2018 BNP Paribas Open Men’s Doubles Preview

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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

Breakdown
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

Breakdown
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

Breakdown
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

Breakdown
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.

AND THAT’S THE BOTTOM LINE BECAUSE THE PIG SAID SO ….

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.

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The Ocho v.5

Ocho

“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.

1. Roger Federer
A no doubter for this week’s top spot. What can you say at this point about Roger Federer? He added to his legend this past week in Rotterdam, capturing his 97th career ATP singles title. That ranks second only to Jimmy Connors who had a mind boggling 109 titles won during his career. Oh yeah, he also became the oldest player (36) to ascend to the #1 spot in the rankings by making the semifinals. Just another feather in the cap of the GOAT.

FEDERER

2. New York Open
Yes, the entire tournament resides here and it’s not in this spot because of its brilliance. Anyone who watched this on TV or online saw the lack of fans at the event for the most part. Sure, a 250 in its first year will have some bumps along the way, but this was down right brutal. Until the weekend, you were lucky to find 50 bodies in the stands during the week. The Tennis Channel coverage was horrific as they took a feed from the tournament to broadcast. That left their coverage looking more like a live stream online than a live TV broadcast.

Oh and then there was the he said/she said between Ryan Harrison and Donald Young that probably drew more interest than the tournament itself. We still have no idea if Harrison actually said something racially disparaging towards Donald Young. The ATP’s “investigation” into the matter reportedly included watching tape of the event, which had the audio/video production value of a middle school video year book. They also interviewed ball boys and the chair ump, none of whom could back Young’s allegations against Harrison.

The story wound up being a big black eye for the tournament regardless and both players’ behavior according to the witnesses who did hear some of their ongoing arguments was awful, even if it was not racially charged. This tournament will need some big improvements next year. It should be a draw in a large city, but obviously not enough was done in year one to promote it properly.

3. Dominic Thiem
The Austrian crushed the competition at the Argentina Open to claim his first title in almost a year. Thiem last hoisted a trophy in Rio last February. Rio is this week’s key stop on tour, where Thiem is back to defend his title. The win in Buenos Aires featured four straight sets wins for the 6th ranked Austrian. He will be hoping that his hot early play on clay will again translate to big things at the French Open, especially with questions still surrounding Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic’s health.

4. Kevin Anderson
One of the bright spots to come out of the New York Open was Kevin Anderson. He won the title, his first since 2015 when he won in Winston-Salem. The title win over Sam Querrey elevates Anderson into the top ten rankings for the first time in his career at #9. We can mock the rankings quite a bit these days because of the flux behind Federer and Nadal, but this is still quite an accomplishment for Anderson at the age of 31. He’s now made the final in two of the three tournaments he has played at this season and will be looking for bigger things in the coming weeks.

5. Kei Nishikori
One of the other big stories to come out of New York was the continued comeback trail for Kei Nishikori. It was Nishikori’s first ATP level tournament since the Rogers Cup last summer. In his bid back from wrist surgery, he’s played a couple of Challengers early on – winning a title in Dallas. Stepping back onto the ATP scene was another positive sign of recovery for the man from Japan who lost to Kevin Anderson in the semis. Nishikori will rest up after a long week where he did say he felt a bit fatigued. His next scheduled event is Acapulco in a few weeks.

KEI

6. Pierre Hugues-Herbert & Nicolas Mahut
There is just something about Rotterdam and Nicolas Mahut in doubles. Mahut paired up with Hugues-Herbert to claim the 2018 titles at the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament over previously unbeaten Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic. For Mahut, it was his third time winning the doubles crowns in Rotterdam. He did it previously with Vasek Pospisil in 2016 and Michael Llodra in 2014. The win was a big boost for the French team as well as they catapult to #6 in the rankings after only playing the Australian Open, where they lost in round two. The titles were their first since they went back-to-back last summer in winning in Montreal and Cincinnati.

7. John Isner
Another one of the list for all the wrong reasons. Isner continued his winless run to start 2018 with a first match exit to Radu Albot at the New York Ooen. That put Isner at 0-3 to start the season with losses to Albot, Matthew Ebden and Hyeon Chung. Isner has had some trouble finding consistency with his booming serve. The aces are still there, but he’s had ups and downs in being able to control points quickly. In New York, the second serve was the struggle with only nine of 24 points won by the American. As luck would have it, Isner has a chance for redemption right away in Delray Beach this week. He plays Albot again in the opening round, hoping to get off the schneid.

