Pig-pourri: ATP Bogota Preview

Aussie Sam Groth Is One To Watch in Bogota

This is the third year that the ATP tour stops in Bogota as a transition to the summer hard courts. Top seed Ivo Karlovic has been able to switch from the grass in Newport to the high altitude of Bogota nicely in each of the 1st two years that this 250 level event has been held. Karlovic won the inaugural event in 2013 before losing in the Final last year to Bernard Tomic. The high altitude of Bogota does lend itself to success for big servers as Karlovic has proven. Last year, Ivo threw down 39 aces in the three set Finals loss to Tomic. The troubled Aussie is back in Bogota this year following his much publicized arrest for a loud party this past week at a Miami hotel. Tomic is the 2nd seed this year. Rounding out the seeds are Adrian Mannarino, Victor Estrella Burgos, Marcos Baghdatis, Sam Groth, Malek Jaziri & James Ward. The intriguing part of this year’s tournament will be how players transition quickly to the altitude and the surface change with many of them playing on grass most recently or in Davis Cup action over the weekend.

As a 250 level event, seeds are of course susceptible to early upsets. Last year though there was just one seed that lost their first match. In the first year of the event in 2013 however, half of the eight seeds lost their first match. Let’s take a look at this year’s seeds and the what the chances are that they might be losing early in this tournament.

#1 Ivo Karlovic
Normally playing a Sunday Final on grass and then turning aorund relatively quickly to altitude and a new surface would be difficult. Karlovic however has proven to be able to handle those circumstances. Last year, Karlovic lost the Newport Final, but was able to make a Finals run in Bogota before losing to Tomic. In 2013, he lost in the QFs in Newport and then came to Bogota and claimed the title. This year it will be similar to last year as he works from the Sunday Final to a 2nd round match against either Pere Riba or wild card Daniel Elahi Galan. One difference this year could be arm pain that Ivo has been experiencing in Newport. There could be a chance that he decides to skip Bogota depending on how he feels Sunday. If not, then I would definitely monitor him in Bogota as a potential upset victim at some point with that arm issue.

#2 Bernard Tomic
Tomic played Newport last week and crashed out in his opener. That came on the heels of his post-Wimbledon blow up on Tennis Australia. This time, he’s got the baggage from his Miami arrest following him. He gets a bye and then faces either local Alejandro Gonzalez or Adrian Menendez-Maceiras. Gonzalez was a tough out last year in Bogota, making the quarter finals. With Tomic’s mental state still a question, give Gonzalez a shot at an upset if that is the match-up. If Tomic wins though, then I’d look at him to potentially get on a run this week.

#3 Adrian Mannarino
The third seed has a bye to open and then a potentially tough match against either Falla or Ram. Ram may be one of those who has a difficult time with the quick turnaround and transition from Newport to Bogota. Falla is switching from grass also, but will have the benefit of extra prep time. I expect him in this spot and he’s made the Final in Bogota in 2013. Mannarino lost in the 1st round last year in Bogota & struggled in 2013 in the opening round to win in three. Give Falla a very real shot to pull of a win if he’s the guy in this spot.

#4 Victor Estrella-Burgos
The Dominican is also getting a 1st round bye which will serve him well after playing a Davis Cup match on Sunday. Burgos made the semis last year in Bogota and the 2nd round back in 2013. His confidence should be a bit higher after winning in Davis Cup play as he was sruggling at the ATP level prior to the weekend. He has the benefit of seeing either Yuchi Sugita or Nicholas Barrientos first-up. Barrientos plays his home tourney for the 3rd straight year without a main draw win. Sugita has been miserable on hard courts this year though, so that’s a toss up where the Colombian might actually win. With the rest, I think Burgos is likely to get through his first match, so a low risk of an upset for me here.

#5 Marcos Baghdatis
Baghdatis will be sad to see the grass court season go as he played some of his better tennis since January on the green stuff. He’s taking part in this tournament for the 1st time. Hard courts are generally good to Baggy, so this might be a nice spot for him in a low pressure tournament. He will face a qualifier first-up. I don’t see a ton of quality in the qualifiers who are still battling for a main draw spot, so Baghdatis should survive his 1st match. Do check the match-up first though.

#6 Sam Groth
One of the heroes of Australia’s comeback win in Davis Cup play, Groth presumably would be well suited to the courts here with his monster serve. The main issue for Groth though is going to be a lack of prep time and long travel. The quick switch from grass and to this altitude in Bogota will be rough, even though he experienced it last year. He faces Guido Pella to open. This could be similar to Groth’s 1st rounder last year in Bogota where he had to fight hard in a 3rd set tie break to beat doubles specialist Juan Sebastian Cabal. Have Groth on upset alert with an emotional hangover from the Aussies Davis Cup win quite possible.

