Scouting Report: Nishikori Turns Title Hopes To South America
An executive summary of what every fan should know about the coming week on the ATP World Tour
Three Continents Host Tournaments: There are three tournaments on three different continents, including the first ATP World Tour 500 event of the season. World No. 7 Marin Cilic is the top seed in Rotterdam. In Buenos Aires, World No. 5 Kei Nishikori is the top seed and in the first North American tournament of the season in Memphis, World No. 18 Ivo Karlovic is the top seed. Overall, 20 of the Top 30 in the Emirates ATP Rankings are in action.
Emirates ATP Race to Milan Leaders: Six of the Top 20 in the Emirates ATP Race to Milan (as of Feb. 6) are in Rotterdam or Memphis.
ABN AMRO WORLD TENNIS TOURNAMENT (Rotterdam): The top seed of the first 500 level tournament of the season is Cilic, who is making his fourth appearance in Rotterdam (8-3 record). His best result is a runner-up in 2014 (l. to Berdych). Overall eight of the Top 20 are in the field. The other seeds are: No. 2 Dominic Thiem, No. 3 David Goffin, No. 4 Tomas Berdych, No. 5 Grigor Dimitrov, No. 6 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, No. 7 Roberto Bautista Agut and No. 8 Lucas Pouille.
Marin Top Seed Again: Cilic is the top seed in an ATP World Tour tournament for the 11th time in his career, the third this season. Last month he opened the season in Chennai as the top seed and lost in the 2R (after bye) to Kovalik. Last week in Montpellier he fell in the opening round (l. to Brown). The 28-year-old Croatian star has an outstanding 25-7 career record as the top seed in an ATP World Tour tournament, winning three titles and reaching two other finals:
2017 Montpellier: 2R (bye)
2017 Chennai: 2R (bye)
2015 Moscow: 2013 Memphis: QF
2013 Zagreb: 2011 Zagreb: QF2010 Metz: QF
2010 Munich: Finalist
2010 Zagreb: 2009 Vienna:Finalist
Klizan Reigning Champion: Martin Klizan, the No. 1 player from Slovakia, is the reigning champion (d. No. 18 Monfils). Last year Klizan came in ranked No. 43 in the Emirates ATP Rankings and in his final three wins, he rallied each time from losing a first set tie-break to prevail in the third set. After a 1-4 start to this season, last week in Sofia, he advanced to the quarter-finals (l. to Basilashvili).
Grigor On A Roll: No. 5 seed Grigor Dimitrov comes into Rotterdam with a career-best 14-1 match record on the season. With his defeat of David Goffin on home soil in the Sofia final, he became the first two-time ATP World Tour title winner this season. The 25-year-old Bulgarian won his fifth career ATP World Tour title in Brisbane, his first since June 2014 at Queen’s Club/London, defeating three straight Top 10 opponents: No. 8 Thiem (QF), No. 3 Raonic (SF) and No. 5 Nishikori. He then followed by reaching the semi-finals at the Australian Open where he lost to No. 9 Rafael Nadal 6-4 in the fifth set.
Berdych Making 10th Visit: No. 4 seed Tomas Berdych is making his 10th appearance in Rotterdam. He has a 16-7 career record, winning the title in 2014 (d. Cilic) and reaching the final in 2015 (l. to Wawrinka). He also advanced to the semi-finals in 2012 (l. to del Potro) and the quarter-finals in 2011 (w/o vs. Tsonga).
#NextGenATP Stars In Draw: There are three #NextGenATP stars in the main draw, led by top German Alexander Zverev, who is ranked No. 21. Zverev claimed his second ATP World Tour title in Sunday’s Montpellier final (d. Gasquet). The others are No. 51 Karen Khachanov and No. 58 Borna Coric, who play each other in the first round. Zverev reached the quarter-finals last year and Coric lost in the 2R. Khachanov is making his debut. Greek wild card Stefanos Tsitsipas, 18, who finished as the No. 2 junior in the world last year, highlighted by semi-final results at Roland Garros and Wimbledon juniors, is making his ATP World Tour debut. He is ranked No. 203 after reaching a career-high No. 196 on Jan. 30.
Local Wild Cards: Two of the three wild cards in the main draw are Dutchmen, led by the country’s top player No. 57 Robin Haase, who reached the quarter-finals in 2008 (d. No. 10 Murray) and 20-year-old Tallon Griekspoor , who is at a career-high No. 315. He is making his ATP World Tour debut.