8. Max Mirnyi & Philipp Oswald
Mirnyi and Oswald have quietly crated a solid start to 2018. After making the final at the ASB Classic in Auckland, they lost a tough three setter to the Bryan Brothers in second round play at the Australian Open. The duo bounced back in a big way in New York this past week, running to the first doubles titles in NY over Wesley Koolhof and Artem Sitak. They won their last three matches of the tournament in super tie breaks. The title was Mirnyi’s 51st career doubles crown, while Oswald claimed his 7th. The win marked their second title together after winning in Moscow last Fall. The win keeps the pair at #8 in the rankings.

2018 Open Sud de France R2 Preview: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs Nicolas Mahut

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(3) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs Nicolas Mahut

JWT Knee Strain Makes This Worth Watching

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was a late scratch from Davis Cup duty this past weekend due to a reported knee strain. That Tsonga also experienced knee issues at the Australian Open in his loss to Nick Kyrgios is definitely a bit concerning. He only has three matches under his belt for the season, all coming in Melbourne. He looked alternately electric and sloppy in his five set win over Denis Shapovalov in round two and then couldn’t match the electricity of Kyrgios in the big moments in the next round. Mahut is also well short on match play in 2018, having played three qualifying matches in Sydney and Melbourne combined with a 1-2 mark. Not exactly prime prep for this event.

Still, Mahut has made it habit to play Tsonga tough in their four previous meetings. Tsonga has won all four, but Mahut has taken a set off Tsonga in three of four. That includes the last time they met in 2015 indoors at Metz. The 36-year-old Mahut has been competitive on this surface, going 4-4 in 2017. Three of his four losses came in three sets. Tsonga has always been a beast in pristine indoor conditions. JWT won titles indoors in Rotterdam, Marseille and Antwerp last season. He was 21-3 on the surface in 2017.

The 32-year-old has only played Montpellier twice, making the semifinals in both 2010 and 2017. He’s certainly the more talented of the two with consistently better results on this surface, but the knee issues scale your expectations back just a shade for him this week. He will need to prove he is fit and if not, a veteran player like Mahut can take advantage of any weaknesses.

The Formula

Serve will be a big deal indoors in this match-up. Tsonga has a power-packed first serve that can be nearly impossible to penetrate, when he’s on his game. Through his three matches this season, he’s got a superb 84-percent win rate on his first serve. His second has been less effective at 49 percent. Mahut will have problems matching that if Tsonga is healthy, especially the first serve numbers. In watching a little of the tape from their 2015 meeting, you can see how Tsonga’s power on serve troubles Mahut. Tsonga is able to knock Mahut back or stretch him wider than he wants in return. That led to a lot of easy 1-2 punches from JWT and quick points on serve. I think whenever Mahut does get good returns on Tsonga, he’ll look to move forward and shorten the court to make Tsonga have to make passing shots.

Mahut will need to use precision on his serve to test Tsonga fully. Mahut has some power to his serve, but it’s not consistent and normally not going to keep a good returner from getting strikes on the ball consistently. If Mahut can force Tsonga to stretch wide on the backhand side, he may have some chances for success. As a seasoned doubles player, Mahut is skilled at the net and can glide in for some easy put-aways if he can get JWT off balance. I think given the questionable status of Tsonga’s knee, Mahut would be wise to mix in some serve and volley early to test Tsonga’s movement also.

Once they get into the ground battles, there really isn’t a ton that Mahut is going to do that Tsonga doesn’t do better. Mahut has a solid two handed backhand and a serviceable forehand, but Tsonga’s forehand is a huge weapon and his double handed backhand can be lethal as well. Tsonga will also throw in a sliced one handed approach off the backhand to help him flip back around to hitting the forehand. I think it’s on Mahut to try and avoid the forehand the best he can. That’s easier said than done as Tsonga has done a very good job running around to the forehand as much as possible against Mahut and plenty of others in his career.

