30 Things To Watch In Acapulco, Dubai & Sao Paulo
An executive summary of what every fan should know about the coming week on the ATP World Tour
For the first time this ATP World Tour season, there will be two 500-level events in the same week. World No. 2 Rafael Nadal looks to better his runner-up finish from last season at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC in Acapulco, Mexico, and the two-time winner will be joined by defending champion Sam Querrey and five more players who are inside the Top 12 of the ATP Rankings.
Reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov leads a strong field at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, where Marseille finalist Lucas Pouille is the second seed. There is also an ATP World Tour 250 event in Sao Paulo, Brazil: the Brasil Open, where three-time defending champion Pablo Cuevas will attempt to earn a four-peat.
10 THINGS TO WATCH IN ACAPULCO
1) XXV Anniversary: This is the 25th anniversary of the popular ATP World Tour 500-level event, which features a tournament record six of the Top 10 players in the ATP Rankings. Leading the way is World No. 2 Rafael Nadal along with Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem, Jack Sock, Kevin Anderson and Juan Martin del Potro. Last year, Sam Querrey beat Nadal to become the tournament’s first American winner.
2) Former Champions: Querrey is one of four former Acapulco champions in the draw, including four-time winner (2010-12, 2015) David Ferrer, Nadal (2005, 2013) and Thiem (2016).
3) Rafa Returns: Nadal is playing his first tournament since retiring down 0-2 in the fifth set vs. Cilic on 23 January in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open. Nadal is 14-1 in Acapulco, with his only loss coming against Querrey last year. Nadal cannot regain the No. 1 ATP Ranking if he wins the title, since he is dropping 300 points.
4) Querrey Reigning Champion: Last year, Querrey came in ranked No. 40 and he posted four straight Top 20 wins en route to his biggest career title, beating No. 11 David Goffin, No. 9 Thiem, No. 17 Nick Kyrgios and No. 6 Nadal. A year later, Querrey comes in a career-high No. 11 (as of 26 February).
5) Anderson Newest Top 10: Anderson is playing his first tournament ranked in the Top 10 since 12 October 2015 at Shanghai (QF). He moved to No. 9 on 19 February after winning his fourth title at the New York Open (d. Querrey). Anderson, who reached the Acapulco final in 2014 (l. to Dimitrov), comes in a career-high No. 8 (as of 26 February).
6) Ferrer 30 Wins Club: Ferrer has 30 career wins in Acapulco, which is one of seven tournaments he has won 30 or more matches: Roland Garros (44), Australian Open (42), Valencia (32), US Open (32), Auckland (31), Miami (31) and Acapulco (30).
7) Rio Repeat: The Rio Open presented by Claro final on Sunday between Diego Schwartzman and Fernando Verdasco will be the first of two matches between the pair in three days. They meet Tuesday in the first round in Acapulco. Prior to Rio, Schwartzman won their only previous FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting in the first round at 2016 Nice.
8) #NextGenATP Trio: The #NextGenATP trio of Andrey Rublev, Denis Shapovalov and Alexander Zverev along with last year’s Next Gen ATP Finals champion Hyeon Chung and qualifier Jared Donaldson are all making their Acapulco main draw debut.
9) Kokkinakis is Back: Thanasi Kokkinakis, who reached his first ATP World Tour singles final in Los Cabos last August, is one of three wild cards (Leo Gomez, Sock). The young Aussie lost in the first round at the Australian Open and has been sidelined with an abdominal strain. He returned this week at the Morelos, Mexico, ATP Challenger Tour event and reached the semi-finals, where he withdrew due to an ankle injury.
10) Strong Doubles Draw: The top four seeds are Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo, current ATP Doubles Team Rankings leaders Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic, reigning champions Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares, and Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan.
THINGS TO WATCH IN DUBAI
1) Grigor Leads Field: World No. 4 Grigor Dimitrov is the top seed and he is making his first appearance in Dubai since 2011 when he came in ranked No. 81 as a qualifier. He is 10-3 this season with a runner-up finish in Rotterdam, semi-final in Brisbane and quarter-final at the Australian Open.
2) Pouille Quick Starter: No. 2 seed Lucas Pouille is coming off a runner-up finish on home soil in Marseille (l. to Khachanov). Earlier this month, the Frenchman won his fifth career ATP World Tour title in Montpellier. He is 3-3 in Dubai, reaching the semi-finals last year (l. to eventual champion Murray).
3) RBA Back Again: No. 3 seed Roberto Bautista Agut is making his sixth straight appearance in Dubai (6-5 record) and his best result is a quarter-final showing in 2016. Last month, the Spaniard won the Auckland title (d. Del Potro), but since then has lost three matches in a row.
4) Special K Time: Karen Khachanov enters Dubai fresh off his second career ATP World Tour title in Marseille (d. Pouille). The 21-year-old Russian, who played in the inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals last year, is off to a 10-4 start this season. Last year, he didn’t win his 10th match until May in Lyon.
