2018 BNP Paribas Open Men’s Doubles Preview


Doubles Race Takes Shape in Indian Wells

The next month is set to shape the doubles race on the ATP World Tour with stops in Indian Wells and Miami. Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic are still atop the rankings with almost a 1500 point cushion. Masters 1000 points could quickly change that or see Marach-Pavic run further away. They head to Indian Wells as the third seeds and making their debut together at the BNP Paribas Open. Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo slot in at #1 in this week’s draw. They lost last year’s Indian Wells final to Raven Klaasen and Rajeev Ram, who are no longer partnered up. The second seeds are Henri Kontinen and John Peers. Kontinen-Peers has yet to find much luck in 2018 as they come in ranked 21st. Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares round out the top four seeds. They come in fresh of winning the Acapulco titles and will be looking to improve on their semifinal run in 2017.

Rounding out the seeds in this year’s Indian Wells doubles draw are Pierre Hugues-Herbert and Nicolas Mahut at #5. The French duo won the titles in 2016, but were outsted in round two last year. The sixth seeds are Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau. They are just 2-4 as a tandem at Indian Wells, but did make the quarters last season. They’ve rocketed to fifth in the rankings and come in with the Dubai titles in their pockets. The Bryans come in at #7 as two-time winners here, but haven’t made it past the quarterfinals since winning their last Indian Wells title in 2014. The 8th seeds are Ivan Dodig and Rajeev Ram, a first time pairing at this event. This will be their fourth tournament together in 2018. They have made the semifinals of their last two.

Recent History Shows Top Seeds Struggle

The Bryan Brothers’ last title run at the BNP Paribas Open marks the last time that the top seed has been as far as the semifinals at this event. The top four seeds have had a habit of finding themselves as early upset victims the last few years. Last year, the Bryans were seeded second and lost their opener. In both 2015 and 2016, two of the top four seeds followed suit with round one defeats. Amazingly, if you track all the way back to 2006, there has only been one year where a top four seed has not fallen in their opener.

Let’s take a quick glance at the top four seeds this year and which ones might be in danger of joining that trend. (1) Kubot-Melo will battle Roberto Bautista Agut and David Ferrer in round one. Don’t dismiss the Spaniards as a random pair up, they’ve played together nine times the last two seasons, going 6-3. One of those losses as a straight sets whipping by Kubot-Melo at last year’s event in Halle on grass. Kubot-Melo have cooled off after a hot start, going 2-2 in their last two tournaments. I would not be surprised if they had to work a super tie break to escape round one and RBA-Ferrer certainly are capable of causing an upset.

The second seeds, Kontinen-Peers, will obviously be the ones many are watching and expecting to flop. Since making the Brisbane final, they are 1-2 with stunning losses at the Australian Open to Radu Albot and Hyeon Chung and then last week in their opener in Dubai to Damir Dzumhir and Filip Krajinovic. They draw Adrian Mannarino and Fabrice Martin in round one. The Frenchmen haven’t played together since 2015, but both have experience. Martin is a regular doubles player at the ATP level. Still, even with Kontinen-Peers struggling a bit, this would be a real shocker. I think the seeds fend off the challenge in this spot.

Marach-Pavic arrive as the third seeds with a little of their luster worn off. They have lost two of three since their 17 match winning streak to start the season ended. Neither was a poor loss, but they will want to find that winning feeling again early. They start against Steve Johnson and Daniel Nestor. Johnson-Nestor played once last year and were overwhelmed by Ryan Harrison and Michael Venus in Cincinnati. Nestor has been switching partners about every week with little success at 3-8 this season. It’s difficult to see Johnson-Nestor winning this match against a team with better chemistry.

That leaves us with the fourth seeds, Murray and Soares. They open against the pairing of Philipp Petzschner and Dominic Thiem. Murray-Soares have been pretty consistent at 10-3 in 2018 with two finals appearances out of the four tournaments played. Petzschner and team have never played together, but once upon a time, Petzschner was one of the top doubles players along with Jurgen Melzer before injuries stonewalled Petzschner. The German is a two-time Grand Slam champ, having won the U.S. Open titles with Melzer in 2011 and Wimbledon in 2010. He won his 7th doubles title in Bastad last season alongside Julian Knowle. Thiem hasn’t had a ton of doubles success the last couple of years, but his matches are often very close. This is the one that sticks in my brain as a possibility, even if it seems a bit far fetched.

If I had to rate them in order of best shot at losing round one: I’d go 2-4-1-3.

Doubles Draw Preview

Quarter #1 Seeds
(1) Kubot-Melo
(8) Dodig-Ram

There are some dangerous floaters in this section that could definitely help continue the top seed curse. If Kubot-Melo survive Bautista Agut and Ferrer in round one, round two could be just as tough. They play the winners of Albert Ramos-Vinolas and Fernando Verdasco vs John Isner and Jack Sock. Isner-Sock are 11-3 in the last two seasons with a title in Shanghai in 2016 and a finals appearance in Beijing last year. I’d rate them the tougher out of the two. In the bottom of this quarter with Dodig-Ram as the seeds, the winner of an opening round barn burner between Raven Klaasen/Michael Venus vs Juan-Sebastian Cabal/Robert Farah loom as big threats.

Klaasen-Venus seem to have finally gelled together after winning the titles in Marseille. They did lose in the quarters in Dubai last week, but are 5-1 in their last six matches after a 2-3 start to their partnership. Cabal-Farah are 9-4 and showed they are hard court threats with their run to the Aussie Open final. They don’t have a ton of experience surprisingly at Indian wells despite their lengthy partnership, so Klaasen-Venus might be the team two watch. Dodig-Ram start against Ben McLachlan and Julio Peralta. Two good doubles players, but they’ve never played together before this week. So edge to Dodig-Ram.

The Pig-nosticator

I think it’s safe bet that one or both of the two seeds here won’t see the quarterfinals. I think Dodig-Ram might actually be the safer shot to squeeze through this quarter. I won’t be surprised at all to see an unseeded team make a run out of this bracket and into the semifinals. An unseeded duo has made the semifinals each of the last four years. Look to the survivor of that Klaasen-Venus v Cabal-Farah match as a good shot to join that club.

Quarter #2 Seeds
(3) Marach-Pavic
(6) Rojer-Tecau

Marach-Pavic should get out of round one against Johnson-Nestor, but round two could have a huge speed bump in their way. Nikola Mektic and Alexander Peya look to be the probable team in that spot. Mektic-Peya open with Fabio Fognini and Aisam Ul-Haq Qureshi. I won’t totally discount an upset there, but chemistry is better with the regular pairing of Mektic-Peya. Mektic-Peya have made two finals this year and beat Marach-Pavic in Acapulco last week. Revenge may be on the minds of the third seeds, but that won’t be an easy match at all.