The Pig-nosticator

Let’s not mince words. If Tsonga is healthy and not hindered in his movement, this is really his match to win and he should. However, neither man has played in several weeks, so there is a certain element of rust that can reside in their games. I think for Mahut, he’s got to mix his tactics up with an eye on heading to net aggressively more often than not. He’s done that in the past against Tsonga and I think it’s his best weapon. Tsonga may prove too tough with a bevy of blistering passing shots, but it’s a better option that trying to outslug him from the baseline.

Tsonga really launched his 2017 season into orbit during this indoor swing last year and he’s generally done very well in these “home” tournaments in France that are indoors. Six of his 16 career titles have come on indoor hard courts in France with eleven of his titles overall coming on this surface. The only thing that held me back from having Tsonga as a legit contender this week was his knee. If he can prove it to be healthy, then he’s got as good a chance as any to win in Gasquet-land this week. Look for JWT to be aggressive and keep the points short to keep the wear and tear down as well. If his serve is working well, he should have ample opportunity to do so.

Given that Tsonga could have some rust and trust to work through, Mahut may have a chance to swipe another set, but it’s tough seeing him winning here unless Tsonga is hindered by his knee.

Prediction: Tsonga wins in three sets

2018 Open Sud de France Preview

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Montpellier aka Gasquet-land

Alexander Zverev ended the French dominance of this event in recent years by taking the 2017 title. He won’t be back to defend it this year. The French have still managed to put a player in the final of the Open Sud de France each year since its inception in 2010. This year’s field is led by David Goffin. The top seed was busy playing in Belgium this weekend in Davis Cup play, so there might be a chance that he passes on the tournament altogether. Lucas Pouille leads the French contingent and is seeded second. He reported a neck issue that kept him from Davis Cup action, but I am guessing it was more precautionary so that he could play Montpellier. Rounding out the top four seeds are Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Damir Dzumhur. Tsonga reportedly has been carrying a knee injury since the Australian Open, so his status could be a little iffy this week as well.

Richard Gasquet is the only other Frenchman among the seeds. At number five, Gasquet comes in as a three-time champion in Montpellier with a 20-4 mark overall. The final three seeds will all be making their Open Sud de France debuts with Andrey Rublev, David Ferrer and Yuichi Sugita seeded six, seven and eight. Sugita was also involved in Davis Cup play this weekend. He will be aided by those matches taking place on a similar indoor surface to Montpellier, but hampered by the quick travel turnaround from Japan to France. Between injuries and Davis Cup play, there are quite a few question marks in this field that could yield some upsets. That’s been pretty routine in Montpellier with at least three seeds going down in their openers in three of the last four years.

ELIMINATI

That segues right into the weekly look at players who could spring upsets over seeded players in their first matches of the tournament.

Gilles Simon
Simon opens against a German qualifier Yannick Maden and then could get a shot at top seed David Goffin in round two. Simon is 2-1 in his career against the Belgian with one of those wins coming last Fall in Shanghai. This hasn’t been the best of tournaments for Simon with a career mark of 6-6, but if there is someone you don’t want to play after having played in Davis Cup plus travel, Simon is on of those guys. His backboard playing style will make Goffin work and has obviously paid dividends against him in the past. Don’t forget Goffin has never played a main draw match in Montpellier. He did play indoors on the weekend with Belgium, so that will help – but this is still a dangerous spot.

Karen Khachanov
A no-brainer as he takes on David Ferrer in the opening round. The Russian did play here in 2017, losing to Benoit Paire in straights. For Ferrer, this is his first trip to Montpellier. Ferrer has a good career winning clip slightly about 60 percent indoors, but he’s lost his first match on an indoor hard court in four of the last five tournaments he has played on the surface over the last two years. Khachanov’s power could be a major factor in this one and has the Spaniard on definite upset watch in round one.

Daniil Medvedev
Despite being matched up against the most prolific player in this tournament’s history in Richard Gasquet, I think the Russian has a shot to pull off the upset early. Gasquet was fortunate to only have played one match in France’s win over The Netherlands this weekend, so he probably won’t be a burnout victim. Still, it’s a quick turnaround from an emotional weekend against a dangerous opponent. Medvedev is another young Russian with plenty of power to spare. Indoors if he can find a rhythm, you have to rate him a shot.

