2018 French Open Preview: Seeded Eliminati Ratings


In the first part of this year’s French Open preview, I touched on the “it” players in Rafael Nadal and Alexander Zverev. I also dove a bit into the history of seeds and how they have fared over the past eight years (2010-2017). Incorporated into that mix was a look at the top ten seeds and their Eliminati Ratings or basically, how prone they would be to a round one upset. The second part of the preview continues there and hits from seeds 12-32. Again since this is based solely on form, past Roland Garros history. Grand Slam history and some of the historical seed history in Paris, make sure you actually look at the draw when it comes out to draw your own conclusions. The draw makes the biggest difference in determining who can fall to the Eliminati!

Again these seeds are based on current rankings and no withdrawals or non-participation known outside of Roger Federer and Milos Raonic.

12. Sam Querrey
Querrey is another player who opted to participate in the final prep tournaments for Roland Garros. He is in rain-delayed Geneva, where play finally got back underway today after stalling out yesterday and early today due to weather. It’s easy to see why Querrey chose to play this week with two losses in his only clay court matches in Houston and Rome during this swing. Roland Garros has been a horror show for the American traditionally with 2013’s third round run as his best. He’s been an opening round casualty three straight years and eight of eleven overall. Two of the last three opening round losses came to great defenders in Hyeon Chung (2017) and Borna Coric (2015) with Bjorn Fratangelo the culprit in 2016.

13. Roberto Bautista Agut
The 30-year-old Spaniard has not lost in the opening round since he first broke into the main draw in 2013. The last two years in Paris he has been consistent with a pair of fourth round finishes. The form coming in is decent at 6-4 during the Euro swing on clay. He get dumped out in round one at the Australian Open this year with a straight sets loss to Verdasco. That is a tough match-up for a seed in round one. That was his first opening round loss at Slam since his very first – the Australian Open in 2012. RBA is a guy who has never made it past round four at Slam, but generally is consistent enough to avoid early trouble. Watch the draw though just to make sure he doesn’t get some sort of bad luck.

14. Jack Sock
Sock is in the midst of an underwhelming campaign with a 5-10 record after losing to Taylor Fritz today in Lyon. The American has slipped out of the top ten, where spades being spades, he did not belong any how. He’s had a bad run of one and dones at Grand Slams recently with three of his last four played going that way, including this year’s Australian Open and last year’s French Open. He was also a first-up casualty in his opener for the 2018 season in Auckland. Sock has gone out in his opener in three of his eight tournaments since Melbourne though, so he’s at least found a bit of the winning touch here and there. Still, he hasn’t put together back-to-back wins all season – so I’m not expecting a ton from him. As for his Eliminati status … he’s on the watch list. Last year’s opening round loss to Jiri Vesely was preceded by a five round win in the opening round over Robin Haase in 2016. Give his current state, a struggle to avoid an upset is definitely more likely than not.

15. Lucas Pouille
Another one of my favorite punching bags this season and for good reason. The Frenchman who made two Slam quarterfinals in 2016 has been lost at sea for most of 2018. Pouille lost his opener in three of the four clay court tournaments he played in this Spring and has two other one and dones this season. It’s been rather shameful for Pouille after such a promising start where he made three finals early in the season and won the Open Sud de France. The wheels have obviously come off since then and he may feel some pressure at his “home” Slam. Pouille lost in round one at the Australian Open, but that has been a real horror show where he is 0-5 in his career. In Paris, Pouille has lost his opener twice in the last five years, but has escaped round one each of the last two years. Both of those came against Julien Benneteau, so perhaps if they aren’t magnetized to each other this year – Pouille will have even more of a worry.

16. Kyle Edmund
The Brit has really come on since returning to healthy with a solid 10-5 mark on clay this season. Those ten wins are almost half of the 23-year-old’s total ATP wins on this surface, so his confidence is escalating. Madrid was especially good to him with wins over Novak Djokovic and David Goffin. He also made the final in Marrakech, albeit without beating a player ranked higher than #38 at the time (Richard Gasquet). His semifinal run at the Australian Open showed that he’s got the mentality for the five set grind, but the French Open will be a test. This is just his fourth run in Paris, but he has avoided a first round calamity so far. The match-up might make it more interesting, but the Brit looks fairly safe to avoid a first round exit.

