ATP Picks: Zagreb, Vina Del Mar, Montpellier

PBZ Zagreb Indoors

A welcome stop to a tennis powerhouse – Croatia. Marin Cilic and Ivan Dodig are the top 2 right now with Ivo Karlovic not far behind. In fact, Dodig and Karlovic could meet in the 2nd round.

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Let’s break it down:

ATP Level: 250

Surface: Indoor Hard

Defending Champion: Marin Cilic – After a troubling year in 2013, he’s back and hoping to defend with new coach Goran Ivanisevic in his corner.

Nasty Floater: Ivo Karlovic – A landmine in the draw for anyone indoors. Could play Dodig and Cilic.

Veteran Watch:
  Tommy Haas – #1 seed here and plays fellow German Benjamin Becker 2nd round. Will the 35 year old hold up this year?

Up and Coming: Dan Evans – The Brit has done well to be seeded and could win his first 2 rounds.

Slumping: Mikhail Youzhny – Had a bad Aussie Open but don’t write off one of the mentally toughest on tour.

On Fire: Sergiy Stakhovsky – Played great last weekend in Davis Cup. Indoors, his serve and volley game is dangerous. 

My pick: Phillipp Kohlschreiber  – I like his draw and temperament. He’s due another title.

Did You Know? Tommy Haas, who turned pro in 1996, will be making his debut in Zagreb this week.

Watch: Zagreb Uncovered

Vina Del Mar

The first clay event of the season brings together some of the best dirt-ballers on tour. Chilean tennis has dropped off the map since the heady days of Marcelo Rios, Fernando Gonzalez and Nicolas Massu. At least they still have a event stop on the calendar to hopefully inspire some young kids.

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Let’s break it down:

ATP Level: 250

Surface: Outdoor Clay

Defending Champion: Horacio Zeballos –  Denied Rafael Nadal at his comeback event last year, upseting him 6-7(2), 7-6(6), 6-4 for the title.

Nasty Floater: Thomaz Bellucci – Ranked 125 now from a high of 21. Time for a better year

Veteran Watch:
 Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo – I thought the 36 year old had retired? I guess not. He qualified here.

Up and Coming: Pablo Carrena Busta – At 22, was named Most Improved Player of the Year in November 2013

Slumping: Alex ‘The Dog’ Dolgopolov – Ranked 52 and nowhere near the form he showed in 2012 when ranked a career high 12. Needs to get it together.

On Fire: Fabio ‘Fabulous’ Fognini – Had a good Davis Cup weekend and coming off a career year.

My pick: Fabio Fognini – The world #15 has a new level of confidence these days and should be enough to hold off Almagro.

Did You Know?: The Royal Guard Open Chile returned to Viña del Mar in 2012, after a brief stint in Santiago.

Montpellier Open

A strong field of French players to be expected. Gasquet (9), Simon and Monfils all are top 10 player material.

Gasquet and Monfils had decent Australian Opens and I expect some combination of these 3 to make the final.

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Let’s break it down:

ATP Level: 250

Surface: Indoor Hard

Defending Champion: Richard Gasquet – The Frenchman has a 3-1 record in singles finals on French soil.

Nasty Floater: Denis Istomin – Remarkably unseeded and never won a title. Gets the match-tough Tursunov round 2.

Veteran Watch:
 Nikolay ‘The Machine’ Davydenko – Ranked 60 but could close on 500 wins this year.

Up and Coming: Jerzy ‘Pole-Axe’ Janowicz – The Pole has a 26-12 match record on indoor courts.

Slumping: Gilles Simon – Only 2-2 on the year but needs a few wins.

On Fire: Gael ‘Force’ Monfils – 7-2 on the year; terrible in finals (4-16), so if he could only correct that stat.

My pick: Richard Gasquet – Inside the top 10 coming off a career year in 2013. More to follow.

Did You Know? The indoor hard court event was had relocated from Lyon in 2012

Check back next week for more!

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