The bottom half with Rojer-Tecau is interesting. The seeds here come in hot after winning in Dubai, but they haven’t had a ton of success here outside of their 2017 quarterfinal run. They open with a mish mosh pairing of Ryan Harrison and Max Mirnyi. Having lost in the first round two of their last three trips to the desert, watch out for the big serves of Harrison and Mirnyi to potentially add to their wores. The survivor gets either Juan Martin Del Potro and Grigor Dimitrov of the Lopezes, Marc and Feliciano. Team Lopez made the semis in 2016, but lost in round one last year. They lost their opener in two of four tournaments this year and despite the lack of playing together, DelPo and Dimitrov could be tricky.

The Pig-nosticator

Marach-Pavic have the motivation and could get back on a roll if they exact some revenge on Mektic-Peya along the way. Rojer-Tecau could be the sneaky pick here if they avoid the upset in round one. That’s the big question mark for them. Mektic-Peya is the unseeded threat for sure in this quarter.

Quarter #3 Seeds
(4) Murray-Soares
(5) Herbert-Mahut

Murray-Soares have the tougher path to the quarterfinals. If they get out of round one against Petzschner-Thiem, they could face Rohan Bopanna and Eduoard Roger-Vasselin. Bopanna-ERV have yet to break out at 6-6 this season, but they’ve made two semifinals this year and rarely been an easy out. Bopanna-ERV will need to skirt past Gilles Muller and Sam Querrey in round one and that may be a tight match. In the Herbert-Mahut half, the French have Dzumhur-Krajinovic to contend with in round one. Look no further than their win over Kontinen-Peers to show that the French need to be on point from ball one.

The winner of that first rounder gets either Pablo Cuevas and Horacio Zeballos or Nicolas Monroe and Santiago Gonazalez. Cuevas-Zeballos are solid veteran duo with experience and while Monroe and Gonzalez are teaming up for the first time, both are solid doubles guys with track records of winning with multiple partners. Either one could provide a tough test in round two for either Herbert-Mahut or Dzumhur-Krajinovic. This part of the draw could blow wide open if a seed falls early.

The Pig-nosticator

I think this one could fall to a seed vs seed scenario in the quarterfinals. Both teams do have some pitfalls early though. I think Murray-Soares would be the likelier to not get to the quarters because of Bopanna-ERV. That’s my unseeded team to watch in this quarter with Cuevas-Zeballos also a dark horse team.

Quarter #4 Seeds
(2) Kontinen-Peers
(7) Bryans

Kontinen-Peers have a lot to prove during this Indian Wells-Miami swing. They’re off to a sluggish start and this swing has not been good to them during their previous two seasons together. As such, I don’t think they’ll be involved in the mix for a semifinal slot. They may escape round one against Mannarino-Martin. Round two would see either Diego Schwartzman and Marcus Daniell or Philipp Kohlschreiber and Lucas Pouille. Those are mix and match first time teams, but all with players who are pretty decent at doubles. I mean I have a hard time picking a team here to beat Kontinen-Peers based on talent and teamwork, but they just have not found their groove. I’d say IF they get past the French in round one, then perhaps they can work to the quarters.

It’s an all-brothers showdown in round one with the Bryans taking on the Zverevs, Mischa and Alexander. The Bryans got in a nice groove in Acapulco with a finals run and I think that carries over to start this week. A win would then likely get them a date against Pablo Carreno Busta and David Marrero. The Spaniards open against Kyle Edmund and Franko Skugor. PCB-Marrero do have some history together, but their best results have come on clay. Edmund is 1-10 all-time in ATP doubles matches, so even with a good partner like Skugor, tough to see them winning.

The Pig-nosticator

I think this quarter sets up nicely for the Bryans. The intrigue could come if Kontinen-Peers find some rhythm and we get an all-seeded quarterfinal. Kontinen-Peers have owned the Bryans with a 3-0 head-to-head record, including not dropping any sets against the American twins. That would be the big road block for the 7th seeds.


Your last three men’s doubles champions have been seeded 6th, 7th and 8th. 2012 was the last time an unseeded pair took home the titles with Marc Lopez and Nicolas Mahut doing the honors in an all-unseeded final against John Isner and Sam Querrey. If there is some unseeded magic this week, I think the mix of potential dark horses include Klaasen-Venus, Cabal-Farah and Mektic-Peya. My brain though is stuck on the Bryans this week, who haven’t won a title since last summer in Atlanta. If a top four seed breaks the curse, Marach-Pavic seem to have the best road in my estimation.


The Ocho v.7


“The Eight” …. Every week, @tennispig will give his top eight ATP singles players and top eight ATP/WTA doubles teams from the previous week. It’s a great way to monitor who is hot … and who is not. This week, injuries again feature plus the dust up from proposed changes to the Davis Cup.

1. Juan Martin Del Potro
The 29-year-old Argentine won his biggest title in years, taking the title in Acapulco over Kevin Anderson. The 500-level win pushed DelPo up to #8 in the latest rankings. That is his highest ranking since August 2014. He showed a great combination of power and defense at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel in making his second final of the season, the other coming in Auckland. With Indian Wells and Miami missing some name players, DelPo could be poised for a big month. He will have to overcome a poor history in both Indian Wells and Miami in recent years to do so. The last time he did anything of note at either tournament was making the Indian Wells final in 2013.

2. Nicolas Jarry
The 22-year-old has gone from relative unknown to promising up and comer during the course of the last month. It was highlighted by making his first ATP final in Sao Paulo this past week. he would lose to Fabio Fognini, but the Chilean’s 9-3 run in Quito, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo combined have boosted him up to a career high ranking of 61. Not too shabby for a guy who started the season ranked 113th.

Nicolas JARRY (CHI)


3. Kevin Anderson
Anderson was on the losing end of the Acapulco final, but he has quietly become perhaps the one of the top five most consistent players on tour. His ranking slips one notch to #9 this week, but he’s now made three finals in four tournaments played. His lone disappointment coming due to a tough draw in Melbourne, where he lost an opening round thriller against Kyle Edmund. When you’re looking at options not named Federer to put into the title mix in Indian Wells and Miami, Anderson is a guy you have to consider a threat to at least be around in the semifinals.

