Federer Returns, With No. 1 ATP Ranking In Play
The first ATP World Tour 500 tournament of the 2018 season gets underway this week in Rotterdam, where Roger Federer steps out for the first time since winning the Australian Open. The Swiss legend will reclaim the No. 1 ATP Ranking for the first time in more than five years if he reaches the semi-finals. As 'Frantic February' enters its second week, we'll also see two 250 tournaments in Buenos Aires and New York.
10 THINGS TO WATCH IN ROTTERDAM
(1) First 500 of Season: This is the first of 13 ATP World Tour 500 tournaments of the season. The 45th anniversary of the popular Dutch indoor tournament features seven of the Top 20 in the ATP Rankings, led by World No. 2 Roger Federer who will return to No. 1 if he reaches the semi-finals.
(2) Roger Eyes No. 1: Wild card and two-time Rotterdam champion (2005, 2012), Federer is looking to return to No. 1 for the first time since Nov. 4, 2012. If the Swiss superstar gets to No. 1 on Feb. 19, the gap of 5 years, 106 days will be the longest between stints at No. 1. At 36, he would also become the oldest No. 1, replacing Andre Agassi (33) who held the top spot on Sept. 7, 2003.
(3) Roger Returns: This will be Federer’s first time back in Rotterdam since 2013 when he reached the quarter-finals. He is 23-6 lifetime and he’s never lost before the QFs. This is also Federer’s first tournament since capturing his 20th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open last month.
(4) Title Contenders: Federer will be challenged by No. 2 seed Grigor Dimitrov, No. 3 Alexander Zverev, No. 4 David Goffin, No. 5 Stan Wawrinka, No. 6 Tomas Berdych and No. 7 Lucas Pouille. No. 8 and defending champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga withdrew due to a hamstring injury. Wawrinka won the title in 2015 and Berdych lifted the trophy in 2014. Another former winner, Martin Klizan (2016), qualified into the main draw on Sunday.
(5) Grigor Back in Action: Dimitrov opened the first month of action with a SF in Brisbane and QF at the Australian Open. He is 8-6 in Rotterdam with his best result the SFs in 2013. He won his first career ATP match in the Dutch tourney in 2009 (d. No. 23 Berdych, l. to No. 1 Nadal in three sets).
(6) Berdych Turnaround: Berdych started off with a 2-5 record in Rotterdam but since 2011 he has improved with a 17-4 mark, winning the 2014 title, reaching the 2015 final and two SFs (2012, ’17).
(7) Ferrer Returns: David Ferrer returns to Rotterdam for the first time since 2011. He is 2-0 lifetime against 1R opponent No. 3 A. Zverev, who reached the QFs in Rotterdam two years ago.
(8) Dutch Title Hopes: Top Dutchman Robin Haase takes on countryman Thiemo de Bakker in the 1R. Both players are looking to improve their results on home soil. De Bakker is 3-8 and Haase 4-9. The last Dutchman to win the Rotterdam title was Jan Siemerink 20 years ago.
(9) Wild Cards: Besides Federer, the other wild cards are Dutchmen de Bakker and Tallon Griekspoor, who is looking for his first career ATP World Tour win (0-2). Canadian 17-year-old #NextGenATP star Felix Auger-Aliassime is making his ATP World Tour main draw debut.
(10) Doubles Draw: Top seeds are Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo, No. 2 seeds are Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic, who are 14-0 this season with three titles and unbeaten in their last 21 matches going back to last season. No. 3 seeds are Frenchmen Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut and No. 4 are 2015 champions Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau.
10 THINGS TO WATCH IN BUENOS AIRES
(1) Second Clay Court Stop: This is the second of five tournaments in the Latin America "Golden Swing". Over the past 10 years Spaniards have dominated the tournament by winning seven titles in a row from 2009-2015.
(2) Thiem Leads Field: Top seed Dominic Thiem, who returns to Buenos Aires for the second time in three years, is the lone former champion in the field. The Austrian star will receive a 1R bye along with Pablo Carreno Busta, Albert Ramos-Vinolas and Fabio Fognini.
(3) Thiem Top Seed: Thiem is trying to become the first top seed to win the Buenos Aires title since Rafael Nadal in 2015. Last season Thiem finished in the Top 10 for the second straight year at a personal-best No. 5, highlighted by his eighth career title in Rio. In his Argentina debut two years ago he beat Spaniards Nadal in the SFs and Almagro in the final, both in a third set tie-break.
(4) Carreno Busta Makes Turnaround: No. 2 seed Carreno Busta turned things around last year by reaching the semi-finals (l. to Dolgopolov) after going winless in his first three trips to Buenos Aires.