Doubles Draw: The top seeds are last year’s World No. 2 team: Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, who won last year’s title with Vasek Pospisil. The other seeds are: No. 2 Feliciano Lopez and Marc Lopez, No. 3 Ivan Dodig and Marcel Granollers and No. 4 Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo.
ARGENTINA OPEN (Buenos Aires): Latin America's “Golden Swing” continues on the clay of Buenos Aires, as the Argentine capital welcomes back World No. 5 Kei Nishikori, who returns for the first time since 2012 when he reached the quarter-finals. Five of the Top 30 players in the Emirates ATP Rankings are in the draw. The other seeds are: No. 2 Pablo Cuevas, No. 3 David Ferrer, a three-time champion (2012-14), No. 4 Pablo Carreno Busta, No. 5 Albert Ramos-Vinolas, No. 6 Joao Sousa, No. 7 Fabio Fognini and No. 8 Paolo Lorenzi, who was runner-up in Sunday’s final in Quito (l. to Estrella Burgos).
Nishikori Top Seed: Nishikori finds himself as the top seed again in a February ATP World Tour tournament. For the past three years the Japanese star was the No. 1 seed in Memphis where he won the title each time. Overall, he won Memphis four straight years. He won his last 17 matches in Memphis and owns a 17-1 career record. In his previous Buenos Aires appearance five years ago, he came in ranked No. 17 and he lost to Wawrinka in the quarter-finals. Nishikori comes into Buenos Aires with a 6-2 match record on the season, reaching the final in Brisbane (l. to Dimitrov) and following with the 4R at the Australian Open (l. to Federer in five sets).
Spanish Title Winners: Spaniards have called Buenos Aires home since 2009, with five different players from the country winning titles. The streak ended last year with Austrian Dominic Thiem winning the title over Spaniard Nicolas Almagro. Here are the Spanish winners from 2009-15 (winners in bold in this year’s draw):
Ferrer Three-Time Champion: Ferrer has a 23-5 career match record in Buenos Aires, winning three straight titles from 2012-14. He was also runner-up in 2010 (l. to Ferrero). His 17-match Buenos Aires winning streak came to an end last year when he fell to Almagro in the semi-finals.
Robredo Makes Season Debut: The other former champion in the field is 2009 winner Tommy Robredo. The 34-year-old Spaniard, who is making his season debut, has a 16-5 career record in Buenos Aires. He underwent right elbow surgery in April last year. Robredo, who is ranked No. 548, is playing on a protected ranking of No. 57. Last season he went 2-6 on the ATP World Tour and 7-5 in ATP Challenger Tour events, closing with three straight quarter-final indoor results in Budapest, Brescia and Andria.
Argentine Title Hopes: There is a tournament-high nine Argentines in the draw with one guaranteed in qualifying. The last player to win the title on home soil in Buenos Aires was David Nalbandian in 2008. No. 48 Federico Delbonis and No. 52 Diego Schwartzman are the two highest-ranked Argentines in the draw.
Doubles Draw: The top seeds are reigning champions Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah. The other seeds are: No. 2 Pablo Carreno Busta and Pablo Cuevas, No. 3 Santiago Gonzalez and David Marrero and No. 4 Julio Peralta and Horacio Zeballos.
MEMPHIS OPEN (Memphis): The first North American tournament of the season will crown a new champion for the first time since 2013 as reigning four-time champion Kei Nishikori is playing on clay in Buenos Aires for the first time since 2012, the last time the Memphis champion was not Nishikori (Jurgen Melzer). The top seed is big-serving Ivo Karlovic, who reached the final in 2014. This is the 41st anniversary of the only U.S. indoor tournament on the ATP World Tour, which is held at the Racquet Club of Memphis. The other seeds are No. 2 John Isner, No. 3 Sam Querrey, No. 4 Steve Johnson, No. 5 Bernard Tomic, No. 6 Adrian Mannarino, No. 7 Steve Darcis and No. 8 Yen-Hsun Lu. Darcis (2008) and Querrey (2010) are the former champions in the field.