17. Tomas Berdych
Berdych will be a focal point of many looking for round one upsets and rightfully so with the Czech going 0-3 on clay this season. All of those have been one and dones. He hasn’t won since the Miami Open in March and has just two wins in that stretch from March to the present. Berdych has not lost in the opening round at a Slam since 2013 and you guessed it, that came at Roland Garros at the hands of Gael Monfils. Berdych has made two quarterfinals in Paris since that loss, but definitely does not having the winning touch right now. The 32-year-old may be in obvious decline, but he’s still had his moments at Grand Slams as recently as last summer’s semifinal run at Wimbledon. As such, he may be able to lean on his experience to escape early trouble. Still, I have a feeling he could be in for a tough draw and that might make the escape act that much tougher for a player short on confidence right now.

18. Fabio Fognini
The Italian is in Geneva this week after a very solid week in Rome, where he made the quarterfinals. He beat Thiem and took a set off of Nadal to remind everyone of the potential he carries with him every week. Then you roll the calendar back to Madrid, Munich and Monte Carlo to find a 1-3 mark with two opening losses to Marco Cecchinato and Leonardo Mayer to see his vulnerability each week. Fognini has a first round exit at a Slam ten of the eleven years he has been on tour in main draws. Generally, Roland Garros has been a more consistent source of avoiding that fate, but it did happen last in 2016. The French Open is the site of his only career Grand Slam quarterfinal (2011), so clearly this is his best Slam. Trust however is rarely earned by Fognini, so you definitely have to see who he is playing in round one before making up your mind.

19. Kei Nishikori
Nishikori will be playing at his first Grand Slam since Wimbledon last summer, where he finished in the third round. He was forced to miss both the U.S. Open and Australian Open due to the wrist injury. He’s shown enough on clay since coming back to consider him a sleeper perhaps in the right draw to make some noise. He made the Monte Carlo final and also the quarters last week in Rome. The wrist is still a bit of a worry though as he was forced to retire in his only match at the Barcelona Open with soreness. That came after the long week in Monte Carlo, so his total fitness in this best of five format is going to be a question. When healthy, he’s been a huge Slam threat with quarterfinals made in five of his last eleven. Since his only first round exit at Roland Garros in 2014, he’s made the quarterfinals twice and fourth round the other year. He should be properly rested here, so I think the first round is one he should expect to navigate for a win.

20. Novak Djokovic
Djokovic’s run to the Rome semifinals assured him of staying in the seeded field for this year’s French Open, where he has no been unseeded since 2006. Rome obviously gave him a nice confidence boost after a very difficult time trying to get untracked this Spring after the elbow procedure. The glaring question for the Serb will be how his body holds up playing best of five for however long he lasts. In round one, I won’t say that shouldn’t be a bother, because his level of play does still spike up and down a bit. It would be historical however if he was taken out in the opening round. Djokovic has a streak of 47 straight Grand Slams played without losing in the first round. He’s never lost in round one in Paris. I don’t think he’s quite a zero because he needs to prove he can win three sets, but he’s probably closer to a zero rating than one for me.

21. Nick Kyrgios
If you’re thinking it’s been a while since we’ve seen Kyrgios, you’re right. He last played singles in Houston in early April going 1-1. He’s sat out the rest of the clay court season with his right elbow still a big concern. He decided to play Lyon this week, but only in doubles to test the elbow. Teaming with Jack Sock, the pair won their opener on Monday and were scheduled to play again today – weather permitting. Let’s assume he stays in the draw for now. Roland Garros has not been a great place for NK with a 5-5 mark, but only one first round exit in 2014 to Milos Raonic. Last year, he was beaten in round two by Kevin Anderson. Slams were tough on him late in 2017 with successive one and dones at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. He started this year strong with a fourth round run in Melbourne, but his body has yet again been failing him since then. Given his physical frailty, there’s an obvious chance he loses early if he plays at all.

22. Philipp Kohlschreiber
Kohlschreiber put together a really solid clay court swing, going 10-5 with the highlight being a trip to the Munich final. Outside of his Lamine Ouhab in Marrakech, his losses came to higher ranked players. The problem for the German though has been lackluster Grand Slam results in the last three years. Since 2015, he’s had eight first round exits at Slams. That includes this year’s Australian Open and each of the last two years in Paris. At 34, he might be playing some of his better tennis consistently right now. I’d still rate him a possibility though with his recent history and also that he could wind up with a tough opponent.

