30 Things To Watch In Brisbane, Doha & Pune
The 2018 ATP World Tour season gets underway with a trio of tournaments, as today's stars descend on Brisbane, Doha and Pune. Reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov is the top seed and defending champion at the Brisbane International presented by Suncorp, while Dominic Thiem leads the field at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open and Marin Cilic leads the pack at the Tata Open Maharashtra.
10 THINGS TO WATCH IN BRISBANE
(1) 2018 Begins in Brisbane: The 2018 ATP World Tour kicks off with the 10th Brisbane International presented by Suncorp, where main draw play begins on New Year’s Eve. World No. 3 and Nitto ATP Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov, two-time Brisbane winner and 2016 year-end World No. 1 Andy Murray and top Aussie Nick Kyrgios are the Top 3 seeds.
(2) From Australia to The O2: Dimitrov started and ended 2017 as a champion, defeating three Top 10 players en route to the Brisbane title and five Top 10 players to earn his most prestigious trophy at the Nitto ATP Finals. The Bulgarian is back in Brisbane at a career-high No. 3.
(3) Pair Of Returns: Not only is Murray making a comeback on the ATP World Tour, but the Scot returns to Brisbane for the first time since defeating Dimitrov to defend his title in 2013. Murray is No. 16 in the ATP Rankings -- the same spot that Federer started 2017 from before ending the year at No. 2. Murray has not played on tour since the Wimbledon quarter-finals on 12 July due to a hip injury.
(5) Size of the Heart: No. 6 seed Diego Schwartzman entered 2017 with 31 tour-level victories. He ended it with 39 more, breaking into the Top 50 and the Top 25. Schwartzman defeated then-No. 7 Marin Cilic at the US Open, where he became the shortest Grand Slam quarter-finalist in 23 years.
(6) Out with a Bang: In his last tournament as a #NextGenATP player, 21-year-old Hyeon Chung went 5-0 at the inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals. Chung earned a career-high $390,000 for his efforts, which began with a come-from-behind win over fellow Brisbane entrant Denis Shapovalov.
(7) Sophomore Shapo: Shapovalov followed in Chung’s footsteps when he was named the Most Improved Player of the Year in the 2017 ATP World Tour Awards presented by Moët & Chandon, an award that the South Korean won in 2015. Shapovalov’s rookie season included a win over Nadal in Montreal, where the 18-year-old Canadian became the youngest ATP World Tour Masters 1000 quarter-finalist and semi-finalist in the 28-year history of the series.
(9) Homecoming King: Brisbane native John Millman returns home as a wild card this week. Millman made his ATP World Tour debut (2010) and earned his first win (2013) in Brisbane, also pushing Murray and Federer to three sets through the years. He ended 2017 with an ATP Challenger Tour title at Hua Hin, Thailand.
(10) Where It All Began: Fellow Aussie John Peers and Henri Kontinen are back where their budding partnership began. Kontinen and Peers won the 2016 Brisbane title in their team debut and are 10-1 overall in finals, including titles at the 2017 Australian Open and 2016 & 2017 Nitto ATP Finals. Former No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt is a doubles wild card with Jordan Thompson.
10 THINGS TO WATCH IN DOHA
(1) 250 of the Year: The ATP rings in the new year Monday with the award-winning Qatar ExxonMobil Open. Selected by players as the 2017 ATP World Tour 250 Tournament of the Year, Doha is the only of 40 events at the 250-level won by the Big Four of Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.
(2) Rising Stars: Dominic Thiem and Pablo Carreno Busta ended 2017 at No. 5 and No. 10 respectively in the ATP Rankings. They are the Top 2 seeds in Doha, where both are seeking their first tournament win in their second appearance respectively. Thiem’s lone hard court title came at 2016 Acapulco while Carreno Busta won hard court titles in 2016 Winston-Salem and Moscow.
(3) Thiem’s Travails: Much of Thiem’s success in 2017 came on clay, where he went 24-5 with two semi-final finishes, two finals and one title. The Austrian was 25-22 overall and 0-6 in quarter-finals not on clay. Thiem is 3-12 lifetime in Asia with a first-round loss to Peter Gojowczyk at 2014 Doha.
(4) Along Those Lines: After falling to Thiem in the Rio de Janeiro final, Carreno Busta reached his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 semi-final at Indian Wells and Grand Slam semi-final at the US Open. But the Spaniard struggled down the stretch, ending the year with eight losses in his last nine matches.
(5) Back to the Grind: Few players had as short of an offseason as 2013 Doha champion Richard Gasquet, who helped France claim the Davis Cup crown over Belgium. Gasquet is 8-3 lifetime in Doha and in his last appearance in 2015 he reached the QFs.
