Top Seeds in Stockholm Have Good Track Record
The defending champion will not be participating in this year’s tournament. Tomas Berdych had won this event two years in a row and three of the last four. The tournament should still have plenty of star power with former champions Gael Monfils and Grigor Dimitrov among the 28 player field in Sweden. The top four seeds this week are Monfils, Dimitrov, Ivo Karlovic and Alexander Zverev. in this 250-level event. The top seed has fared well in Stockholm over the past four years, with the #1 seed has taken home the title twice in that span and made the final each year.
Seeds had traditionally made up most of the semifinal field, but unseeded players have crashed that round two straight years. Stockholm has not seen an unseeded finalist since 2011, when Monfils won the title over unseeded Jarkko Nieminen. Of the top four seeds, the fourth seed has seen the most early peril. The fourth seed has lost their opening match each year from 2011 to 2015. That could be bad news for Zverev, although he is in solid form. Overall, at least one seeded player has flopped in their first match in Stockholm in each of the past four years.
With that to stick in your brain socket, let’s take a look at this week’s top eight seeds in Stockholm and look at who might be prone to that early knockout blow.
1. Gael Monfils
Monfils won this title back in 2011, but has returned just once since that time. That was last year, where he was beaten in his opening match by a Swedish local who was ranked in the 400s. This year, Monfils comes to Stockholm still seeking to nail down a spot in the ATP World Tour Finals. La Monf didn’t do much to aid that cause with a third round loss to David Goffin in Shanghai last week. The good news is he can do nothing but gain points this week with wins. He is still in pretty good shape in the 6th spot for the year-end Finals currently and should be able to avoid any early issues with either Gastao Elias or Ivan Dodig as his first opponent.
2. Grigor Dimitrov
Dimitrov has made a late charge back into the Top 20 in recent weeks, but comes to Stockholm off a disappointing loss to Vasek Pospisil in the second round at the Shanghai Rolex Masters. Dimitrov seems to love this tournament with a 12-4 all-time record in Stockholm. He won the title in 2013 and made the final in 2014. He has made at least the quarterfinals in his last four trips here. Dimitrov will get Benjamin Becker or Jurgen Zopp in his opener. Both pose a slight threat, but one that Dimitrov should work through.
3. Ivo Karlovic
Karlovic has not played this tournament since winning it in 2007. His last tournament was in Tokyo, where he did well with a quarterfinal loss to Monfils. Karlovic has been surprisingly average indoors with his last finals run coming in Memphis in 2014. This will be his first match indoors on a hard court since he lost in opening round play at the Paris Masters last year. Karlovic could wind up playing Fernando Verdasco in his opener. The Spaniard gets Mikael Ymer in round one. Karlovic has beaten Verdasco four of seven times they have met with the last meeting indoors way back in 2011. The Spaniard won that one.
4. Alexander Zverev
Zverev heads to Stockholm with fairly good results since the U.S. Open. The big one was winning indoors in St.Petersburg. He followed that with a quarterfinal run in Beijing, but was a bit disappointing with a blown lead in losing in round three to Jo-Wilifried Tsonga last week in Shanghai. The German teen has been very good on this surface in 2016 with an 11-3 mark in tour events. He faces either Donald Young or Adrian Mannarino in round two. Neither has done much lately, so barring the jinx of the 4th seed in Stockholm, he should be relatively safe in his opener.Being a 250 though, safe is never really safe.
5. Steve Johnson
The American makes his first appearance in Stockholm this week. Johnson has tapered off with his results as the season seems to have worn on him after a terrific summer. He went 1-2 in the Far East swing after the U.S. Open. He will hope to find a spark indoors at this point in the season as he did last October when he made a final in Vienna and then the semis in Valencia. He has Radu Albot to open. That’s a winnable match, but also one that could prove tricky if he’s not ready to go.
6. Jack Sock
Sock built some momentum in Shanghai that he will hope to carry over into this week. The American made the quarterfinals of that event, his best career Masters 1000 result. Sock was a 2015 finalist in Stockholm with a 7-3 career mark at this event. Sock opens with Malek Jaziri in round one. Jaziri hasn’t done a ton on this surface in his career at this level, so as long as Sock takes care of his serve, he should move on.