4. Lucas Pouille
Speaking of close calls and one title, that’s exactly where Lucas Pouille finds himself right now. He too has made three finals in 2018, including the final in Dubai this past week where he lost to Roberto Bautista Agut. Pouille has one title in Montpellier to his credit as well as a career high ranking at #12 this week. After shaking off his opening loss for the year at the Australian Open, the Frenchman has found probably the best consistency of his young career. He will be interesting to watch this month as the competition level steps up in Indian Wells and Miami. Pouille has just one top 20 “win” this year and that came against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who was leading him In Montpellier when he was forced to retire. So perhaps this is a little smoke and mirrors-ish by the Frenchman.

5. Jamie Murray & Bruno Soares
Murray and Soares got their first title of the season in Acapulco and 7th as a team to make it two straight years winning the doubles titles in Mexico. It was a critical win for Murray-Soares who take a big jump up from #9 to #4 in the rankings ahead of the Indian Wells-Miami double. There figures to be a lot of reshaping of the doubles rankings in March outside of the top spot where Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic still hold nearly a 1,500 point lead on second place Jean-Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah. There are big points to be had in Indian Wells and Miami though and Murray-Soares could be heating up just at the right time to continue working up the ladder.


6. Alexander Zverev
Sascha makes the list for the wrong reasons unfortunately. Just when it looked like he was rounding into his best form of the season, Zverev suffered a knee injury in Acapulco against Del Potro. He was able to finish the match, losing in straights, but said afterward that the pain in his knee got worse as the match wore on. That’s not promising news for the world #5 whose status is up-in-the-air for Indian Wells. It wouldn’t be the worst idea to skip Indian Wells and not risk anything. Zverev only earned 45 points at Indian Wells in 2017 and has more to defend after making the quarters in Miami last year.

7. David Goffin
Another bad add to “The Ocho” this week. Goffin will be one of the many missing Indian Wells as the Belgian said his vision is still not 100 percent after the freak accident in Rotterdam. If you missed it, Goffin was hit in the eye by a ball off his own racquet in a match against Grigor Dimirov. It doesn’t sound good that Goffin has also already announced himself unavailable for Belgium’s Davis Cup tie with the United States in April. Of course that is good news for the Americans who now figure to be the favorites to advance to the semifinals in that match-up.

8. Davis Cup Reformat
I had to throw this at the tail end of the list, even though it’s close to a week old now in discussion and has been pushed out of he news cycle. There’s going to be a lot more time to digest this before the ITF officially votes on the proposed changes, but the one thing that has come out of this flawed proposal is that it has sparked discussion. Discussion about the Davis Cup/World Cup of Tennis. When is the last time you were talking about your fellow tennis fans about the Davis Cup? Not often I would guess. So, there’s that.

Listen, the current format needs tweaking for certain. The hope from here is that players and ITF officials can come together with some frank and productive discussion to tweak the proposal. It’s flawed in the time of year they want to stick it in and it’s flawed in trying to smash what could be a good idea into a one week tournament that doesn’t really set it apart from any other tournament. The World Cup style format though is intriguing if they can figure out a way to satisfy the greed for the money that is being pumped into this proposal and common sense scheduling. Stay tuned.

2018 Abierto Mexicano Telcel Preview


Rafa’s Return Highlights 2018 Field in Acapulco

It’s the fifth year for the Abierto Mexicano Telcel to be contested on hard courts after being played on clay for the first 20 years of its existence. Rafael Nadal is scheduled to return to the court this week after missing about a month due to a hip injury suffered at the Australian Open. I don’t believe Nadal for a minute, when he says he isn’t concentrating on retaking the top spot in the rankings after after Roger Federer scooted past him earlier in the month. I do believe him when he says he is simply focused on this tournament first though. Nadal will also be hoping to gain a bit of revenge for losing last year’s final to Sam Querrey. Rafa is the top seed in what is a very loaded field, maybe more dangerous even with players who are not seeded.

Rounding out the top four are Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem and Jack Sock. Zverev makes his debut in Acapulco and Sock lost his opener in his lone visit to the tournament last year. Thiem has the most experience of this group with a title here in 2016. Thiem is 7-1 in two trips to Mexico, making the quarterfinals last year. Among the rest of the seeds, it’s 7th seed Sam Querrey who has had a surprisingly good run of luck in Acapulco. The defending champion also made the semis in 2016.

The other players in the seeded field are #5 Kevin Anderson, a finalist in 2014, sixth seed Juan Martin Del Potro and 8th seeded John Isner. Del Potro has never advanced past round two, while Isner is winless in two trips since the tournament flipped to hard courts. Seeds have usually been a big part of the championship mix in Acapulco with Querrey’s title run last year as an unseeded player as the only one since 2014. The top seed has had the most difficult time here with just one finals appearance in four years, a loss by Kei Nishikori in 2015.

Multiple seeds have lost their openers in Acapulco in three of the last four years since the hard court switch. With that to chew on, let’s look at this week’s Eliminati.


Ernesto Escobedo
It’s difficult not to put Jack Sock on this list these days. Yes, he did avoid his third straight one and done in Delray Beach last week, but he’s still just 1-3 on the season. Sock has lost his opening match in six of his last eleven tournaments dating back to Cincinnati alst summer. Escobedo shook off a retirement in Delray Beach qualies last week to get through qualifying in Acapulco. This is his third main draw that he has qualified for in 2018 with New York marking his best result as he made round two. They’ve never met, but this might be interesting given Sock’s struggles.

Radu Albot
I think you have to give Albot a slight shot to take down Kevin Anderson in round one. The Moldovian has played some big servers tight this season, beating John Isner once and taking him to three sets last week in Delray Beach. He also lost in three to Jiri Vesely in Auckland earlier in the season. Albot also put together a decent effort in losing in three to Kei Nishikori in New York in the quarterfinals. Anderson might be in better form than all of those combined, coming in off the New York title – but he’s had a difficult time putting opponents away in straight sets. Seven of his nine matches have gone the distance this year.

Ryan Harrison
Harrison draws John Isner who is just 1-4 this season. He did get win #1 last week in Delray Beach. Isner owns a 5-2 advantage in the head-to-head with Harrison, but they have split their only two meetings in the last two years. Four of the five sets played in those matches went to tie breaks, so there is a small margin for error for Isner. Harrison has had problems topping big servers this year with his losses coming to Nick Kyrgios, Marin Cilic, Ivo Karlovic and Reilly Opelka. Something has to give here and considering Isner’s 0-fer in Acapulco, Harrison could fancy his chances to get a rare win over Big John.