#NextGenATP Stars In Draw: There are four American #NextGenATP stars in the draw, led by last year’s finalist Taylor Fritz (19), who climbed to a career-high No. 53 on Aug. 29 last year. He is No. 83 as of last week (Feb. 6). The other young stars on the rise are all at career-high rankings: wild cards Frances Tiafoe (19), at No. 94, Jared Donaldson (20), at No. 95 and Reilly Opelka (19), at No. 182. All four finished with their best year-end Emirates ATP Ranking last season and made big jumps from the previous year:
|2016-2015 Ranking||2016 Highlights|
|Taylor Fritz||76-177||Finalist at Memphis; QF at Acapulco,Atlanta; Winner at Happy Valley Challenger. (Recipient of ATP Star of Tomorrow award (youngest in year-end Top 100)|
|Jared Donaldson||105-135||3rd round at US Open, Toronto|
|Frances Tiafoe||108/180||Winner at Granby & Stockton Challengers|
|204-97||SF at Atlanta; Winner at Knoxville Challenger|
Querrey Streak: Querrey is making his 11th straight appearance in Memphis. The 29-year-old Californian has a 20-9 career record, winning singles and doubles titles in 2010. Last year he was a doubles runner-up (w/Johnson). He was also a semi-finalist in 2015-16 and quarter-finalist in 2007, ’09, ’11-12. Querrey hasfinished in the Top 50 Emirates ATP Rankings in seven of the past nine years, ending 2010 with a year-end best No. 18. Last year he defeated No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the 3R at Wimbledon en route to his first Grand Slam quarter-final (l. to Raonic).
Towering Trio Of Power: The three tallest players on the ATP World Tour are in the main draw, led by 6’11” Karlovic and Opelka along with 6’10” Isner. In addition, 6’8” Kevin Anderson and 6’6” Querrey are in the draw. Isner led the ATP World Tour in aces last season with 1,159 followed by Karlovic with 1,131. Isner and Karlovic have combined to lead the ATP World Tour in aces in nine of the past 10 years. Karlovic is a five-time aces champion (2007-09, 2014-15) while Isner is a four-time champion (2010, ’12-13, ’16).
Big John Top American: Isner, who reached the final in 2010 (l. to Querrey), finished last season as the top American on the ATP World Tour for the fifth straight year and in the Top 20 for the seventh year in a row at No. 19. The 31-year-old Tampa resident reached finals in Atlanta (l. to Kyrgios) and ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Paris (l. to Murray) and his streak of an ATP World Tour title for six years in a row ended.
Bernie Is Back: No. 2 Aussie Bernard Tomic, who reached the quarter-finals two years ago (l. to Young) in his last Memphis appearance, is making his third tournament appearance (2-2 record). The 24-year-old finished last season at No. 26 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, his second straight Top 30 season (No. 18 in 2015). He reached the final in Acapulco and the 4R at the Australian Open and Wimbledon.
Dreddy Time: One of the most entertaining players on the ATP World Tour, Dustin Brown returns to Memphis. The 32-year-old German, nicknamed “Dreddy” because of his dreadlocked hair, is a human highlight reel on the court. When googling “Dustin Brown YouTube, ” a full page of Brown’s amazing shots are displayed. Brown, who made his previous appearance in Memphis two years ago (2R), finished a year-end best No. 72 last season, highlighted by two semi-finals. He is coming off a quarter-final in Montpellier where he beat No. 7 Cilic in the 2R, his third career Top 10 win (first on hard courts).
Former Champion Returns: Belgian Steve Darcis, who captured his second career ATP World Tour title in Memphis in 2008 (d. Soderling), is returning to the tournament for the first time since a 1R loss in 2009 (l. to Roddick). The 32-year-old Darcis, who reached a career-high No. 44 on May 12, 2008, less than three months after his Memphis title, finished a year-end best No. 61 that year. He has struggled with injuries over the years, finishing outside the Top 100 in 2009-10 and 2013-14. But he has finished No. 86 in 2015-16.
Anderson Looks To Rebound: Kevin Anderson, who reached the final in his last Memphis appearance two years ago (l. to Nishikori), is trying to regain his Top 20 form in which he finished three straight years from 2013-15, highlighted by a year-end best No. 12 in ’15. He broke into the Top 10 on Oct. 12, 2015. The 30-year-old South African was sidelined by left knee, right shoulder and groin injuries last season, finishing No. 67, his lowest year-end ranking since 2009.