7. John Isner
Isner makes his debut in Stockholm as he comes in off an early exit last week in Shanghai. Isner was taken out in straights in his opening match against Alexander Zverev. That was the 5th time this season that Isner has been dropped in his opening match at a tournament. Stockholm looks like a prospective sixth first-up loss with Juan Martin Del Potro waiting in round one. DelPo had a tough one last week in Shanghai, losing to a red hot David Goffin. This could be a better spot for an upset. Isner did win their lone meeting this year in Queen’s Club, but Del Potro wasn’t quite to his best level at that point. He is much better now and Isner is arguably much worse.
8. Marcos Baghdatis
Baghdatis has been a frequent visitor to Stockholm with a 10-4 all-time record here. His best result was winning the title in 2009. He has made the semifinals twice since then, including last year when he lost to eventual champion Tomas Berdych. The draw pits him against Kevin Anderson, a tough match-up. Fortunately for Baghdatis, Anderson has lost his first match in Stockholm in each of his last three trips.
Qualifiers have had mixed results in Stockholm in recent times. Last year, none made it out of the opening round. However in 2014, two qualifiers made the quarterfinals and all four qualifiers made it out of the opening round. This year’s crop doesn’t look particularly strong, but there are some players like Tobias Kamke and Ryan Harrison who could make some noise if they get an early win.
Quarter #1: Gael Monfils (1)
Monfils will feel confident about this draw with Sock as the other seed in this quarter. Monfils looks good to the quarterfinals with the bottom half being the more difficult. Gilles Muller and Dustin Brown face off in an interesting first round clash with the winner likely getting Sock in round two. Muller and his serve figure to be a legit threat in this quarter. He made the quarterfinals here last year and a match against Sock could be rough on the seeded American. The top seed looks the probable semifinalist with Muller being your X-factor.
Quarter #2: Alexander Zverev (4)
Zverev and Steve Johnson are the seeds in this quarter. Zverev’s top half looks a bit more simplistic with only Donald Young or Adrian Mannarino standing in the way of the quarterfinals. Johnson should like his draw though with a winnable opener against Radu Albot and then either Kamke or Elias Ymer in the second round. This quarter looks like it should fall to a seed. Zverev against Johnson would mark their second clash in 2016 with Johnson winning in two tiebreaks when they met in Miami. Zverev has the form edge, but clearly that could go either waay.
Quarter #3: Ivo Karlovic (3)
If an unseeded player is going to sneak into the semifinals, this could be the quarter with Karlovic and John Isner as the seeds. Both face uphill battles from their opening matches with Isner taking on Del Potro and Karlovic likely seeing Verdasco. One might survive, but it seems likely that one will not. Isner looks the less likely with DelPo up first and then perhaps Nicolas Almagro in round two. Almagro plays Yuichi Sugita in round one. Even though Almagro is a clay court guy, he does have a serve that can keep him even on this surface. In the end, I’m thinking Del Potro or Verdasco heads out of this quarter.
Quarter #4: Grigor Dimitrov (2)
The resurgent Bulgarian looks the best bet in this quarter. Baghdatis is the seed opposite of him, but he does have a tough match-up against Kevin Anderson in round one. I do think Baghdatis might survive that and that could leave him against Ryan Harrison. Harrison faces Adam Pavlasek in a battle of qualifiers in round one. Dimitrov gets Becker or Zopp and then should be in good shape to get a semifinal slot whether it’s Baghdatis, Anderson or someone else. Dimitrov is 5-2 against Anderson and 4-1 versus Baghdatis.
AND THAT’S THE BOTTOM LINE BECAUSE THE PIG SAID SO …
Even though 250s often breed upsets, this draw and the history in Stockholm says a seed should be in position to hoist the title. Monfils and Dimitrov do both have fairly nice draws that should keep them in position to win. Monfils should have the motivation to get that spot in the Tour Finals, but it’s still Monfils. Unless Del Potro gets hot in the bottom half, I lean to Dimitrov to have the best shot to take home the title with the survivor from Zverev-Johnson perhaps as the outside to take advantage of any bigger upsets.