23. Stan Wawrinka
The 2015 champion won’t have much expectation on him after missing the last three months to full recover from last season’s knee surgery. The Swiss returned to tour action last week in Rome, losing to Steve Johnson. He’s also enrolled in Geneva this week, where he has won the last two titles. Right now, it is all about getting match play for Wawrinka. He says the knee feels good, but his rhythm is obviously not there after so much time away from the court. Stan has only lost two first round matches at Slams since 2014. One was at the French Open that year and the other one at Wimbledon in 2017. He’s an obvious threat when healthy here with a run of three straight years winning the title, making the semis and making the final last year. Monitor his progress or lack thereof in Geneva this week. The more matches he gets, I think the less worry I’d have about him in round one and vice versa. I think you still have to temper your expectations though and look at who he draws in round one.

24. Denis Shapovalov
El Shapo gets his first seeded Slam appearance in Paris. The Canadian teen has acquitted himself well on this surface during his first full run at this part of the season. After a slow start, he made the semifinals in Madrid and then won a couple in Rome before losing to Nadal. This is going to be his first main draw appearance at Roland Garros, so that is a big change for him. Let’s not forget, he’s only played in three Slams so far in his career with last year’s U.S. Open fourth round run as the highlight. Being that clay is still probably a surface that his game isn’t the best suited for and that he’s a first timer here, there is certainly some chance of an upset early.

25. Adrian Mannarino
The Frenchman has a definite clay court allergy at 12-33 all-time on the surface, 1-4 this season. He’s lost his opener at Roland Garros seen of the nine years that he has been in the main draw. Even Captain Obvious feels guilty.

26. Filip Krajinovic
The 26-year-old Serb is making a rare appearance in a main draw at a Grand Slam. This will be just his 8th Slam played, but third in Paris. Of those previous seven appearances, he’s only won in the main draw one time at the 2015 U.S. Open. Throw in that he has not played since Miami due to a lingering Achilles injury. Given his struggles on clay, he’s a huge candidate for one and done status if he is able to give it a go at all.

27. Damir Dzumhur
Dzumhur has been a first round loser three of the four years that he has played this event. He’s gone just 2-5 during the build-up tournaments with three first match losses. He’s not terrible on the surface overall, but he’s struggled to grab wins at the ATP level on dirt lately. Since the beginning of 2017, he’s just 4-12 on the surface.

28. Andrey Rublev
A back injury has kept the 20-year-old Russian sidelined for long periods since he picked it up during his Miami Open loss to Vasek Pospisil. He played in Monte Carlo in April and challenged Thiem pretty well before losing in three sets. He has not appeared in a match since that time in an effort to get healthy. When healthy, this big hitter is a threat on this surface as he showed in winning his lone ATP title last year in Umag on clay. He’s only played in six Slams so far in his career and this will be just his second time at the French Open. Rublev lost in round one last year and has to be an iffy proposition in round one this year with his lack of match play coupled with the back problem.

29. Richard Gasquet
The Gasman has not lost his opener at Roland Garros since 2010. He does however have three one and dones in his last six Slams played. Gasquet started the clay season well with a semifinal run in Marrakech and a quarterfinal finish in Monte Carlo. He’s 1-3 since with two opening match losses. Gasquet has had some bad luck with injuries at Slams the last few seasons with his back and knee being the culprits. For the purposes of this though, we’re looking at the here and now. His history says he will probably have a good chance to get through round one, again depending on the opponent. His recent losses though are still a bit of a cause for concern along with his injury history.

30. Feliciano Lopez
Despite not being associated with clay court success, the lefty has only dropped his opener in Paris once in the last five years. That did break a string of three straight opening round losses from 2010-2013 and he had lost his opener nine of the first 12 years he played in Paris. He’s turned it around some though and was 3-4 during the Euro swing with just one opening round loss. Lopez has lost in the opening round in three of the last five Grand Slams.

31. Gilles Muller
This is his worst surface and worst Slam by far. Muller has lost in round one six of the eight years that he has made the main draw. He was 1-3 in three tournaments played on clay leading up to Roland Garros with a pair of one and dones. He should be very high on your list of potential seeded upset victims in round one.

32. Fernando Verdasco
There will be plenty of seeds happy to see the Spaniard slip into the final spot in the seeded field, so they don’t have to worry about drawing him. Verdasco may not be a deep threat at this stage of his career, but he’s still capable of pulling off early upsets. Ask Bautista Agut about Melbourne this year and Alexander Zverev about last year in Paris. The Spaniard had his best Slam result in the last three years by making the fourth round at Roland Garros in 2017. The 34-year-old has been mediocre on dirt this year after a scintillating run to the Rio final. He’s still super fit and works about as hard as anyone. This is his first time being a seed since the 2015 French Open, when he also was seeded 32nd.

