ATP Bucharest Review
Fernando Verdasco reigned supreme in the belated Bucharest Final, held over to Monday due to weather delays, defeating Pouille the young French prospect. The Spaniard recorded his 7th career title of which 5 have come on his preferred clay surface, and he received a massive 35 place vault in the rankings to 51st in the world. Spanish tennis is again looking particularly strong on the back of the last 2 weeks results with Rafael Nadal playing near his best again, and now Verdasco finding form in time for a French Open assault.
Verdasco was far too good for Pouille in the final as he won 6-3 6-2; nonetheless Pouille climbed 16 places to 56th in the world following his 1st finals appearance on the ATP tour. Garcia-Lopez fell victim to Verdasco in a memorable Semi Final, losing 3-6 6-3 2-6, and suffered on the rankings as he lost 10 places, after a strong showing in Bucharest last season. The other Semi Finalist Delbonis the Argentine the 3rd seed, fell victim to fine play by the young Frenchman Pouille, as he sneaked into 36th in the world, and can smell a seeding in the French Open.
Bernard Tomic again tops the seeds in the lesser tournament on tour this week, as Istanbul hosts a tournament of players mainly ranked between 50 and 100. The enigmatic Australian will face stiff competition even in the 2nd round, as he is set to face Schwartzman the Argentine. In a very tough top quadrant, Dzumhur and Pouille lurk as unseeded threats to Tomic and Russian Gabashvili. Unfortunately, for Dzhumur and Pouille they will meet in an intriguing 2nd round clash, provided Pouille can upset the 7th seeded Russian. Argentine Delbonis is odds on to take out the 2nd quadrant, with Brit Bedene and Spanish 8th seed Ramos Vinolas, sure to provide plenty of competition. All in all from the top half of the draw, it looks like Delbonis to me who will prevail.
Grigor Dimitrov is the highest seed in the lower section of the draw, and will have his work cut out for him as Vesely looms as a potential QF opponent. Vesely is in career best form after beating Novak in Monte Carlo, and will surely show that form again here. Karlovic and Granollers are the other 2 seeds of the bottom half of the draw, but will be tested with the likes of Serb Lajovic and clay court specialist Argentine Berlocq, likely to put pressure on in the early rounds. It looks like another week where seeding may not mean much, as there is a lot of un-seeded danger men in this field.
A deep field of possible victors have assembled in Munich with 8 of the 51 best in the world, providing the seeds for the 250 ranking point tournament. Goffin is the high seed, but will have a solid workout to advance past the QF stage, with in-form Jaziri and Rosol to deal with in his quadrant. Thomas Bellucci the Brazilian 6th seed had an early walkover as Youzhny failed to complete their 1st round encounter. Colombian Giraldo and whiz kid Thiem will provide plenty of uncertainties in this section of the draw, which Bellucci is probably slightly favoured to come out of, to face a SF against Goffin.
Wild card Del Potro will provide plenty of interest in the 3rd quadrant of the draw, with a match first up against German Dustin Brown. Pospisil and Kohlscheriber await as potential matchups for the returning Argentine, who could easily win the tournament if he finds his best form and remains fit. My favourite in this field however is 2nd seed Gael Monfils, the Frenchman has fine form and, a favourable draw with Fognini shaping up to be his biggest obstacle in the QF stage. Although, Cecchinato and Kukushkin could provide a boil-over if they find their best form.
Portugal hosts a 3rd clay court tournament of the week, as the French Open preparations get serious this week, with another horde of players capable of winning this crown, and no signs of any of the huge names in any of the tournaments this week. Kyrgios the Australian and Simon the Frenchman are the 2 highest seeds and equal favourites for the title. Simon however, will potentially meet Verdasco in a quality QF matchup, if both advance, as the Spaniard received a wild-card into the tournament. Paire and Garcia-Lopez look likely to meet in the QF from the 2nd quadrant of the draw, without too much trouble.
Argentine Mayer looks like the one to beat from the 3rd quadrant, although the Almagro and Sousa round 2 clash will no doubt bring the fans to life. Joao will carry the hopes of Portugal as the 4th seed, and could go a long way, if he gains momentum from beating the Spaniard. Kyrgios looks like a shoe in for a QF against Coric of Croatia, who will provide him with a stern test. Overall, it is a wide open race, with Kyrgios, Simon, Verdasco and Mayer all lurking as potential winners of the 250 point ATP event.
A fairly strong field of 32 assembled in Morocco for the 280 ranking point tournament on the WTA tour this week, with Bacsisnzky and Makarova the clear cut highest seeds. Makarova made short work of Dulgheru the Romanian early in the week, and suits as a favourite to advance from the bottom quadrant of the field, with Soler-Espinosa and Tsurenko providing the challenge. Kiki Bertens thrashed the pants off of out-of-sorts Schmiedlova the 3rd seed already this week, and has the rest of the quadrant on notice. In a very weak quadrant, if I had to stick my nose out and choose one to advance beyond Bertens it’d be Riske or Putintseva. Teliana Pereira the Brazilian will face Larsson of Sweden in an interesting 2nd Round match, but will be hard pushed to advance past top seed Timea Bacsinszky who has been in fine form lately and looks good on clay. Babos and Begu look likely to advance from the other quadrant to a QF matchup, but it wouldn’t be a shock to see Parmentier or returning Brit Laura Robson upset and go on a run deep into the weekend.
Prague hosts the stronger field of the 2 tournaments on the WTA tour this week, with 3 top 20 players out to find clay-court form ahead of the bigger lead-up tournaments to the French Open. Russian star Kuznetsova is the 1st seed, but will have to overcome Slovakian Cibulkova, in what could be a mouth-watering QF, with Puig and Brengle also lurking as dark horses in their section. Samantha Stosur will look for a solid week, starting with a match against Romanian Qualifier Cirstea, and the prospect of a QF with Strycova.
Wickmayer will need to be at her best, to get out of the blocks as Giorgi will provide a fine test for her in the 1st Round, so too Pliskova as she faces Voegele who excelled in Istanbul last week. Sinikova pulled off a surprise as she bet Cornet, and will now look to run with her form, in this tough quadrant. Safarova is the other drawcard for the tournament as she is the 2nd seed and the local favourite, albeit 9 of the 32 participants are Czech. Duque-Marino will provide her with a worry from the outset, and Konjuh is always going to be a tough matchup when she is performing well, which she is after already knocking out Ostapenko the 6th seed from Latvia. The final prediction for me is a cracking SF between Pliskova and Safarova, where Lucie will prevail and go on to beat Kuznetsova in the Final, due to crowd support.