(6) Gael Makes Return: Three-time Doha finalist (2006, 2012, 2014) Gael Monfils, a wild card entry, is making his eighth appearance (19-7 record) in Qatar, his first since 2014. This will be his first tournament since retiring with a season-ending right knee injury in the 3R at the US Open.
(7) Berdych Five in a Row: This is the fifth straight Doha appearance for the No. 3 seed. He lost in the 1R in his 2014 debut, reached the final in 2015 (l. to Ferrer) and the SFs the last two years.
(8) Suddenly Seeded: No. 6 seed Filip Krajinovic begins the 2018 season at No. 34 in the ATP Rankings -- 201 spots higher than when he started 2017 at an ATP Challenger Tour event in Koblenz, Germany. Krajinovic ended 2017 at Paris as the first qualifier to reach an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final in five years.
(9) Rise of Rublev: #NextGenATP player Andrey Rublev achieved a career-high ranking 12 times in 2017, breaking into the Top 150, Top 100 and Top 50. Rublev, then 19, defeated Nitto ATP Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov and runner-up David Goffin en route to the US Open quarter-finals.
(10) Doubles Draw: Top seeds Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares begin their third full season as a team in Doha and the past two years they reached the SFs. Daniel Nestor, a winner of 91 career doubles titles, makes his 10th Doha appearance, first since 2010. He won titles in 1996 and 2001 and reached finals in 2003 and 2009. The 45-year-old Canadian plans to retire in 2018.
10 THINGS TO WATCH IN PUNE
(1) ATP Comes to Pune: The ATP World Tour rings in the new year in a new city Monday at the Tata Open Maharashtra. From Chennai to Pune, India’s only ATP event welcomes Wimbledon finalist Marin Cilic, US Open finalist Kevin Anderson and defending champion Roberto Bautista Agut.
(2) Consistent Croat: Cilic returns to India after winning the Chennai championship in 2009 and 2010. The Croat has captured an ATP World Tour title in 10 straight seasons, highlighted by the 2014 US Open. Cilic qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals and posted Top 10 finishes in 2014, 2016 and 2017.
(3) Tall Order: The 6-foot-8 Anderson became the tallest Grand Slam finalist in the Open Era when he met World No. 1 Rafael Nadal for the US Open title on 10 September. Ranked 32nd at the time, Anderson also emerged as the lowest-ranked US Open finalist since the inception of ATP Rankings in 1973 and the first South African US Open finalist in the Open Era. He has never played in India.
(4) Unique Streaks: Bautista Agut has finished four straight seasons with both a Top-25 ranking and 40+ wins. The Spaniard has also spent 103 consecutive weeks ranked between No. 13 and No. 23. Now ranked 20th, Bautista Agut is defending 250 points this week as the 2017 Chennai champion.
(5) Starting Over: Another player eager to start a new season in Pune is former World No. 6 Gilles Simon. The Frenchman went 16-25 in 2017 for his first losing season since 2004 (0-1). Now ranked 89th, Simon is making his first appearance in India and seeking his first final since 2015.
(6) Paire Successful in India: No. 4 seed and wild card entry Benoit Paire is making his sixth Indian appearance in seven years (except 2015). The Frenchman has a 10-5 record in Chennai, reaching the semi-finals in 2013 and the last two years.
(7) Leaving Clay is Hard: Nicolas Kicker ended 2017 in the Top 100 after reaching his first quarter-finals at Rio de Janeiro, Lyon and Hamburg. The 25-year-old Argentine has yet to win a pro match at any level off of clay courts. Kicker is 11-15 on the ATP World Tour (11-10 on clay), 78-53 on the ATP Challenger Tour (78-53 on clay) and 128-74 on the ITF Futures Circuit (128-73 on clay).
(8) Tennys Time: American Tennys Sandgren finished in the Top 100 for the first time at No. 96 last season, highlighted by a 46-22 record and two ATP Challenger Tour titles. He went 2-6 in tour play.
(9) Local Title Hopes: There are three Indian players in the singles main draw, led by the country’s top two duo of No. 116 Yuki Bhambri and wild card No. 148 Ramkumar Ramanathan, who reached the quarter-finals in 2016. Pune native and wild card Arjun Kadhe, plays Bhambri in the first round.
(10) Strong Indian Doubles Showing: There are nine Indian players in the doubles draw, led by No. 4 seeds and defending champions Rohan Bopanna and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan. They take on countrymen Leander Paes and Purav Raja. Paes won Chennai titles in 1997-99, 2002, 2011-12.