John Millman
The Aussie made the quarterfinals in his only trip to Montpellier back in 2016. He’ll get a shot at Sugita who played a lengthy five setter against Fabio Fognini on Sunday in Japan. If Sugita does make the trip to France, there’s every chance that he’s going to have a difficult time acclimating on short rest. Even if Millman hasn’t had a ton of experience on this surface, having had a good result here in the past with a nice set-up could yield a positive result for the Aussie.

Draw Preview

Quarter #1 Seeds
(1) David Goffin: 0-0
(7) David Ferrer: 0-0

Breakdown
This is a very tricky section. You’ve got Goffin as the lead seed, but on the quick turnaround from playing a pair of Davis Cup matches this weekend. Goffin has played several times in the week following Davis Cup play during Belgium’s rise to prominence over the last two years. He has not lost his first match, but this is also perhaps his most difficult first match opponent potentially. I mentioned his opener should be a tough one likely against Gilles Simon. Simon starts with qualifier Yannick Maden. The German is playing just his fourth main draw match at an ATP event. Should Simon pass, he’ll be a tough out for Goffin with a 2-1 mark against him lifetime. Ferrer is in the bottom half, but draws a tough one against Karen Khachanov in round one. That could be an upset as well, so this part of the draw likely will be without at least one seed in the quarterfinals.

The other match to watch is Ricardas Berankis vs Julien Benneteau in round one. Benneteau had a resurgent start to the season with an unexpected run to the third round at the Australian Open. That included an upset over Goffin in round two. Berankis helped lead Lithuania to a win over Estonia in Davis Cup play on an indoor surface. He also made the Rennes Challenger final prior to that, so he is in good form. The winner of that match will be a tough test for either Ferrer or Khachanov.

There is a lot of wiggle room here with Goffin playing the tournament for the first time and coming in off a heavier workload over the weekend. You can make a case for three or four different guys coming out of this quarter. The potential match-ups here for Goffin against Simon and either Ferrer or Khachanov steer me away from him. He may well prove me wrong, but all three have wins over him and have pushed him in losses. Most of me leans to the Ferrer-Khachanov winner as moving along in this quarter.

Quarter #2 Seeds
(4) Damir Dzumhur: 0-0
(5) Richard Gasquet: 20-4 (2013,2015,2016 – W)

Breakdown
Gasquet is royalty at this tournament, having been involved in the final five straight years with three titles. He was done no favors though with the draw against Daniil Medvedev in round one. The Russian made the quarters here last year before losing to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in straights. Gasquet is going to earn it if he makes it six straight years getting to the final. Getting match play in Davis Cup may benefit him in this case. Should he advance, he’d face a fellow Frenchman with qualifier Kenny De Schepper or Pierre-Hugues Herbert waiting. Both would be favorable match-ups for the #5 seed.

Up top, Dzumhur gets the bye and waits for either French wild card Calvin Hemery or Ruben Bemelmans. The Belgian Bemelmans was heavily involved in his country’s Davis Cup win over the weekend, playing singles and doubles. He’s had some good moments indoors albeit more so on the Challenger circuit with four finals in the last two years. Hemery is 23 and short on experience at this level with this being just his fifth main draw match. He’s 1-3 in his first four. A win would be surprising.

Dzumhur should set up well here as a sleeper. He won back-to-back indoor titles last Fall and went 13-3 on indoor hard courts in 2017. This looks like it could come down to Dzumhur or Gasquet with Dzumhur having a better early draw and the bye.

Quarter #3 Seeds
(3) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: 4-2
(6) Andrey Rublev: 1-0

Breakdown
Rublev opened with a straight forward win over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez on Monday. The sixth seed certainly has the tools to do well indoors with his big forehand and serve. Consistency as always is the biggest issue with the Russian with double faults becoming a big detriment to his game early this season. That problem did not crop up in his opener yesterday. It’s going to be a tricky round two regardless with Jeremy Chardy or Stefano Tsitsipas coming up next. Chardy hasn’t been great on this surface, but he made the quarters last year here and lost in three to eventual champion Alexander Zverev. Tsitsipas is a hard hitter who turned the tables on Chardy last year in their second straight meeting at the Brest Challenger, which is indoors. The Greek played on this surface last week at the Challenger level, making a semifinal run in Quimper. That might give him a leg up on Chardy, plus the confidence of beating him last year.

