UPDATED MONDAY 4.27.15: Gael Monfils has withdrawn from this tournament. Gerald Melzer takes his spot in the draw. As a result, I really give Fabio Fognini a green light (if he’s not in DGAF mode) to make the semis and maybe even repeat his Finals performance last year.
The BMW Open is one of three stops on the ATP tour this week and it marks the return of newlywed Andy Murray. Murray heads into the tournament as the top seed after taking a break from tennis the last few weeks to celebrate his marriage. This is Murray’s first trip ever to Munich. Rounding out the top four seeds behind Murray are Gael Monfils, Roberto Bautista-Agut and David Goffin. One of the hottest players on-tour in recent weeks, Martin Klizan, is the defending Champion, but he has withdrawn from this week’s tournament due to injury. Two-time Munich Champion Phillipp Kohlschreiber will also be in action as the 5th seed. He won the title in 2007 and 2012. The other seeds this week are Bernard Tomic at #6 and Fabio Fognini at #8. Amongst the seeds, Kohlschreiber is the most experienced at this tournament with 28 matches and a 20-8 mark.
As with many of these 250 level tournaments, they can take on a very local flavor. There are five Germans in the main draw and three more contending for a spot through qualifications. Germans have done a solid job using home soil to their benefit with nine of the last 16 semifinalists being German. They are not always seeds either, so let’s take a look at this week’s German contingent and what to expect.
5th Seed: Phillipp Kohlschreiber
As outlined earlier, Kohlschreiber has plenty of experience here and Finals trips in two of the last three years here. Last year though, he was taken out in his 1st match by Denis Istomin. He’ll need to be on high alert early again as he faces an in-form Jiri Vesely coming off a runner-up performance in Bucharest last week. Kohlschreiber is in a loaded quarter with fellow Germans Benjamin Becker & Alex Zverev along with 4th seeded David Goffin. If he makes another semifinal here, it will be well earned. Despite the tough draw, I do like him in this spot as he’s been playing decently since the switch back to clay.
Unseeded Benjamin Becker & Unseeded Alexander Zverev
The German contingent will shrink by one in the opening round with these two battling each other. Neither has been doing much in limited matches on clay in recent tournaments. Zverev has the talent edge, but has not exactly used that to his advantage in losing in qualis in Houston and a the Challenger level in Sarasota the last couple weeks. It should be noted his best result on dirt came in Hamburg last Summer and he genuinely seems more at home in his home country. Becker is 15-40 on clay, so this obviously is out of his comfort zone. He is 2-3 all-time in Munich, but hasn’t played here since 2010. This should be an excellent spot for Zverev to score a main draw win.
Unseeded Jan-Lennard Struff
Struff is stuck in Murray’s quarter and would potentially play the top seed in the 2nd round if he can survive an opening round clash with a qualifier. Struff hasn’t been able to get on track this year and has gone 0-3 on clay this year. He should have motivation though with semifinal points to defend after a surprising run last year. It will be difficult for him to achieve that with Murray in his way, although he could benefit from some rust from the top seed. That is assuming his 1st round opponent isn’t too tough to handle. That will be determined on Monday. Check the draw, but it looks like Struff might be in for a short stay this week.
Wild Card Florian Mayer
The vet has struggled with some injuries, but seems healthy over the past two tournaments. He is 6-5 all-time in Munich and has made the quarters in 2013 and the Final in 2011. He will face Rosol to open. Rosol is no pushover on this surface. If Mayer can get by Rosol, he’s got a draw that could make him an intriguing candidate as the surprise German semifinalist. He is in Murray’s quarter, but in a 250, plenty of upsets happen and that could be one to watch.
Quick Draw McGraw
A quick look at this week’s draw, quarter-by-quarter.
The Murray Quarter provides a lot of opportunity. It could be for Andy Murray. it could be for a non-seed like Struff or Mayer. Murray doesn’t often get respect as a good clay court player, but his results are good with a career win percentage around 60. Interestingly, more of his success comes at the French Open, while at other clay court tournaments he usually does not run as deep. This could be a week where he’s happy to get some work in on clay with bigger tournaments to come. I look at that Mayer-Rosol winner in the opening round as the one to watch in this quarter. They could easily get hot and work through to the semis.
The Bautista-Agut Quarter looks a bit more straight-forward with RBA seeded at the top and 6th seed, Bernard Tomic, on bottom. That would seem to be a good draw for RBA, but these are the tournaments with the surprises. He would open against Dustov or a qualifier. Seeds do lose their first-up matches in Munich, about two per tournament on-average the last few years. Qualifiers and wild cards have had some especially good luck being the players to oust those seeds. This could be one of those spots witb RBA perhaps content with a nice run last week on home soil in Barcelona. Tomic may not be immune either with a motivated Janko Tipsarevic to oppose him to open. Troicki faces Burgos in the other 1st rounder in this quarter. I think this one is going to get blown up and I look at a steadily improving Tipsarevic as a potential breakout this week. Troicki or Burgos could also be sneaky here.
The Monfils Quarter is going to be fun to monitor just because there is so much talent, but so much inconsistent talent. Monfils leads the charge and will face Souza or Barcelona runner-up Pablo Andujar. It’s a perfect set-up for Monfils to make a run as he likely will get a depleted or uncaring Andujar if he makes it that far. Up top, it’s the mercurial Fabio Fognini as the 9th seed. Fognini surprised me in Barcelona, beating Nadal, but then unsurprisingly showing no fight against Andujar the next round in losing 6-1, 6-1. Which Fabio shows up this week? Why not ask me for the winning lotto numbers, that is easier to predict. He did make the FInal here last year and these smaller tournaments often seem more fun for him. If he gets by a qualifier in the opener, he likely faces Thiem who will battle Vasek Pospisil in the opener. Big surface advantage to Thiem even if his form is not great since switching back to dirt. Give Monfils the slightest edge here with an easier draw, but Fognini could be right in the mix if he cares.
The Goffin Quarter could easily come down to Goffin or Kohlschreiber, the two seeds here. Goffin has lacked any momentum in 2015 with back-to-back wins registered only in Chennai and Miami. On dirt, his speed and court coverage could help change that. His first match against Bolelli or a qualifier should give him a chance to start well. Kohlschreiber as mentioned prior will have to beat a fellow-German to work deep in this quarter if he can get past Vesely to open. Goffin owns two wins over Kohlschreiber, including one on clay last year in Kitzbuhel. I still like Kohlschreiber though in this spot.
AND THAT’S THE BOTTOM LINE BECAUSE THE PIG SAID SO….
As with every 250, expect the unexpected. Top seeds just rarely win these events, so I really don’t expect Andy Murray to be in the Championship mix. Monfils seems to be steady since returning from injury with a semifinal in Monte Carlo and a decent QF showing in Bucharest last week, losing to eventual Champion Garcia-Lopez. He seems close to figuring it out and this week could be that time. I think the Champion comes out of the bottom of this draw with Monfils my pick and someone like Kohlschreiber or Goffin a very real shot as well.