It’s Day Three action on Wednesday in Barcelona with top seed Andy Murray leading the action. Murray plays Bernard Tomic, while seven other seeds will join him for their first matches. That includes nine-time Barcelona Open champion Rafael Nadal who looks to kick start his quest for title #10 in Barcelona as he battles Rogerio Dutra Silva.
Three Seeds Down, More Should Be Weary
Richard Gasquet, David Ferrer and Mischa Zverev were all seeded upset victims on Tuesday. Gasquet was the highest seed (9) to lose as lucky loser Yuichi Sugita outlasted him in a third set tiebreak to score just his second ATP level win on clay. His first came on Monday against Tommy Robredo. Ferrer continued his poor season with a 6-3, 6-4 loss to Kevin Anderson and Zverev lost to Brit Daniel Evans in straights. Evans has scored all four of his ATP wins on clay this year with two coming in dead David Cup rubbers. The other two came against Thiago Monteiro in round one and Zverev on Tuesday.
I highlighted in yesterday’s entry that multiple seeds had fallen in Barcelona routinely over the past four years. With three down, you might tend to think that the seeds will be better on Wednesday. Perhaps, but there are several who will need to be on alert in their openers. Here’s a look at those who look most prone for an early exit.
6. Roberto Bautista Agut
The home-standing Spaniard is just 3-3 in three trips to the main draw of this tournament. He made the quarterfinals in 2015, but was one and done last year at the hands of Karen Khachanov. He sees big hitting German Jan-Lennard Struff to start. Struff won his opener against Pierre Hugues-Herbert and had a nice run to the round of 16 in Monte Carlo. That included a win over Grigor Dimitrov. RBA hasn’t seen his best results on this surface, so Struff has a legit shot to pull this off.
11. Pablo Cuevas
Cuevas opens with the previously mentioned Karen Khachanov. The Russian took down Thomaz Bellucci 6-3, 6-4 to start in Barcelona. Last year’s scalp of RBA in Barca was a highlight for the season, so perhaps the Russian really enjoys his stay in Spain. Cuevas has made back-to-back appearances in the round of 16 at this tournament. That’s not all that impressive with one win and one loss making that happen. He made the quarters in Monte Carlo last week, highlighted by an upset of Stan Wawrinka. Cuevas and Khachanov have not met previously. I think Khachanov can push Cuevas, but might still be a little short on the upset bid.
10. Albert Ramos-Vinolas
Most will think it hard to include the Monte Carlo finalist on a list of potential upset victims, but Sunday losers often do have a bit of trouble getting back up for their next match. ARV was beaten soundly by Rafael Nadal in the MC final, but does have a decent 10-7 record in Barcelona. He’s only lost his opener once in seven trips to the main draw. He gets qualifier Casper Ruud on Wednesday. Ruud swept aside Radu Albot 6-2, 6-2 in round one. The 18-year-old’s best ATP finish came on clay earlier this year in Rio, where he made the quarterfinals. He’s a dangerous player.
15. Joao Sousa
Sousa is a first-up loser in two of his four trips to Barcelona, including last year. He’s 5-4 on clay this season with losses to Cuevas, Kei Nishikori, Roberto Carballes Baena and Albert Ramos-Vinolas. Outside of Carballes Baena, no bad losses amongst that crew. He will take on Horacio Zeballos whom he beat in their lone meeting. That came earlier this year in Buenos Aires on clay via a 6-2, 7-6 (4) scoreline. With Sousa’s shaky track record here, Zeballos will have chances to score the scalp. When Zeballos serves well, he usually contends well on this surface – so watch those numbers to see how he fares.
Rafa Returns to Spain, Murray Still Lacks Mojo
Nadal returns to Barcelona after winning here last season. It marked his ninth Barcelona Open title, but first since 2013. With the momentum from Monte Carlo, you’d expect Rafa to come out roaring. He starts against Dutra Silva. They’ve met just once and it was at the U.S. Open in 2013. Nadal won easily in straight sets. Don’t expect any hangover for Nadal. As for Murray, this week’s top seed will need to shake off the disappointing ending to his Monte Carlo run last week. Murray blew a huge lead late in falling to Ramos-Vinolas in three sets. He has a comfortable match-up to open in Barca with Bernard Tomic, who was a surprise winner in round one. Murray is 5-0 vs the Aussie, although they have not met on clay. A loss for Murray should set off all kinds of alarms and probably warrant a trip to a psychotherapist and a Voodoo doctor. This is the New World Order of men’s tennis though, so you never know.
The Pig’s Bottom Line
Don’t be surprised to see a few more seeds fall on Wednesday. Bautista Agut is the main mark for me. Among the other three highlighted above, definitely look out for the Championship Hangover for ARV. Even if Ramos-Vinolas wins against Ruud, I would not be shocked if he lost within the first two matches in Barcelona. That’s the way things often roll for guys coming off a disappointing final last week.