So there you have it, the entire seeded field over the course of the first two parts of this preview have been dissected as to their possible shots at being early elimination candidates. In the final part of the preview tomorrow, I’ll take a look at the unseeded players who could produce some of these potential upsets.

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The Ocho v.6


“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. Karen Khachanov
You might have expected the media darling Tiafoe or Schwartzman in this spot, but the Russian gets the nod for the top spot this week for me. That’s because of the quality opponents he put away in winning the Open 13 in Marseille. Crushing Tomas Berdych in the semifinals and then outlasting Lucas Pouille in three sets in the final set him just a notch above those two I previously mentioned. The 21-year-old edges up six spots to #41 in the rankings with his second career title. Most importantly, he got wins over a pair of top 20 players, something that has eluded him. Khachanov had just three top 20 wins all of 2017. He’s in Dubai this week and now the task for these NextGen guys is follow up big wins … with more wins. #Consistency

2. Diego Schwartzman
The diminutive Argentine impressed in Rio last week en route to winning his second ATP title and first at the 500 level or better. Schwartzman brushed aside more offensively inclined players like Gael Monfils, Nicolas Jarry and Fernando Verdasco in grabbing the title. His defense and return ability were once again on display and to serve notice that he’s going to be a factor on clay and hard courts. He’s now 10-4 on the season after a bit of a sluggish start before the Australian Open. The 25-year-old is now at a career high #18 in the latest rankings.

3. Frances Tiafoe
The 20-year-old won his maiden ATP title in Delray Beach, scoring the second top ten win along the way when he defeated Juan Martin Del Potro. The American seems to finally be fulfilling some of that potential that we’ve heard so much about in the past year plus as this result followed up a quarterfinal run at the New York Open. His seven wins this year have now almost matched his previous win total for his career. The big thing for “Big Foe” now is to continue to produce consistent wins. He climbs 30 spots to #61 this week. Staying here or better will be big in helping him gain entry into bigger tournaments with more rankings points to earn.


4. Fernando Verdasco
I love being able to put a veteran player like Verdasco on this list for the right reasons. He had a wonderful week in Rio. He teamed up with David Marrero to claim the doubles titles, his first since 2013. He also scored big wins over Fabio Fognini and Dominic Thiem in singles before falling to Schwartzman in the Rio final. At 34, Verdasco’s best days might be behind him, but he showed this past week that he can still be a threat. His forehand was ferocious and he’s still got the fitness to contend against guys a decade younger. Enjoy watching him play while he’s still around folks.

5. Raven Klaasen/Michael Venus
This was a new tag team that formed for 2018 and I talked about them a bit in my preview for 2018. The big thing for them was finding chemistry. It took a bit as the duo was just 2-3 before this past week. They put it together in Marseille however with a title run. They didn’t beat any top tier teams per say, but wins over veterans like Mergea-Nestor, Mahut-Benneteau and Daniell-Inglot in the final are a good boost for their confidence. They’re in Dubai this week as the #4 seeds. Their round one draw is tough against Rohan Bopanna and Eduoard Roger-Vasselin, but things open up after that – especially with top seeds Henri Kontinen and John Peers going down earlier today.

6. Fanny Stollar/Georgina Garcia Perez
Who is right …. and that’s what gets them on the list. Stollar, a Hungarian, won her first ATP title of any sort at home in Budapest at the Hungarian Open alongside her doubles partner Georgina Garcia Perez. It was also Garcia Perez’s first-ever ATP title. Stollar has played a bit on the WTA main tour, but Garcia Perez has been playing mainly ITF events which is similar to the Futures events on the men’s side. That shows what an accomplishment this is for these two young ladies to grab these titles.

7. Jack Sock
Good Sock – wins the Delray Beach doubles titles alongside chum Jackson Withrow. Bad Sock – loses to Reilly Opelka in the round of 16 ro run his 2018 singles record to 1-3. Sock got back to playing more doubles last year after ending the popular PopSock doubles combo with Vasek Pospisil after Wimbledon in 2016 to “focus” on singles. He is coming off his best season in 2017, where he went 41-23 and got into the Top 10 for the first time. His losses this year though have been poor to Peter Gojowczyk in Auckland, Yuichi Sugita in Melbourne and now Opelka. All were ranked outside the Top 40.