5) French Connection: There are a tournament-high six Frenchmen in the main draw, led by Pouille and No. 5 seed Richard Gasquet, who is 8-5 in Dubai with a semi-final showing in 2009 and 2011. The last Frenchman to win the Dubai title was Fabrice Santoro in 2002 (d. El Aynaoui).
6) Belarusian Breakthrough: Belarus native Ilya Ivashka advanced to his first ATP World Tour semi-final in Marseille (l. to Pouille) to earn a special exempt into Dubai. The 24-year-old is the first player from Belarus to reach the semi-finals in singles on the ATP World since Max Mirnyi at 2005 Nottingham.
7) Nishioka Returns: Yoshihito Nishioka, who suffered an injury to his left ACL last March in Miami, makes his Dubai debut.with a protected ATP Ranking of No. 66. He reached a career-high No. 58 on 20 March. This is Nishioka’s second tour-level event of the season after a second-round showing at the Australian Open.
8) Gulbis Eyes Win: Ernests Gulbis qualified into his second ATP World Tour event of the season (Sofia) and is looking to win his first tour-level match since last year’s US Open (d. Giannessi, l. to Anderson).
9) Wild Cards: Marcos Baghdatis, who reached the final in his last Dubai visit two years ago (l. to Wawrrinka), is one of three wild cards. The Cypriot is 8-7 in Dubai. The other wild cards are #NextGenATP Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas and Tunisian Malek Jaziri, who is making his sixth straight main-draw appearance (3-5).
10) Strong Doubles Draw: The top four seeds are Henri Kontinen and John Peers, reigning champions Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau, Ivan Dodig and Rajeev Ram and Marseille champions Raven Klaasen and Michael Venus.
10 THINGS TO WATCH IN SAO PAULO
1) Clay Court Season Finale: This is the last of four weeks of clay-court action in South America with the Brasil Open. This is also the only indoor clay court tournament on the ATP World Tour. Pablo Cuevas is the reigning three-time champion and the other former winner competing is Federico Delbonis (2014).
2) Ramos-Vinolas Leads Field: The top seed is Albert Ramos-Vinolas, who reached last year’s final and is making his seventh Sao Paulo visit (9-6). The Spaniard is playing his fourth straight week and he opened the clay-court swing with a runner-up in Quito (l. to Carballes Baena). In 2017, he finished a year-end best No. 23 in the ATP Rankings and also was runner-up at Monte-Carlo.
3) Fabio a Favourite: No. 2 seed Fabio Fognini, who reached the semi-finals in Rio (l. to Verdasco), has a 9-7 record in Sao Paulo. His best results are the semi-finals in 2008 and the quarter-finals three other times.
4) King of Sao Paulo: No. 3 seed and three-time reigning champion Cuevas comes in with a 13-match Sao Paulo winning streak. Overall, Cuevas has a 16-5 record at the event. He also won the Rio title in 2016. His last four ATP World Tour titles have come on Brazilian soil.
5) Monfils Strong on Clay: No. 4 seed Gael Monfils is playing his fourth straight week on clay and thus far he is 6-3 with a quarter-final showing in Quito, semi-final appearance in Buenos Aires and another quarter-final in Rio, where he beat No. 3 ranked Cilic in the second round. He opened the season with his seventh career ATP World Tour title in Doha (d. Rublev). He won his first and only ATP World Tour clay court title in Sopot, Poland, in 2005.
6) Brazilian Title Hopes: There are five Brazilians in the draw, including one qualifier. Leading the way are the top Brazilian trio (as of 2/26) of Rogerio Dutra Silva, Thiago Monteiro and Thomaz Bellucci. The youngest player in the draw, 17-year-old wild card Thiago Seyboth Wild, makes his ATP World Tour debut. The last Brazilian to win the Sao Paulo title was Gustavo Kuerten in 2004.
7) Jarry Breakthrough: Nicolas Jarry comes into Sao Paulo after advancing to his first career ATP World Tour semi-final in Rio (l. to Schwartzman). The 22-year-old Chilean is the top player from his country and he is projected to climb to a career-high No. 73 in the ATP Rankings.
8) Argentine Assault: There are a tournament-high six Argentines in the draw (with two in the final round of qualifying). No. 5 Leonardo Mayer is the highest Argentine seeded in the draw. Delbonis is the last Argentine winner in 2014.
9) Andre Bids Farewell: Reigning doubles champion Andre Sa is playing in his final ATP main draw. The 40-year-old, who is coaching and playing with Bellucci, enjoyed an outstanding career with 11 doubles titles in 30 finals. He reached a career-high No. 55 in singles and No. 17 in doubles.
10) Doubles Draw: The top seeds are Cuevas and Horacio Zeballos, who are 0-2 in ATP doubles finals. The No. 2 seeds are Hans Podlipnik-Castillo and Andrei Vasilevski, the No. 3 seeds are Guillermo Duran and Andres Molteni and No. 4 are Wesley Koolhof and Artem Sitak.