Steve Johnson
The American got some much needed wins in Delray Beach last week, making his first ATP semifinal since making the Houston final last April. He opens against Alexander Zverev who was a disappointing round of 16 loser to Andreas Seppi in Rotterdam when was last saw him. Sascha has played just two tournaments this year with the Davis Cup win over Australia arguably being his best tennis this season. Johnson beat Sascha at the Miami Open in 2016 in two tie break sets in their only previous match. The American’s previous experience in this tournament in conditions could be an advantage here, so keep Sascha on upset alert.

Draw Preview

Quarter #1 Seeds 
(1) Rafael Nadal: 4-1 (record in Acapulco on hard court)
(7) Sam Querrey: 9-2

Nadal gets a familiar face to open with Feliciano Lopez. Lopez surprisingly has won their last two meetings, both coming on outdoor hard courts. The last came in 2015 in Cincinnati. Overall, Rafa is 9-4 against Lopez. Lopez is just 1-2 in two trips to Acapulco. Given Rafa’s time off, it’s easy to think Lopez will at least push Nadal in his opener. The winner takes on the survivor between qualifier Alexander Bublik and Thanasi Kokkinakis. Kokkinakis is again an injury question mark after pulling out of the Morelos Challenger in the semifinals due to an ankle injury. That could give the 20-year-old Bublik a chance to score his first ATP level win in 2018. In either case, as long as Rafa shakes off any rust – he looks a good shot for the quarterfinals at minimum.

The bottom half features the defending champ Querrey and he opens against Matthew Ebden. Querrey is 2-0 in his career against the Aussie and should have a shot to get out of the gates with a win. Round two would pit him against either Jared Donaldson or Nikoloz Basilashvili. Donaldson won both meetings with Basilashvili on hard courts last year. The American has dropped his opening match in his last two tournaments however and that makes this close to a 50-50 call. Querrey is a combined 4-0 against Donaldson/Basilashvili and will be confident of beating either one. This quarter could play out to a Nadal-Querrey repeat from 2017.

Quarter #2 Seeds
(4) Jack Sock: 0-1
(5) Kevin Anderson: 7-2

Sock will look to avoid the early upset against Escobedo. The winner gets Hyeon Chung or Donald Young. Chung returned to the court in Delray Beach after recovering from his Australian Open blisters. He made the quarterfinals and will be looking to establish himself more solidly this week. Young lost their only previous encounter on clay and has lost his opener in five of his last six tournaments played. Chung has a legit shot to squeeze through this top portion and be in the quarterfinals. Sock would likely prefer Young whom he has beaten three out of three meetings. He’s never met Sock.

Anderson has Albot first up, who could be a little dangerous. If Anderson shows up motivated as usual though, I think he’ll escape. The winner gets either Adrian Mannarino or qualifier Ricardas Berankis. The two have split four career meetings with Mannarino getting both his wins on outdoor hard courts. As long as Anderson doesn’t get caught flat out of the gates, this should set up to be a winnable quarter for him. The fifth seed is 3-1 against Mannarino and 1-0 against Berankis. I fancy Anderson in this quarter with a look to Chung as the unseeded player who could cause some upsets. An unseeded player has made the semifinals every year that this tournament has been played on hard courts.

Quarter #3 Seeds
(3) Dominic Thiem: 7-1 (W – 2016)
(6) Juan Martin Del Potro: 1-1

This might be the toughest quarter of the tournament with dangerous floaters like Kei Nishikori, Denis Shapovalov, David Ferrer and Andrey Rublev. An earlier than expected loss for Thiem in Rio last week might be good for him this week. The Austrian won the title here in 2016 and made the quarters last year. His first round match against qualifier Cameron Norrie is likely to afford him a winning start. Round two will be very tough against either Nishikori or Shapovalov. This is a great litmus test for Nishikori with the young Canadian with the potential to push him.

The other half features Del Potro who lost to Frances Tiafoe during Big Foe’s 1st ATP title run in Delray Beach. DelPo didn’t look top notch, so he will need to improve this week if he’s going to be a factor. He opens against Mischa Zverev, who has lost six of eight this year. The winner gets either David Ferrer or Andrey Rublev. The “random” draw pits those two against each other for the second time this year. The Russian beat Ferrer in five sets at the Australian Open. Ferrer has struggled for wins with four straight losses. The Spaniard has dropped his opener in three straight tournaments.

I think all eyes should be on Nishikori this week. He does have a tough path, but he’s 2-0 against Thiem and has beaten Del Potro in two of their last three meetings. He needs a quick start against Shapovalov, but could curry that win into a nice run. DelPo is the other guy I like here.

Quarter #4 Seeds
(2) Alexander Zverev: 0-0
(8) John Isner: 0-2

This quarter could get blown up early. Zverev opens with Steve Johnson who is coming off his best run in nearly a year. Sascha hasn’t played a ton of tournament tennis this year and this is his Acapulco debut. There’s a possibility that he could be out early. Either way, the winner of this first round match will be in decent shape in round two. Delray Beach runner-up Peter Gojowczyk or wild card Lucas Gomez is the foe. Gojo will have to contend with the championship loss hangover. Gomez is a 22-year old Mexican who is just 1-9 all-time as this level. He may not be the one to KO Gojo, but you’d fancy Sascha or Stevie J to make the quarters in this spot.

The other half is led by John Isner. I laid it out in the Eliminati that Ryan Harrison has every reason to feel like he can beat Isner in round one, despite the lopsided head-to-head. The survivor of that All-American first rounder gets the survivor of the Rio title rematch with Diego Schwartzman and Fernando Verdasco playing again in round one. It is often difficult to repeat success against the same opponent, but Verdasco had a long week playing singles and doubles. Diego should parlay that Rio title into at least an opening round win and this quarter could actually open up for him if he can keep the ball rolling.

The Pig-nosticator

Each tournament previewed, the Pig-nosticator will list out @tennispig‘s picks to sizzle and fizzle for the week. Don’t forget that if something you peruse through in the preview provides you with something helpful – a visit to the Tip Jar would be kindly appreciated.

Kei Nishikori
Kevin Anderson

Alexander Zverev
John Isner


You always have to believe that a healthy Rafael Nadal is in it to win it, but this is a stacked field with Rafa coming off a month without playing a competitive match. I’ll look elsewhere for the champ this week considering the top seed’s troubles in even getting to the final since Acapulco went to hard courts. Anderson seems logical as an option given good form and good history here. Keep eyes out for both Kei Nishikori and Hyeon Chung among the unseeded players. Both appear healthy and Nishikori especially seems like it’s just a matter of time before he gets back into the title mix.

