question was where qualifier Viktor Troicki would end up in the draw, since that was bound to change the entire dynamic. He ended up in top seed Facundo Arguello’s quarter, which set them up for a bombshell meeting in the quarterfinal. They both made it there and Troicki showed he is the former top 20 player between them, comfortably winning 6-3 6-2. Another qualifier on the comeback trail, Jurgen Zopp, finally showed some good form and set up a semi-final meeting with Troicki after he took out two seeds playing in their home country: fourth seed Filippo Volandri (6-3 6-1) and sixth seed Potito Starace (3-6 7-6(4) 6-0).

In the bottom half, the seeds fell like flies, as #3 seed Adrian Ungur and #7 seed Marco Cecchinato lost in the first round, while #2 seed Pierre-Hugues Herbert and #5 seed Victor Hanescu lost only one round later. Louk Sorensen and Ilija Bozoljac took advantage as they made it to the semi-final, in which Sorensen scraped by Bozoljac 4-6 6-2 6-4.

However, Troicki was clearly the man of the tournament as he beat Zopp 6-3 6-4 and Sorensen 6-3 6-2 to take the first title of his comeback and his third overall Challenger title. This, of course, means a huge ranking jump for the Serb, rising from 408 to around 260. Sorensen posted a new career high ranking as he broke the top 200 for the first time, landing around the 185th ranking spot.

2014 US Open Week 2 Men’s Preview, Picks

2014 US Open Week 2 Men’s Preview
Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast

An exciting first week of action is in the books in Flushing Meadows and most of the big names have survived into the second week, while some new faces also dot the landscape. Here is a look at what has occurred this past week and what should happen the rest of the tournament.

Round of 16 matchups:

(1)Novak Djokovic vs. (22)Philipp Kohlschreiber
Djokovic has been on fire in his first three matches, putting up a bagel and pair of breadsticks en route to straight sets wins over Diego Sebastian Schwartzman, Paul-Henri Mathieu, and Sam Querrey. None of his opponents have managed more than 4 games in a set against him. There were doubts going in, but even against mid-level competition those doubts appear to have vanished.

Kohlschreiber, meanwhile, yet again made the round of 16 by knocking out the last American in the draw, John Isner, this time in 4 sets, as the German weathered an assault of aces by the American, and played a trio of clutch tiebreaks to get the victory. He also has wins over Facundo Bagnis and Michael Llodra this week, and has just dropped the lone set to Isner en route to the round of 16.

That said, Djokovic should dispatch the German. He has won 4 of their 5 meetings, and the last 3 meetings going back to to 2010. Kohli has won a set in the last three meetings so this could go 4, but Novak is back in cyborg mode and probably won’t be bothered even that much.

(8)Andy Murray vs. (9)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
That match I was really looking forward to at the start of the week will take place in the round of 16. Murray has had a topsy-turvy week that featured four set wins over Robin Haase in round 1, and Andrey Kuznetsov in round 3. Sandwiched in the middle was a straight sets routine win over Matthias Bachinger. Murray has played clockwork tennis at times, but in the Haase match where he was cramping, and also for a little over a set in the Kuznetsov match, he endured lapses in play and looked like a totally different player on the court. He very nearly avoided a collapse against Haase that would have sent the match to five sets, and going on walkabouts is unusual compared to his previous standard of play before this season.

Tsonga has had less trouble reaching the second week. He won in 4 over Juan Monaco in round 1, but truly did dictate that match, and also won in straights over Alex Nedovyesov, and Pablo Carreno-Busta. He has been aggressive, the forehand has been snappy, the movement loose, and everything appears to be working for the Frenchman early on.

This is, of course, a rematch of their Toronto match earlier this summer that Tsonga won in 3 sets, and I’m sticking with my original prediction that Tsonga will get through to the quarterfinals. Murray has been much more inconsistent and Tsonga is a player who can seize the momentum and punish Murray getting complacent in a way only so many of Murray’s opponents can. Tsonga in 4 is my pick.

(3)Stan Wawrinka vs. (16)Tommy Robredo
Wawrinka has looked comfortable in the two matches he has played. His third round match that was supposed to be against Blaz Kavcic became a walkover when Kavcic withdrew, and his match preparation for this fourth round encounter took place against Jiri Vesely in round 1, a match he won in straight sets, and against Thomaz Bellucci in round 2, a match he won in 4 sets. Both matches featured tiebreaks and were competitive, but Wawrinka narrowly escaped being pushed any further than that as his opponents missed their opportunities to truly open the match up.