#7 Malek Jaziri
Jaziri faces American Austin Krajicek who has had problems winning matches the last few months. Krajicek has won just one match since April and that came on the Challenger level. He does fight hard, losing in three sets in five of his last six matches. Jaziri isn’t in great form either, just 3-7 in his last 10. Jaziri doesn’t get to see a ton of lefties with just one match against a lefty this year resulting in a loss. Even with Krajicek struggling to lock down a win, I think he has a good chance to get on the board with one here.

#8 James Ward
The Brit is another Davis Cup traveller who looks like a prime upset candidate in this spot. Ward looked pretty poor in losing his Davis Cup tie against Gilles Simon on Friday. He did not have to take the court again over the weekend, but is doing the quick trip across the pond to get to Bogota. Ward did make the 2nd round last year after running through qualis, but with the lack of prep time this year, he will be more prone to an upset. He faces Michael Berrer. The German is on his farewell tour & plays Bogota for the 1st time. Berrer’s main issue seems to be fitness. He started well in a lot of his grass court matches, but faded hard after the 1st set. He’s got a serve with some pop and will have better prep than Ward. He’ll need to jump on Ward early and find another geat after the 1st set, but it’s certainly a match-up that is winnable for the unseeded player.

Quick Draw McGraw
Now, let’s take a look at the quarters breakdown for the hard court tournament in Bogota this week.

Karlovic Quarter
Ivo showed no worse for the wear in Sunday’s Newport Final, although he did lose and his serve may have lost a couple of important MPHs. That might have been just enough for Rajeev Ram on Sunday to beat him and it could be the difference as this week goes on in Bogota. This quarter is seeded to see the battle of the massive serves with 6th seed Sam Groth in the bottom of the quarter. Both really are positioned well to run to the quarters. The intriguing 1st rounder will be Radek Stepanek vs. Edouard Roger-Vasselin. One of the two vets might have a shot to sneak through this quarter if both Karlovic & Groth drop out early. Stepanek though looked poor in Newport in a straight sets crush job by Jack Sock. ERV won one & lost one in Newport and still looks as if he has not found any sort of consistency this season. Stepanek mades the semis in Bogota last year, but his form is far from that. Maybe give him the slight edge just because he was comfortable here last year. All in all, I’m going with Groth in this spot. I think Karlovic is going to wear down this week with the arm already a problem upon arrival.

Mannarino Quarter
This quarter looks pretty open and could run with the home standing Alejandro Falla. I already covered the thoughts on the 3rd seed Mannarino potentially being in a trouble spot to open if Falla can take out Ram. Ram had great form in Newport, but the switch back to hard courts may not be a good one for him. I like Falla to surprise in the top half and make it to the quarters. On the bottom, it’s shaky for the seed as well with Jaziri. The survivor of Jaziri-Krajicek gets Aussie John Millman or a qualifier. The bottom of the quarter conceivably could go to anyone and I favor it to be a non-seed. I think this quarter comes down to the winner of the 2nd rounder with Mannarino v. Falla or Ram. I’m siding with the nonseeded Falla to get to the semis out of this quarter.

Burgos Quarter
This should be a handy draw for the Dominican to get on a roll. After a bye, he has a winnable match-up with Sugita or Barrientos. Up top, 8th seed James Ward should still be vulnerable after a poor showing at the Davis Cup in London. He could be a bit fatigued still from his longer-than-expected Wimbledon run. That could open the door for Berrer to beat him and then Marchenko or a qualifier awaits. Keep an eye on Marchenko. He doesn’t usually thrive at the ATP level, doing more damage on hard courts at the Challenger level. But let’s be honest, this 250 draw isn’t far off from what you might see at a Challenger in terms of the skill variation not being that far off from player to player. I’ll take a flyer on Marchenko making some noise here and being in position possibly against Burgos for the semifinal slot. Burgos runs really hot & cold on this surface, so if he gets going early, watch out for him. If not then this draw could go to anyone.

Tomic Quarter
The mind of Tomic is the biggest opponent he will once again face. Will he be ready to put his off-court issues on the back burner and actually show his skill? That is the question. If he’s still distracted or disinterested then this quarter could be 5th seed Marcos Baghdatis’ for the taking. Baghdatis may not be the player he once was, but his desire level is usually pretty good. Ito is also in the top half of the quarter with Baghdatis and could be a tough out. He played decently in Newport and has some decent results now & then on outdoor hard courts. I don’t think you can trust Tomic to be focused yet, so for me I’ll take Baghdatis in this quarter with an outside shot that someone like Alejandro Gonzalez or Ito could sneak through here.

If he is able to adjust quickly and get his feet under him, I like Sam Groth to continue the momentum from Australia’s thrilling Davis Cup win to make a deep run this week. I think in the bottom of the quarter, seeds Estrella-Burgos & Baghdatis bear watching as both sit in position to do some good things this week. For a long shot, watch Colombia Alejandro Falla in the 2nd quarter. If he gets past Mannarino in R2, he could have a shot against a fatigued Karlovic or Groth in the semifinals in that part of the draw.


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