20 Things To Watch In Auckland & Sydney
The 2018 ATP World Tour season continues with a pair of 250-level tournaments in Auckland and Sydney. Defending champion Jack Sock returns as the top seed at the ASB Classic and Albert Ramos-Vinolas leads the pack at the Apia International, where Gilles Muller is the reigning champ.
10 THINGS TO WATCH IN AUCKLAND
(1) Sock Leads Strong Field: No. 1 American Jack Sock is the top seed and one of five players in Auckland who are in the Top 20 of the ATP Rankings. The other seeds receiving byes are No. 2 Juan Martin del Potro, No. 3 Sam Querrey and No. 4 John Isner. There are six former champions in the field from the last nine years (10 overall): Sock, Roberto Bautista Agut (2016), Jiri Vesely (2015), Isner (2010, 2014), David Ferrer (2007, 2011-13) and del Potro (2009).
(2) Top Seed/Reigning Champion: This is the third time in his career Sock is the top seed in an ATP World Tour tournament. Last year in Houston (SF) and Atlanta (QF) were the other times he was top seed. He is 10-2 lifetime in Auckland, reaching the final in 2016 and QFs in 2014. Last season he finished a year-end best No. 8 with three titles while reaching the SFs at the Nitto ATP Finals.
(3) Del Potro Returns: No. 2 seed Del Potro is making his first appearance in Auckland since winning the title nine years ago (d. Querrey). The 29-year-old Argentine finished No. 11 last season with his 20th career title in Stockholm, runner-up in Basel and three SFs, including the US Open.
(5) Newlywed John: No. 4 seed Isner is playing his first tournament since getting married on Dec. 2 to Madison McKinley. The two-time champion has a 14-4 record in Auckland. He won two ATP titles and finished No. 17 last season, his eighth straight Top 20 year-end ATP Ranking.
(6) Former Champion Plays Venus: No. 5 seed Bautista Agut, who won the title two years ago, is taking on local wild card Michael Venus in the 1R. Bautista Agut finished in the Top 25 for the fourth straight year at No. 20 while Venus ended last season a year-end best No. 15 in doubles, capped off by winning his first Grand Slam doubles crown at Roland Garros (w/Harrison).
(7) Ferrer Back Again: Four-time ASB Classic champion Ferrer is making his 12th appearance in the past 13 years (withdrew in 2015). The 35-year-old Spaniard owns the most Auckland titles in the Open Era along with a 28-8 record. Last year he won his 27th career title in Bastad.
(8) #NextGenATP Watch: There are three #NextGenATP stars in the draw, led by No. 8 seed and Doha finalist Andrey Rublev (20), Canadian Denis Shapovalov (18) and Greek WC Stefanos Tsitsipas (19). Chinese wild card Wu Yibing, who won the US Open junior title, is also in the field.
(10) Doubles Draw: The top seeds are Doha champions Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic and No. 2 seeds are Raven Klaasen and Venus, who are playing together for the first time since two Futures events in 2011. Defending champions Marcin Matkowski and Aisam-Ul-Haq are also in the field.
10 THINGS TO WATCH IN SYDNEY
(1) Ramos-Vinolas Leads Field: Albert Ramos-Vinolas is the top seed and one of seven players who are seeded in the Top 30 of the ATP Rankings. The other seeds receiving byes are No. 2/defending champion Gilles Muller, No. 3 Diego Schwartzman and No. 4 Fabio Fognini.
(2) Albert Top Seed: This is the second time in his career Ramos-Vinolas is the top seed in an ATP World Tour tournament. Last year in Hamburg he lost to eventual champion L. Mayer in the 1R. The Barcelona native finished a year-end best No. 23 last season with runner-up results in Sao Paulo and ATP Masters 1000 Monte-Carlo. This is the Spaniard’s first Sydney visit since 2014 (2R).
(3) Reigning Champion: One year ago Muller at age 33, captured his first ATP World Tour title (d. Evans). He is 11-3 lifetime in Sydney and he also reached the SFs in 2015-16. He finished a year-end best No. 25 last season, adding another title in ‘s-Hertogenbosch and final in Estoril.
(4) Simon Makes Return: Former World No. 6 Gilles Simon is making his first appearance in Sydney since winning the title in 2011. The 33-year-old Frenchman on Saturday won his 13th ATP World Tour title in Pune, defeating the top two seeds Cilic and Anderson in the final two rounds. Simon, who is 6-2 in Sydney, is a special exempt into the tournament.
(5) Two-Time Champion: Unseeded Viktor Troicki has a 15-4 record in Sydney, winning back-to-back titles in 2015-16, reaching the final in 2011 and the SFs last year.
(6) De Minaur Breakthrough: Special exempt entry Alex De Minaur advanced to his first ATP World Tour SF in Brisbane, posting wins over Johnson, former World No. 3 Raonic and Mmoh before losing to Harrison in three sets. The 18-year-old #NextGenATP Aussie is expected to jump from No. 208 to around No. 166 after Brisbane. Last year he came into Sydney No. 333 and lost in 2R.
(7) Aussie Wild Cards: The Aussie trio of Alex Bolt, John Millman and Jordan Thompson are the wild cards. Bolt is making his main draw debut while Millman reached the 2R in 2013 and Thompson the 2R the past two years. There are four Aussies in the main draw (not including Qs).
(8) Schwartzman Makes Debut: No. 3 seed Diego Schwartzman is making his Sydney debut. The No. 2 Argentine finished last season a year-end best No. 26 with 39 tour-level victories, highlighted by his first Grand Slam quarter-final at the US Open.
(9) One to Watch: No. 7 seed Damir Dzumhur is making his Sydney debut. The No. 1 Bosnian broke through last season to win Russian ATP World Tour titles in St. Petersburg and Moscow. He finished a year-end best No. 30 in the ATP Rankings with a career-best 36 match wins.