Tsonga will need to prove he’s healthy as he’s been struggling with a knee issue since losing to Nick Kyrgios in Australia. He gets a bit of extra rest with the bye and then Dustin Brown or Nicolas Mahut. JWT is 4-0 vs Mahut and 1-0 vs Brown. Mahut has given him some tough matches indoors however, where he’s had better singles results than outdoors. Tsonga has made the semis in his two previous trips to Montpellier and has a workable draw to make it three, if he’s fit. Neither Mahut or Brown has been especially inspiring so far this year, so the route is there for Tsonga if he’s git. Rublev certainly could be the biggest beneficiary of any lingering health problems for Tsonga, but I think you also have to watch out for an unseeded player in this section like Tsitsipas or maybe even some home cooking for Mahut.

Quarter #4 Seeds
(2) Lucas Pouille: 1-2
(8) Yuichi Sugita: 0-0

Breakdown
Pouille has the question mark surrounding him after being pulled before a Davis Cup match last Friday due to a neck problem. He’ll have had some rest, so he likely will be okay. Pouille gets a bye before facing Norbert Gambos or Carlos Taberner, both of whom made the field through qualifying. You’d think that sets up well for Pouille who is just 1-2 in Montpellier, but is playing here for the first time since 2015. The 23-year-old has won a title indoors each of the last two seasons, so he’s got the game. The bad thing is he only has one match played in 2018, so he may still have some rust to shake off.

Sugita is in a tough spot. He played twice in Japan’s loss to Italy in Davis Cup action, including a five set loss to Fabio Fognini on Sunday. Throw in the quick travel and he’s a prime candidate for an upset. He faces John Millman to start. Millman has won consistently indoors at the Challenger level, but will need to prove himself here. He did make the quarters last year in Montpellier and is savvy enough at 28 to take advantage of a fatigued opponent. The survivor of that match takes on Benoit Paire. The Frenchman opened the tournament with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Mischa Zverev Monday. He’s as sketchy as ever as far as trusting him to take advantage of a draw, but this might be a sneaky spot for him with Pouille’s lack of match play.

For me, I think that’s where this quarter goes – to the French. Pouille, if he can find his game and Paire if he can find someone else’s brain to use for the week.

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.

Sizzle
Damir Dzumhur
Karen Khachanov

Fizzle
David Goffin
Yuichi Sugita

AND THAT’s THE BOTTOM LINE BECAUSE THE PIG SAID SO …

Gasquet’s record of success here makes him the odds-on favorite to challenge for a fourth Open Sud de France title. This is a tough field though depending on how certain players bounce back from Davis Cup and injury. I think whomever makes it through Gasquet’s quarter could be in position to make the final. In the bottom half, the French contingent has more questions because of injuries and rust with Pouille and Tsonga looking shakier shots to reach the final. I do think Pouille rates the better shot of the two. On the unseeded front, Khachanov and Paire are the two I am looking at who could surprise with deep runs.

2018 Davis Cup R1 Doubles Previews

DC18DUBS

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)

Japan
Yasutaka Uchiyama
Ben McLachlan

Italy
Simone Bolelli
Paolo Lorenzi

Breakdown
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)

Australia
John Peers
Matthew Edben

Germany
Tim Puetz
Peter Gojowczyk

Breakdown
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)

France
Pierre-Hugues Herbert
Nicolas Mahut

Netherlands
Jean-Julien Rojer
Matwe Middelkoop

Breakdown
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)

Spain
Pablo Carreno Busta
Feliciano Lopez

Great Britain
Jamie Murray
Dominic Inglot

Breakdown
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)

Croatia
Ivan Dodig
Franko Skugor

Canada
Daniel Nestor
Vasek Pospisil

Breakdown
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-Hungary
(Belgium leads 2-0)

Belgium
Julien Cagnina
Joris de Loore

Hungary
Marton Fucsovics
Attila Balazs

Breakdown
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)

Kazakhstan
Timur Khabibulin
Aleksandr Nedovyesov

Switzerland
Luca Margaroli
Marc Andrea-Huesler

Breakdown
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)

Serbia
Nikola Milojevic
Miljan Zekic

USA
Ryan Harrison
Steve Johnson

Breakdown
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