2014 ATP Washington (@CitiOpen) Preview
Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast
ATP World Tour 500
Washington, DC, USA
July 28-August 3, 2014
Prize Money: $1,399,700
Top 8 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Tomas Berdych (5)
2: Milos Raonic (7)
3: Grigor Dimitrov*
4: Kei Nishikori (11)
5: John Isner (12)
6: Richard Gasquet (14)
7: Kevin Anderson (21)
8: Feliciano Lopez (25)
*Grigor Dimitrov withdrew with an illness. Julian Benneteau will take his seed line.
The ATP event in DC has two top 10 players and 5 top 20 players, a solid field for a 500 level tournament in our nation’s capital.
First round matchups to watch:
Blaz Kavcic vs. Benjamin Becker
The younger Kavcic has never played the 33-year-old Becker before and both players are in some great form recently. Kavcic has been playing well on the challenger circuit, with three titles, a final and a quarterfinal in his last five tournaments, all on hard courts. Becker has found success on the ATP level. He reached the semis in Atlanta and the final in Den Bosch over the past two months. According to an eyewitness in Atlanta, he is hitting his forehand and serve the best he has in years. It’s hard to predict the outcome here. Kavcic has had a more difficult travel schedule but Becker played a lot of tennis this week in the hot Atlanta weather. Both players may be worn out after this match, but the quality should still be good.
Lukas Lacko vs. (WC)Filip Peliwo
Lacko and Peliwo have also never played before, and with Lacko having found some surprising form en route to the quarterfinals in Atlanta, he should be favored. Peliwo is a promising young Canadian but his results have been poor at the challenger level and he seems to be trying to find his feet in the pro game right now.
Evgeny Donskoy vs. (WC)Francis Tiafoe
This match will be all about how the 16-year-old Tiafoe can perform in front of home fans in DC. The young man with a great story of tenacity and grit helping him rise to the cream of the crop of the junior tennis world with limited amounts of assistance compared to what many young receive will face former top 100 player Donskoy, who has lost three straight matches and is in poor form. Donskoy can play well on hard courts at times, but Tiafoe, who won his first ATP qualies match in Atlanta before losing in round 2 of qualifying will at least have a punchers chance to make this match competitive. The crowd will be riveted no matter what happens.
Tomas Berdych is making his post Wimbledon debut in DC, and the top seed will get Robby Ginepri or Alejandro Falla for his first match. He is likely to reach round three and face Vasek Pospisil, assuming the Atlanta quarterfinalist beats Rajeev Ram/Jared Donaldson. Berdych will be a favorite to get to the quarterfinals and likely face one of Kavcic/Becker or Feliciano Lopez/Santiago Giraldo/Victor Estrella/Tobias Kamke. This is a hard section to predict as Estrella had success in Bogota, Lopez was red hot during the grass court season, and Giraldo has been good for parts of the season. Lopez vs. Berdych is my pick for the quarters here though.
Kei Nishikori is another playing making his post Wimbledon debut in DC. The top Japanese player will face Sam Querrey or Michael Russell for his first match, followed by one of Rendy Lu/Peliwo/Lacko in round 3. With Lu having played poorly in Atlanta, I am going with a Nishikori vs. Lacko round 3 prediction.
Then, below this section is a section featuring Frenchman Richard Gasquet and Jeremy Chardy as seeds. Gasquet pulled out of Atlanta and struggled in Bogota. He faces ATL finalist Dudi Sela or big-serving, lucky loser Sam Groth in Round 2. If he makes it through that, Gassquet will face Chardy or Tim Smyczek/Alex Kuznetsov. Smyczek/Kuznetsov have a decent shot at sneaking into round 3, and perhaps even the quarterfinals with Sela being tired and Gasquet being in poor form.
Milos Raonic, who has had an excellent 2014 season, will face the in-form Jack Sock or Michael Berrer in round 2. Should he defeat Sock, as he already done has this year, he is likely to face Lleyton Hewitt or Marinko Matosevic in round 3. Matosevic made the quarters in Atlanta and should have a slight edge over his countryman Hewitt. He has to beat Ilya Marchenko first, though.
Expect Raonic vs. John Isner or Ivo Karlovic in the quarters. Isner, the ATL champ, will face Steve Johnson or James Duckworth, followed by Karlovic or Frank Dancevic/Benoit Paire. Three of the biggest servers in the game are in this section, and don’t count Johnson out either.
Denis Istomin and Julien Benneteau highlight the section above Isner. Benneteau will face Donald Young or Yuichi Sugita first, and with Young in poor form, it should be Benny vs. Istomin or Bernard Tomic in round 3.
The Bogota champ Tomic, who showed renewed passion and focus at that tournament, will face Alejandro Gonzalez first, and then Istomin. He’s a dangerous unseeded player in this section of the draw. Tomic is, in fact, the only imposing player here that I see, so he should get into the quarterfinals to face Kevin Anderson/Radek Stepanek or Tiafoe/Donskoy/Malek Jaziri/Sergiy Stakhovsky. Anderson was very poor in Atlanta but chalked it up to rust. Stepanek can be dangerous, so I’m going with Stepanek over Anderson in round 3 and a Tomic vs. Stepanek quarter.
Dark Horse: Bernard Tomic
He was gifted a reasonable draw after Dimitrov pulled out, and his first three opponents, Gonzalez, Istomin and Benneteau/Young are entirely beatable. He is also talented enough to get past Stepanek/Anderson. Whether he has the mentality and fitness to do so is another story, however, and it’s going to be up to Bernard how he does with another great opportunity to further his comeback this week.
Nishikori d. Lopez
Raonic d. Stepanek
Lopez beat Berdych at Queens this year and he has multiple wins over the Czech, so I like him to reach the semis. That said, Nishikori normally has the edge over Feli so I’m going with him to reach the final. Given his strong season so far that has only been interrupted by conditioning issues preventing him putting up strong back to back results. And given he’s had lots of rest, that won’t be a problem this week.
I trust Stepanek over Tomic. I need to see more of a sample from Tomic before getting back on the bandwagon with him.
Raonic should have a decided edge in his section with Isner tired and him being as good as a server as Karlovic. He is 3-0 career against Steps and should reach the final.
Nishikori d. Raonic
It would be a great final: Nishikori has a 2-1 edge overall, but Raonic won their Wimbledon meeting this year in 4 sets. It could go either way and it likely would go three sets, but I think Kei will outlast the Manitoba Missile and take the title in DC this week.