Robredo won in 3 over Edouard Roger-Vasselin, then had to survive an absolute dogfight against Simone Bolelli in round 2. The Italian peppered his forehand for a two set lead, and then came close to closing the match out in straights before a bad call helped Robredo regain some momentum, and he fought his way back over the tired Italian. In round 3, he weathered an early assault from the young Nick Kyrgios, who won multiple matches in a grand slam main draw yet again, having further established himself as a competitive ATP player. Kyrgios went up a set and a break, but it was one way traffic for Robredo from there on out as he won in 4 sets, most notably with a big third set tiebreak victory that sealed Kyrgios fate.

Robredo has an overall h2h lead of 6-2 on Stan the Man, but Stan did beat him in 3 sets at the AO this year. Robredo had a win last season on hard court and otherwise dominates the series. Wawrinka has looked good, but I’ve noticed some slight blips in his game, and if Robredo isn’t gassed I have a feeling he will capitalize and pull off an upset. It’s against the odds, but I’m going with Robredo in any number of sets.

(5)Milos Raonic vs. (10)Kei Nishikori
Another round of 16 match that should be highly competitive, Raonic has straight sets wins over Taro Daniel in round 1 and Victor Estrella, a great story to follow, in round 3. Estrella, at the age off 33, won his first career grand slam main draw match against Igor Sijsling in 4 sets in round 1, and then reached the third round with a 4 set win over the young Borna Coric. He is a testament to the fact grit and determination go a long way on the ATP circuit. In round 2, Raonic vanquished Peter Gojowczyk in 4 sets. He has won six consecutive tiebreakers this past week.

Nishikori demolished Wayne Odesnik, Pablo Andujar and Leo Mayer without incident. He looks healthy and he’s playing very well.

Raonic and Nishikori have met three times before. Nishikori has a 2-1 lead in the h2h series but both matches won by Nishikori were close and Raonic won their most recent meeting at Wimbledon this year. Nishikori has claim to win this match, but I’m personally going with Raonic in 4 or 5 sets. He has proven to be more consistent and steadily good throughout this season and recently.

(6)Tomas Berdych vs. Dominic Thiem
Berdych has looked strong, easily dispatching Lleyton Hewitt and Teymuraz Gabashvili in rounds 1 and 3, and surviving a strong test by Martin Klizan in 5 sets in round 2. Klizan had Berdych searching for answers throughout their match, but Berdych had that extra edge the Slovak did not to pull himself through.

Thiem is the breakthrough young star of this grand slam like Nick Kyrgios at Wimbledon. The young Austrian has had a strong season on the ATP tour and truly earned his place in the round of 16 here. He beat Lukas Lacko in straight sets, his friend Ernests Gulbis in 5 sets from 2 sets down, and Feliciano Lopez in straight sets. Gulbis was injured sometime around the 4th set, but Thiem’s mettle in coming back to win the match was still impressive, and the way he followed that match up with such an easy victory against the veteran Lopez was incredibly impressive. He is improving his hard court game considerably.

Thiem should give a good account for himself there, but I think Berdych has too much game for the young Austrian, who doesn’t hit as heavy on hard courts and prefers to play methodically. Berdych should seize the initiative and win this one in 3 or 4 sets.

(14)Marin Cilic vs. (26)Gilles Simon
Cilic was supposed to be here, and Simon was not, as they both had interesting paths to the fourth round. Cilic beat Marcos Baghdatis, and Ilya Marchenko without dropping a set, then won In 4 sets over Kevin Anderson, he hasn’t been perfect, but he’s been entirely solid.

Simon beat Radu Albot in straights, Federico Delbonis in 4, and David Ferrer in 4 sets over the last week. Simon has had an awful season and I don’t think any experts expected him to do well here, but he’s played a newly aggressive style, taking the ball further up the court and not waiting back solely for his opponents to make errors. This approach at forcing the issue is helping him play better and it is one of the big reasons his form as improved, not to mention his ball striking has just been better this week than it has been all season. Ferrer was bounced early and didn’t appear physically engaged in the match with Simon. He may be injured in some form or fashion.

Simon dominates the h2h with Cilic, leading 4-0, including a 5 set win at the Aussie Open this year, but even still Cilic is the favorite and I’m going with him as well. It’s hard to believe in Simon after seeing how he has played all season, even if he is in vintage form at the USO. Cilic in 4 or 5 sets is my selection.

(7)Grigor Dimitrov vs. (20)Gael Monfils
Two players in excellent form will meet in a star-studded round of 16 match that the crowd will be eager to watch. Dimitrov has rolled over Ryan Harrison, Dudi Sela, and David Goffin, who played well for a set and a half before being vanquished by the Bulgarian number one in 4 sets.