Doubles Draw Preview

1. Kubot-Melo: 0-1
2. Marach-Pavic: 0-0
3. Murray-Soares: 4-0 (W – 2017)
4. Bryans: 0-0

Top Half Breakdown
Kubot-Melo and the Bryans lead the top half. Since making the Aussie Open quarterfinals, Kubot and Melo have not won back-to-back matches in either Rotterdam or Rio. They have a potential landmine in the opening round with Americans Ryan Harrison and Jack Sock as their opponents. Sock teamed up with Jackson Withrow to take home the doubles crowns in Delray Beach last week. Harrison-Sock have teamed up seven times before, but not since 2014. You would expect the chemistry of Kubot-Melo to win out, but this won’t be easy. The winner gets the survivor between Alexander Sascha Zverev battling Marc and Feliciano Lopez. The Zverevs are 0-1 this year, while Team Lopez is 1-3 this year. Kubot-Melo really need to turn up here and make a run in with a winnable draw.

The other half with the Bryans will see the American twins battle Fabrice Martin and Franko Skugor. Chemistry again could be a key here with Martin-Skugor not havinh paired up since 2013. The Bryans are only 1-2 since the Australian Open, so they need to get going quick in round one. If they win, they get a shot against either Santiago Gonzalez and Julio Peralta or Rio champions David Marrero and Fernando Verdasco. The Spanish duo beat them last week in Rio in a super tie break. On hard courts, it will be interesting to see if the result is reversed. This could fall to the seeds, but keep an eye on the Marrero-Verdasco v Gonzalez-Peralta winner as a dark horse.

Bottom Half Breakdown
Marach-Pavic return to the court for the first time since suffering loss #1 of 2018 in the Rotterdam final to Pierre Hugues-Herbert and Nicolas Mahut. Outside of that loss, it’s been a blistering start to the year for the top ranked pair who have made the final of all three tournaments they have played – winning two titles. They open against qualifiers, so they should get through to the quarterfinls. There, they will face either Nikola Mektic and Alexander Peya or wild cards Marcelo Arevalo and Miguel Angel Reyes Varela. Mektic-Peya have made the finals in two of their last three tournaments and will be the tougher out.

Murray-Soares come back to Acapulco as the defending champions and off a semifinal showing in Rio last week. Their opener comes against the mish mosh pairing of Hyeon Chung and Denis Shapovalov. The winner gets either Ben McLachlan and Nicholas Monroe or Marcelo Demoliner and Sam Querrey. McLachlan has continued his solid doubles play that we saw in Melbourne, but it’s been with Hugo Nys. Switching partners to Monroe will challenge him to find some quick chemistry. If they do, they could be a sleeper team to watch. Otherwise, this could wind up being Murray-Soares vs Marach-Pavic in the semifinals. Marach-Pavic have a win over them already this season.

The Pig-nosticator




The bottom half of this draw looks as if it could produce the champion this week. The two seeded pairs in Marach-Pavic and Murray-Soares have form and history here to make deep runs possible. If you’re looking for an unseeded duo to join the lengthy history of unseeded duos doing work here – look to Marrero-Verdasco and perhaps McLachlan-Monroe. This is a chance for a team to grab momentum heading into the Indian Wells-Miami double in March. Kubot-Melo got hot in that stretch last year and have the draw to get through in Acapulco. I do think this one falls to one of the seeds. I’d love to see another Kubot-Melo vs Marach-Pavic showdown.

2018 Rio Open Preview


Thiem Looking to Stay Hot

Dominic Thiem is back to defend the title as the Rio Open enters its fifth year of existence. The Austrian is 8-1 in his two trips to Rio and comes in hot after winning the Argentina Open on Sunday. Thiem is seeded second behind Marin Cilic. It’s an interesting choice for Cilic to play on clay this week. The Croat looks like he’s trying to grab some points this week and stay near the site of the Abierto Mexicano Telcel in Acapulco the following week. This will be Cilic’s debut in Rio. Rounding out the top four seeds are Pablo Carreno Busta and Albert Ramos-Vinolas. Carreno Busta made last year’s final and Ramos-Vinolas was a semifinalist in 2017. Both Spaniards have played each of the previous four years of the Rio Open.

The back half of the seeds also include plenty of Rio experience with Fabio Fognini slotting in as the #5. The Italian made the final in 2015, but has not progressed past round two the last two years. Diego Schwartzman is the sixth seed with a 3-3 record in Rio. Pablo Cuevas won the title in Rio in 2016 and is seeded 7th. Fernando Verdasco fills out the seeded field as the #8. This will be his first trip to Rio. Seeds have had a rough go of it early in Rio traditionally with five seeds losing in round one last year and four dropping out in 2016. In the first two years of the tournament in 2014 and 2015, two seeds lost their openers in each year.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at this week’s Eliminati, the players who could provide some early fireworks with some seeded upsets.


Thiago Monteiro
The home standing Brazilian starts against 7th seed Pablo Cuevas, who has beaten him all three times they have met previously. All came on clay. Monteiro has scored some nice wins already this year on clay though with a win over Gael Monfils in Quito and taking Ramos-Vinolas to a third set tie break in the same tournament. Cuevas lost his first clay match of the season to Monfils last week in Buenos Aires. He did win the title in Rio in 2016, but last year was a first round casualty. This might not be the biggest chance, but Monteiro made the quarters here in 2017 and scored perhaps his biggest win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in round one in Rio in 2016. There’s a chance he elevates his game against Cuevas for the upset.

Thomaz Bellucci
Even though Bellucci is 0-4 against Fabio Fognini, it’s still Fognini, so you never know what he’s going to bring this week. Fognini’s first match since the Australian Open came in Buenos Aires last week and it was a straight sets loss to Leonard Mayer. Bellucci is working his way back after being suspended at the start of the season. He is just 1-2 on the season, but scored that first win in Buenos Aires last week and took Diego Schwartzman to three sets before losing. Bellucci scored a nice upset of Kei Nishikori last year in round one in Rio and he’s proven a tough out at this tournament.

Leonardo Mayer
Another one where the head-to-head doesn’t say that Mayer has much chance. He’s 0-3 against 8th seed Fernando Verdasco. They haven’t played since 2014 however and Verdasco has never played in Rio. Mayer made the quarters in Buenos Aires last week, beating Fognini and taking Monfils to three sets. The draw back is that Mayer is 0-2 in his career in Rio and has not been here since 2015. I still think is another one though that looks to be a competitive first rounder with upset potential.

Marco Cecchinato
The Italian is on this list simply because he matches up against Pablo Carreno Busta in round one. The Spaniard has had a rough go of it since making the U.S. Open semifinals last year. He’s lost his opener in eight of ten tournaments since that time. Cecchinato’s big problem? Winning at this level. He is just 3-26 at the ATP level, but all four wins have come on clay. I think it’s a long shot even with Carreno Busta’s struggles, but it’s at least a dartboard shot because of those struggles.