(5) Ramos-Vinolas in Final: No. 3 seed Ramos-Vinolas failed to break a three-match final losing streak on Sunday in the Quito title match. The Spaniard’s lone ATP World Tour title came in 2016 Bastad. He is 9-7 lifetime in Buenos Aires with three quarter-final appearances (2013-14, 2017).
(6) Fognini Back Again: No. 4 seed Fognini is making his 11th Buenos Aires appearance in 13 years, most of anyone in the field. The No. 1 Italian has a 9-10 record with his best showing a runner-up in 2014 (l. to Ferrer). He has lost his ast three opening round matches in Buenos Aires.
(7) Edmund Makes Debut: No. 6 seed Kyle Edmund makes his South American tournament debut. The British No. 2 is playing his first tournament since advancing to his first Grand Slam semi-final at the Australian Open (d. No. 3 Dimitrov, l. to Cilic) last month.
(8) Eight in a Row: The trio of Spaniard Ramos-Vinolas and Argentines Federico Delbonis and Leonardo Mayer are all making their eighth straight main draw appearance. Ramos-Vinolas is a three-time quarter-finalist and Delbonis a two-time QF. Mayer has reached the 2R six times.
(9) Wild Cards: Argentines Carlos Berlocq, Nicolas Kicker and Pedro Cachin are the wild cards. Berlocq is 10-9 in Buenos Aires while Kicker and Cachin are making their main draw debut. There are eight Argentines in the field, with two possible qualifiers. No. 5 seed Diego Schwartzman is the highest-ranked Argentine in the draw. The last Argentine champion on home soil was David Nalbandian in 2008.
(10) Doubles Draw: The top seeds are reigning two-time champs Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah, who were Australian Open finalists. The No. 2 seeds are Santiago Gonzalez and Julio Peralta, the No. 3 seeds are Nikola Mektic and Alexander Peya and No. 4 are Argentines Andres Molteni and Horacio Zeballos.
10 THINGS TO WATCH IN NEW YORK
(1) Tour Returns to Long Island: This is the first ATP World Tour tournament on Long Island since 2004 when action took place in August one week before the US Open. This year’s tournament is being played at the NYCB Live, home of the Nassau Coliseum. It is the first of 10 tournaments in the U.S. and the only U.S. indoor event on the ATP World Tour.
(2) Anderson Leads Field: This is the fifth time Kevin Anderson is the No. 1 seed in an ATP World Tour tournament. He is trying to win his first ATP title as the top seed. He opened the season with a runner-up at Pune (l. to Simon) and followed with a 1R at the Aust. Open (l. to Edmund in five sets).
(3) Americans Seeded: Four of the top eight seeds are Americans, led by No. 2 Sam Querrey, No. 3 John Isner, No. 6 Ryan Harrison and No. 7 Steve Johnson. Last year each player won at least one title and the foursome accounted for six of the nine titles won by Americans. Overall there are 10 Americans in the main draw, not including possible qualifiers.
(4) Nishikori Returns: No. 5 seed Kei Nishikori returns to the ATP World Tour for the first time since losing in his opening match on Aug. 9 to Gael Monfils in Montreal. The Japanese star has been sidelined with a right wrist injury. He came back last month at the Newport Beach, CA Challenger and lost in the 1R. Last Sunday he won the title at the Dallas Challenger.
(5) Harrison Quick Starter: Harrison comes in with a 6-2 record this season after reaching the final in Brisbane (l. to Kyrgios) and the 3R at the Australian Open (l. to Cilic). A year ago Harrison won his maiden ATP singles title in Memphis and finished in the Top 50 for the first time at No. 47.
(6) Youthful Wild Cards: The American trio of Sebastian Korda (17), Noah Rubin (21) and Mackenzie McDonald (22) are the wild cards in the draw. All three have played well in the early part of the season. Korda won the Australian Open boys’ junior title and is now the No. 1 junior in the world, Rubin captured the New Caledonia Challenger in the opening week of the season and McDonald was runner-up at the Dallas Challenger last week.
(7) Youth is Served: The two youngest players in the draw: Korda (17) and Frances Tiafoe (20), meet in the 1R. Korda is making his ATP World Tour debut.
(8) Like Father, Like Son: Korda captured the Australian Open boys’ crown 20 years after his father Petr claimed his biggest career title Down Under in Melbourne. Petr Korda also won the Hamlet Cup in Long Island in 1992 for one of his 10 career singles titles.
(10) Doubles Draw: The top seeds are Bob and Mike Bryan, who have combined to win a record 114 doubles titles. No. 2 are Max Mirnyi and Philipp Oswald, No. 3 are Nicholas Monroe and John-Patrick Smith, and No. 4 are Robert Lindstedt and Franko Skugor.