Monfils beat Jared Donaldson and Alejandro Gonzalez without dropping a set, then annihilated his languishing countryman Richard Gasquet, a defending semifinalist, 6-4 6-2 6-2 in round 3. Monfils made the highlight reel again with a flying forehand, and as I said both players are playing some tremendous tennis, true outside threats to top two seeds at the moment.

One of them has to win though, and Monfils is looking to repeat his 2011 victory over Dimitrov at the US Open. This one could go either way but I’m going with my original selection of Monfils. I just think he will have too much game for Dimitrov and throw in kinks he struggles to handle. Look for the match to go 4 or more likely five sets.

(2)Roger Federer vs. (17)Roberto Bautista Agut
Federer is set to meet RBA for the first time, he has looked comfortable this week, winning in straights over Marinko Matosevic and Sam Groth, before winning in 4 over Marcel Granollers. Federer dominated that third round match after a shockingly poor start in the first set, a rain delayed after going 2-5 down helped him regain his focus and though Granollers took the first set, the match was never that close. Groth likewise was flummoxed by how effortless it was for Federer to deal with his serve and volleys, while punishing his weak backhand.

Bautista Agut continues his career year. He had a five set win over Andreas Haider-Maurer in round 1, but he looked much more at ease after that, winning in straights over Tim Smyczek and Adrian Mannarino, neither of whom looked bothered to compete in their matches.

RBA is a good, underrated, player but I don’t see him having the consistency to truly bother Federer. The Swiss maestro should get through this one in straights, similar to his rival Djokovic.

Predictions for the rest of the tournament

Quarters:
Djokovic d. Tsonga in 5
Raonic d. Robredo in 4
Berdych d. Cilic in 4
Federer d. Monfils in 5

Sticking with my original predictions of Djokovic, Raonic, and also Federer in the semifinals. Djokovic’s seemingly improved game in the first week of the USO compared to this summer increases my confidence that he will reach the final even with Tsonga also playing well. Raonic will likely have too much game for a tired Robedo, Berdych/Cilic is a hard selection but Berdych is usually more consistent, and Federer-Monfils should be a battle but I think Federer has a decisive edge.

Semis:
Djokovic d. Raonic in 3
Federer d. Berdych in 4

Djokovic returns serve exceptionally and that gives him a big edge over Raonic. Federer, meanwhile, has lost to Berdych before and could get in a battle with him, but I do think he also reaches the final without too much trouble.

Final:
Federer d. Djokovic in 4

I’ll be the first to admit Djokovic’s odds of winning the tournament have increased considerably after a strong first three rounds showing little weakness, but I do like to stick to my guns and I went with Federer at the start. He hasn’t played poorly either and this final was always going to be competitive. If it goes 5, Djokovic has an edge, which is why I’m saying Federer in a close 4 sets.

2014 Bangkok & Como Challenger Previews

2014 Bangkok & Como Challenger Previews
Chris DeWaard, Tennis East Coast

bangkok chang sat

It’s not only about the US Open this week, with two Challengers on the schedule. One in Thailand on hardcourt and the other in Italy, on clay.

Chang-Sat Bangkok Open 2014
ATP Challenger Tour
Bangkok, Thailand
August 25-31
Prize Money: $50,000

Seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)

1: Go Soeda (107)
2: James Duckworth (155)
3: Luca Vanni (170)
4: Thomas Fabbiano (227)
5: Matt Reid (236)
6: Kyle Edmund (237)
7: Yasutaka Uchiyama (242)
8: Elias Ymer (244)

The last direct acceptance is exceptionally high here: Congsup Congcar, ranked 2078th.

First round match-ups to watch

Danai Udomchoke – Hyeon Chung

Udomchoke has had a long career in the shadow of Thailand’s most successful player, Paradorn Srichaphan, which saw him reach a career high ranking of #77 in early 2007. This happened after arguably the greatest tournament of his career, the Australian Open, where he beat 24th seed Juan Carlos Ferrero in the second round and took a set off Novak Djokovic in the third round. You can watch a great point he won against Djokovic in that match below. A year earlier, he pushed #3 seed David Nalbandian to the brink in their first round match, falling 2-6 2-6 6-1 7-6(4) 1-6.

2007 was also the last year in which the now 33 year old Udomchoke was ranked inside of the top 100. Currently he is ranked just outside the top 300 at #308 and one has to wonder how long he will keep playing. Perhaps he can make a final run at his home event here. He will take on the South Korean youngster Chung, who is fifteen years his junior and ranked 249th.