Singles Draw Preview

Quarter #1 Seeds
(1) Marin Cilic: 0-0
(6) Diego Schwartzman: 3-3

This is an interesting quarter with Cilic playing for the first time in Rio. I’m not sure what to make of his intentions for the week and getting qualifier Carlos Berlocq in round one could be interesting. That match play on the surface could give Berlocq an early edge. Cilic won their previous encounter way back in 2011 in Rome on dirt. The survivor could have a very tough second round engagement, but it’s also an iffy proposition in guessing with Gael Monfils. Monfils opens against Horacio Zeballos. La Monf improved on his Quito quarterfinal with a semifinal in Buenos Aires, but was woeful against Thiem in the semis (6-2, 6-1). If Monfils is already tired from playing back-to-back touraments, a third straight might not be a good spot for him. Zeballos could definitely take advantage. Just in case – Monfils has beat Cilic twice in two meetings, both on hard surface. Cilic is 2-0 against Zeballos on clay, but both were tough matches.

In the other half, Schwartzman might pick up the pieces. He opens against Casper Ruud, whom he thumped on straights in January at the Australian Open. I don’t think clay makes it any easier for Ruud to reverse that result. The winner will battle either Jiri Vesely or Federico Delbonis. Vesely and Delbonis have only faced off at the ATP level once and it was a Delbonis win on hard courts in Miami. They have met twice on the Challenger circuit though with Vesely winning both times, including the Prostejov Challenger in 2017. Delbonis has better form on clay, making the Buenos Aires’ semifinals last week. He has made the quarters twice in Rio, while Vesely is 0-1.

There are tough match-ups for Cilic around every corner in this quarter. The top seed has only won this tournament once and I don’t think that changes. Schwartzman looks like the likely beneficiary, although the Vesely-Delbonis winner has every chance to sneak out of this segment too. At least one unseeded player has made the semifinals every year and twice have been involved in the final.

Quarter #2 Seeds
(4) Albert Ramos-Vinolas: 5-4
(7) Pablo Cuevas: 8-3 (W – 2016)

This quarter looks difficult to predict. Ramos-Vinolas is the lead seed and brings decent form. He made the Quito final to start this clay swing in South America and then predictably was an early casualty the week after in Buenos Aires. He opens with Rogerio Dutra Silva. The Brazilian can be tricky, but I think a full week of rest should have ARV good to start. The survivor there gets a crack at either Guillermo Garcia-Lopez or Nicolas Jarry. Both have made their quarterfinals in their lone clay action this season with GGL’s looking a bit more impressive in Buenos Aires with a win over Carreno Busta. Jarry is a talent on this surface though, he’s just yet to prove it at the ATP level.

In the bottom half, Cuevas opens against Monteiro. As I laid out above, I do think there’s a shot for an upset in that one. The winner contends with Guido Pella or qualifier Corentin Moutet. Moutet is an intriguing 18-year-old from France who scored a couple of wins in Quito. He won’t be an easy out after getting some match play in conditions in Rio. Cuevas is hit or miss here for me, so this quarter could really open up if he loses early.

Quarter #3 Seeds
(3) Pablo Carreno Busta: 5-4
(5) Fabio Fognini: 8-4

There is a lot of talent in this quarter, but also a lot of inconsistency. Carreno Busta looked like he was ready to put the nightmare end to 2017 behind him after a fourth round run at the Australian Open. Two opening losses on clay later and it’s anybody’s guess what he will do each week. He’s now lost his first match in eight of the ten tournaments that he’s played since making the U.S. Open semifinals. PCB opens with qualifier Mario Cecchinato. The Spaniard beat him at a clay Challenger in 2015 and might be able to grab a win in this spot. Surprise Buenos Aires finalist Aljaz Bedene will have to cope with the quick turnaround and championship hangover against Adrian Haider-Maurer in round one. That makes him a prime pick to lose early except that Haider-Maurer hasn’t won an ATP main draw match since Beijing in 2015.

The other half sees Fognini open with Bellucci. Again, even with the lopsided head-to-head, I do think the home standing Brazilian is going to have a shot to win. Fognini is boom or bust just about every week he plays. He’s been good at avoiding early upsets in Rio though, so that is a plus for round one at least. The winner there gets Tennys Sandgren or qualifier Robert Carballes Baena. Sandgren got smoked in Buenos Aires qualies last week. It was his first match since Melbourne though, so look for some improvement this week. He’s not bad on dirt. RCB was a shock winner in Quito earlier in the month, but lost in Buenos Aires the following week in his opener.

If a seed gets through, Fognini is the obvious better choice over Carreno Busta. This definitely could be a quarter though where an unseeded player makes some noise even with perhaps some less shiny options. Bellucci might seem far fetched, but keep an eye on him. The RCB-Sandgren winner is the definite second look at an unseeded X-factor.

Quarter #4 Seeds
(2) Dominic Thiem: 8-1 (W – 2017)
(8) Fernando Verdasco: 0-0

No worries for me for Thiem on fatigue this week. His Buenos Aires run was comfortable with all four wins in straight sets and a couple of them total demolition jobs. Thiem begins with Dusan Lajovic whom he has beaten three times on clay, including here last year. A win gets Thiem a date against the winner behind Gerald Melzer and Pablo Andujar. Melzer beat Andujar in their only ATP meeting, but also has another win at the Challenger level over him. Andujar hasn’t won an ATP level match since Doha in 2016.

Verdasco has the tough opener against Leonardo Mayer. The winner advances to play either Victor Estrella Burgos or Nicolas Kicker. VEB flipped to hard courts to play New York last week after going 1-1 in Quito. Kicker made the quarters in Rio last year out of qualifying. This is a tougher draw, but he could be an intriguing quarterfinal sleeper in this part of the draw. If he can get past VEB, watch for him to give Verdasco or Mayer a pretty good match. The one bit of intrigue here would be a quarterfinal clash between Thiem and Verdasco. The Spaniard is 2-0 against Thiem, but neither meeting has come on clay. That could be a neutralizer for the second seed to grab his first win against Verdasco.

The Pig-nosticator

Each tournament previewed, the Pig-nosticator will list out @tennispig‘s picks to sizzle and fizzle for the week. Don’t forget that if something you peruse through in the preview provides you with something helpful – a visit to the Tip Jar would be kindly appreciated.

Dominic Thiem

Marin Cilic
Pablo Carreno Busta


Given Thiem’s form, he seems a smart choice. The conditions in Rio can often dictate a lot with very humid and warm weather at this time of year. That generally leans itself to guys who have shown the ability to adapt to this weather. Thiem is one, Fognini and Cuevas are two others with good histories in Rio. Among the unseeded players, Delbonis could be one to watch – if he can get out of round one against Vesely.

Doubles Draw Preview

1.Kubot-Melo (2017 QF)
2. Murray-Soares (2017 SF)
3. Cabal-Farah (2014,2016 W)
4. Gonzalez-Peralta (Rio Debut)

Top Half Breakdown
Kubot-Melo had a difficult draw last week in Rotterdam as they lost to Ivan Dodig and Rajeev Ram in their second match. This week, they will again have a tough draw. Clay wasn’t great for this duo last year with a record of 8-4. Four of those came in a Madrid title run. They have qualifiers to begin with, but their quarterfinal match will be rough. They will face either Thomas Belluci and Andre Sa or Buenos Aires champions Andres Molteni and Horacio Zeballos. The top seed has never won this tournament or even been involved in the final. With this draw, I don’t expect that will change in 2018.

The other quarter in this half features the two-time champs, Juan-Sebastien Cabal and Robert Farah. They have made the final three of the four previous years and come off a finals run on clay in Buenos Aires. This back-to-back swing in Buenos Aires & Rio has been very good to them. They open against Nikola Mektic and Alexander Peya. On clay, that should favor the third seeds. The winner advances to play either Pella-Schwartzman or Vasilevski/Podlpnik-Castillo. Those two teams squared off at the Australian Open with Vasilevski and Podlpnik-Castillo winnning in three sets. That’s a toss-up and I think either will provide a stern test for Cabal-Farah in the quartefinals.

Bottom Half Breakdown
Murray-Soares are back for the first time since their second round exit at the Australian Open. They get Brazilian wild cards Fabiana de Paula and Thiago Monteiro. That should afford them a winning start. The quarterfinals would see them against either Roman Jebavy and Leonardo Mayer or Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and Albert Ramos-Vinolas. It’s a mish mosh pairing for both. Ordinarily, I’d look to go against Murray-Soares on clay, but I’m not sure that any of these other teams have big aspirations in doubles. I’d keep an eye on Jebavy-Mayer. Jebavy is a pretty decent doubles guy and Mayer can be good on his day. If they have chemistry, perhaps they can ruffle some feathers.

The other quarter sees seeds Gonzalez-Peralta open against Fabio Fognini and Marc Lopez. The fourth seeds haven’t had much luck in 2018, going 2-4 overall with first-up losses in three of four tournaments. Fognini is underrated in doubles and Lopez is usually fairly solid. Again, its a chemistry thing as to whether they can put it together for the upset. Given that, perhaps the seeds survive round one. The winner gets the survivor between Carreno Busta and Cuevas versus Monfils and Marcelo Demoliner. PCB and Cuevas have previous time together in doubles. If healthy, they are threats in this draw.

The Pig-nosticator

Carreno Busta-Cuevas



Unseeded teams won the first two versions of the Rio Open, but it has been seeds winning the last two years. As I mentioned earlier though, the top seeded team has yet to be involved in the doubles final. I don’t think Kubot-Melo are going to change that with a difficult draw. Cabal-Farah are 13-2 all-time at this event with three finals appearances and two titles. This is a tougher draw, but on clay, they still might be the best team here. If this goes to an unseeded team, keep your eyes on the Buenos Aires champs Molteni-Zeballos or Carreno Busta-Cuevas. The team that could really sneak through and win despite not being their best on dirt is Murray-Soares, so it could come down to them or Cabal-Farah.

2018 Davis Cup R1 Doubles Previews


Saturday’s doubles rubbers in World Group play look to be key swing matches for some of these ties. Here is a look at the prospective match-ups along with some potential substitutions that could sway the action.

Japan vs Italy
(Tied 1-1)

Yasutaka Uchiyama
Ben McLachlan

Simone Bolelli
Paolo Lorenzi

This sets up well for Japan who got what they needed with the split on day one. I thought the Italians would consider swapping Lorenzi out, but with both Fognini and Seppi going five sets on Friday – they might need the rest for Sunday although Seppi’s match was only about three and a half hours in length. Fognini’s was closer to four. Still, Lorenzi has played just one doubles rubber in his Davis Cup career, so they may risk Fognini or Seppi. Both Fognini and Seppi have good experience with Fogs at 6-4 in doubles rubbers and Seppi at 4-2. Fognini has been the choice for Italy since 2013 in all their doubles ties, so if they swap, he looks to be the choice.

I talked in the preview about the chemistry between Uchiyama and McLachlan. To revisit that – these two won the doubles titles at the Japan Open last year and also got their feet wet together in Davis Cup play last year. McLachlan comes in off the big run at the Aussie Open with Jan-Lennard Struff. This is going to be one helluva doubles rubber I think and this tie really could be the best of the weekend when it’s all said and done.

Prediction: Uchiyama-McLachlan win in five sets

Australia vs Germany
(Tied 1-1)

John Peers
Matthew Edben

Tim Puetz
Peter Gojowczyk

I don’t think there is much chance that Gojowczyk stays in the mix for Germany barring any fatigue or injury issue with Jan-Lennard Struff. I expect him to take that spot alongside Puetz. Those two paired up in the World Group play-off last year against Portugal and delivered an instrumental five set win. It is the lone doubles rubber for each. Alexander Zverev does have doubles experience too, but I don’t see that being an option given the importance of his singles rubber against Kyrgios on Sunday. Peers will be responsible for incorporating last minute sub Matthew Ebden into the mix. They have never paired up and Ebden has not been a part of Team Australia since teaming with Lleyton Hewitt to win a key doubles tilt back in 2013 against Uzbekistan.

Peers had a good year in Davis Cup doubles during the Aussies semifinal run in 2017, going 2-1 with Sam Groth as his partner for two rubbers and Jordan Thompson in the other. This could be the key rubber for this tie with the Kyrgios-Zverev reverse singles rubber due up first on Sunday. Kyrgios leads that head-to-head 3-1 and will be expecting to put his friend away. I think that makes this mostly a must-win for Germany. If the Germans sub in Struff, I do think they can take this one. If they stick with Gojo, then I would lean to the Aussies.