Top Half

Last week, top seed Go Soeda was involved in what arguably was the upset of the year, losing 6-3 6-3 as the second seed to Oscar Hernandez in the first round of qualifying at the US Open. Hernandez had been retired for four years and came back on a protected ranking to solely play the qualifying tournaments of Grand Slams. During his professional days, he was known to be awful on hardcourt (5-32 on the main tour), so his win was an enormous surprise and quite humiliating for Soeda. However, Soeda thrives at Challenger level and should be able to brush off that loss here with a deep run.

Perhaps eighth-seeded Elias Ymer can threaten him, although it is yet to be seen how he performs on hardcourt, since the strides he has made this year have solely come on clay. I can’t see the other two seeds, Thomas Fabbiano and Yasutaka Uchiyama, threatening Soeda. A run by Udomchoke is a possibility to consider and would be a nice surprise.

Bottom Half

James Duckworth heads this half and should be a comfortable favorite to reach the final, fighting it out with Kyle Edmund in the quarterfinal for that spot. Matt Reid and Luca Vanni will battle it out in the other section for a semi-final spot against a variety of low ranked Indian and Thai players, which should be no problem for them. However, against Duckworth or Edmund, I see them as a solid underdog.

Predictions

Semis:

Soeda > Udomchoke
Duckworth > Vanni

Final:

Duckworth > Soeda

Udomchoke lets his hometown inspire him to make a good run, but Soeda will simply be too solid for the veteran. The quarterfinal between Duckworth and Edmund will be the real final, as I can see Edmund beating Soeda in the final as well.

ATP Como

Citta Di Como 2014
ATP Challenger Tour
Como, Italy
August 25-31
Prize Money: €35,000

Seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)

1: Facundo Arguello (121)
2: Pierre-Hugues Herbert (136)
3: Adrian Ungur (137)
4: Filippo Volandri (148)
5: Victor Hanescu (150)
6: Potito Starace (156)
7: Marco Cecchinato (160)
8: Andrea Arnaboldi (172)

The last direct acceptance is Christian Lindell, ranked 285th. Viktor Troicki is in the qualifying draw and is very likely to make it into the main draw.

First round match-ups to watch

(5) Victor Hanescu – Jan Hajek

Long time top 100 player Hanescu (33) looks to have dropped out of it for good this year and currently is barely holding onto a top 150 position at #150. Fellow veteran Hajek (31) has made an even bigger drop this year and currently resides exactly 200 spots lower at #350 after starting the year at #105. A big contrast to only a year ago, when he played Federer in the third round of a 500 event. This may very well be the last couple of months on tour for both gentleman and perhaps they can make something interesting out of this match, as both their previous encounters went into a dramatic decider, both won by Hanescu: 6-7(8) 6-4 7-5 and 5-7 6-1 6-4.

Top Half

As expected from a European Challenger the field is a lot more in balance than its Asian counterpart this week. Facundo Arguello heads the field and will be challenged by three Italian seeds in his half, Andrea Arnaboldi, Filippo Volandri and Potito Starace. Volandri and Starace are projected to battle it out in the quarterfinal, just like two weeks ago in Cordenons. However, it is yet to be seen if Volandri is fit enough, considering he retired from that match in the second set. I can’t see a lot of suprises coming from the non-seeded players, so an Arguello – Starace semi-final is very likely here. Unless, of course, Viktor Troicki qualifies and lands in this half, in which case anything can happen considering he would be among the top seeds. For my predictions, considering there is a 75% chance he draws a spot in the bottom half, I’m going to assume that will be the case.

Bottom Half

Pierre-Hugues Herbert leads this half, but he has been in poor form lately, so there might well be a surprise finalist coming out of this half. #7 seed Marco Cecchinato is projected to play him in the semi-final and I think the young Italian should be marked a favorite there. From the upper section, #3 seed Adrian Ungur should prevail over his countryman Hanescu. Ungur won a Challenger three weeks ago in San Marino, which should give him a confidence boost.

Predictions

Semis:

Troicki > Arguello
Cecchinato > Ungur

Final:

Cecchinato > Troicki

Top seed Arguello hasn’t had the best of showings on European clay this year, even losing in straight sets to world number 379 Roman Jebavy in his last tournament. If Troicki ends up in the bottom half, he plays Cecchinato in the semi-final, which would determine the winner of the tournament.

Cecchinato has been sniffing at main tour success lately, but coming up short in deciding sets on a lot of occasions. Here at a Challenger in his home country, he should feel less pressure and prevail. He has posted good results in Italy this year, with three semi-finals and a final in clay Challengers.