Prediction: Puetz-Struff win in five sets

France vs The Netherlands
(Tied 1-1)

Pierre-Hugues Herbert
Nicolas Mahut

Jean-Julien Rojer
Matwe Middelkoop

This becomes a much bigger rubber for the French with their injury problems. Gasquet delivered big against Haase to even the tie, but they will have Adrian Mannarino running back out against Haase on Sunday. Mannarino subbed in late for Lucas Pouille who has a neck injury and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was ruled out with a knee ailment. Mannarino does have a couple of wins over Haase in his ATP career, but he’s been thrown into all of this at the last minute. Maybe he gets his feet under him with a day in between now, but this duobles clash still looks very big overall for France.

Herbert-Mahut will reprise their role as the leads in doubles for the defending champions after Mahut was excluded in last year’s final against Belgium in favor of Gasquet. The pair are 3-1 in their Davis Cup careers together. Rojer and Middelkoop will team for the first time if selections hold. Haase is an option as he’s teamed with both players for big Davis Cup wins, but I think the Dutch brought both guys here to play together this time. I think chemistry is a big thing in doubles and Herbert-Mahut despite a lackluster start to their ATP season, have that in this situation. If Rojer and Middelkoop mesh well to start though, this is a real barn burner and an upset isn’t a shocker.

Prediction: Herbert-Mahut win in four sets

Spain vs Great Britain
(Tied 1-1)

Pablo Carreno Busta
Feliciano Lopez

Great Britain
Jamie Murray
Dominic Inglot

The Brits have to be ecstatic to be tied after day one. Cameron Norrie’s heroics against Roberto Bautista Agut will go down as legend. In case you missed it, Norrie won his first match EVER on clay at any professional level other than Futures against RBA as he rallied from down two sets to love! It was his Davis Cup debut and one hell of one at that. That sets up the Brits to make this tie way more interesting than it appeared after Kyle Edmund was declared not fit to perform this weekend. Murray and Inglot bring experience to the table on Saturday. They are 3-1 in Davis Cup play as a team.

Carreno Busta and Lopez don’t have the Davis Cup experience together and don’t have any matches together for that matter. Feliciano has been the doubles man for Spain along with Marc Lopez in the past, but he sports just an 8-11 record. He hasn’t been part of a doubles win for Spain since 2011. I’m going to scale back on my opinion of this tie in lieu of the Norrie win. I really think the Brits are going to make Spain work on Sunday if Spain is able to win. The home side may need two wins on Sunday.

Prediction: Murray-Inglot win in four sets

Croatia vs Canada
(Tied 1-1)

Ivan Dodig
Franko Skugor

Daniel Nestor
Vasek Pospisil

This is right where the Canadians want this tie to be, but if they want to have their best chance to score the win – I think they need this doubles rubber. They’ve got a chance with the combo of Nestor and Pospisil. I do worry about fatigue for Pospisil who subbed in for singles at the last minute for Peter Polansky. Pospisil was coming off a Challenger title this past week and I really though they were going to rest him on Friday. Nestor-Pospisil are 6-4 all-time as a tandem in Davis Cup play.

Dodig is the experience for Croatia with Skugor having just three doubles rubbers to his credit. The good news is he and Dodig are a perfect 2-0 when they have played alongside each other. Dodig is 11-13 overall in doubles rubbers in DC play, but has not lost in his last five rubbers played. Like so many of these doubles rubbers on Saturday, this is hugely important. The fourth rubber is Borna Coric against Denis Shapovalov (watch for my preview of that one). I talked about it in the weekend preview that the Canadians want to avoid a fifth rubber, where we are likely to see Marin Cilic subbed in to go up against Pospisil. This is their shot to do that, but it will be tough.

Prediction: Dodig-Skugor win in five sets

(Belgium leads 2-0)

Julien Cagnina
Joris de Loore

Marton Fucsovics
Attila Balazs

Ruben Bemelmans’ win over Marton Fucsovics in the first rubber really opened this tie up for Belgium. At 1-1, I think they would have subbed in Bemelmans for doubles. They still might and go for the kill in three. With Goffin set for the fourth rubber, they do have the luxury to keep Cagnina in the mix if they choose to get the 23-year-old some experience. Since de Loore has only played with Bemelmans though, I think that could ultimately be the choice with the idea that Bemelmans won’t be called on again even if they lose. That means no worries about him being too tired on Sunday for more singles play.

Fucsovics and Balazs have a difficult task, although they have scored some big wins in Davis Cup play. Last year, this tandem went iron man as they will in this spot, and scored big doubles wins in ties against Slovakia and Russia. This is a tougher spot as they had a lead in both of those ties. In this do or die situation, they may find the pressure too much. I give them a better shot if Cagnina stays in, but give the edge to the Belgians if Bemelmans subs in for Cagnina. The more I think about it, the more I think the Belgians go for the kill on Saturday.

Prediction: Bemelmans-de Loore win in straight sets

Kazakhstan vs Switzerland
(Kazakhstan leads 2-0)

Timur Khabibulin
Aleksandr Nedovyesov

Luca Margaroli
Marc Andrea-Huesler

Perfect set-up for the Kazakhs to go for the sweep in three. The win by Popko in the opening rubber really set the stage for this to be a bit easier than I thought. Even though Adrian Boomer was drafted into singles play, I still think there is a good chance that he subs in for Huesler with the Swiss desperate for the win. Boomer paired with Margaroli against Belarus last year, a tight three set loss. At this point though, it could be about getting the 21-year-old Huesler his first Davis Cup action with this tie all but done.

Prediction: Khabibulin-Nedovyesov win in four sets

Serbia vs USA
(USA leads 2-0)

Nikola Milojevic
Miljan Zekic

Ryan Harrison
Steve Johnson

I wonder how tempted Captain Nenad Zimonjic would have been to pulling a Lleyton Hewitt in this one and putting himself into play for Serbia if it was 1-1 ? At 0-2, I don’t think it’s any chance. Zimonjix announced his retirement from Davis Cup last year, but Hewitt proved that is meaningless. This would mark the first non-Zimonjic doubles match for Serbia since the first round back in 2006. Otherwise, the Serbs look woefully mismatched in this one with Milojevic and Zekic both making their Davis Cup debut. That’s an obvious plus for the Americans, even if Ryan Harrison hasn’t played this competition since 2012.

Harrison has earned his spot with improved doubles and singles play on tour. Johnson is 3-0 all-time in DC doubles play, having teamed with Jack Sock for two wins last year and Sam Querrey for another in 2015. Harrison and Johnson played five times together on the ATP Tour last year, making the Memphis final – so I don’t think there is any temptation for a sub. Milojveic and Zekic do play doubles regularly on the Futures and Challenger circuits, but never at this level. It’s a big ask and I think if they take a set, that would be a nice get for them.

Prediction: Harrison-Johnson win in straight sets