At 25, Sock is in the prime of his career, yet he still seems very inconsistent – especially at Grand Slams where he has lost in round one in three of the last four Slams. I think his ranking is higher than the skill level, but that’s the ATP in its current flux. Still, Sock needs to show more and beat players he should beat. There’s no shame losing to top tier guys, but there should be some in losing to guys who don’t win with better weapons necessarily, but beat you with better strategy and motivation.

8. Stan Wawrinka
The Swiss is on this list again for the wrong reasons. Wawrinka was forced to retire due to knee pain in his opening match in Marseille against Ilya Ivashka. While he is downplaying it as part of the process of rehabbing his surgically repaired knee, it’s still a bit concerning that it is an issue going into March. What I give him a lot of credit for is returning his appearance fee for this tournament because he felt he let the tournament down. A lot of players would have pocketed that extra money and not thought once about it. Stan gave it back to the tournament and a portion of that was donated to some charitable organizations as well.

2018 ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament #TinyTuesday Preview


Welcome to the first edition of #TinyTuesday – here you will find a quick rundown and preview of the singles matches taking place each Tuesday at my focus tournament of the week. This week, it’s the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam. Give me your feedback @tennispig !

Tuesday in Rotterdam

Jan-Lennard Struff vs Viktor Troicki
H2H: Troicki leads 1-0

Quick Notes
Troicki’s back-to-back wins in making the Sofia quarterfinals last week marked his first successive wins at the same tournament since Shanghai last Fall. He has lost his opener in six of his last ten tournaments, including twice in four tournaments in 2018. The Serb has made the quarters twice and semis once in Rotterdam

Struff played Davis Cup, losing to Nick Kyrgios in singles. Otherwise, he has only played three tour matches, going 1-2. The German has never played a main draw match in Rotterdam.

Keys to Victory
Second serve. It’s a big problem for both as far as consistency. Struff has a monster first serve that can be dominant, but it hasn’t been enough consistently because of that leaky second serve.

Confidence for Troicki. Once upon a time, the 32-year-old was ranked #12 back in 2011. His doping ban in 2013, he’s struggling to regain that sort of form. He can be on his game and contend with most, but those moments have been fewer and farther between.

Prediction: Troicki wins in straight sets

Philipp Kohlschreiber vs Karen Khachanov
H2H: Khachanov leads 1-0

Quick Notes
Kolhschreiber has yet to win a match in 2018, going 0-3. Has only lost his opener in Rotterdam once since 2012 with a 10-9 overall mark at the tournament.

Khachanov is 9-17 indoors in his young career, but 2-1 this season after making the quarterfinals in Montpellier.

Keys to Victory
Second serve. The player who is the highest above a 50-percent win rate will be in position to win this match.

Backhand consistency. Khachanov packs more power with his two hander, but Kohlschreiber’s one hander brings depth and precision. If he can hit the one hander low and force Khachanov into a defensive style against it, he’ll have chances on the next ball to pounce for points

Prediction: Khachanov wins in three sets

(9) Gilles Muller vs (q) Daniil Medvedev
H2H: 1st meeting

Quick Notes
Medvedev is 3-6 against lefties at this level with an 11-10 mark indoors in his career. Muller has only lost his opening match on an indoor hard court twice in his last ten indoor tournaments.

Keys to Victory
First serve for Medvedev. The Russian needs to win a high percentage of the points off first serve against equal or better power like Muller. Muller’s second serve is much easier to attack, so he needs to get in as many first serves as possible.

Net play. Muller likes to serve and volley which will challenge Medvedev. The Russian moves decently, but his volley skills at the net are inconsistent. If Muller can consistently get good court position off his serve, he should success with the S&V tactics

Prediction: Muller wins in three sets

(4) David Goffin vs Benoit Paire
H2H: Paire leads 3-1

Quick Notes
Paire has beaten Goffin on every surface except outdoor hard. He won indoors against the Belgian in Metz last year 7-6 (3), 5-7, 7-6 (7). Three of Goffin’s last four losses dating back to last year’s Paris Masters’ loss to Julien Benneteau have come to Frenchmen (Benneteau 2x & Gasquet).

Keys to Victory
First serve for both. Paire is much more of a threat when he isn’t floating in a weak second serve. He only lands 52 percent of his first serves on average for his career and just 50 percent this year. Against Goffin, he’s been 60 percent or above and that is a big factor.

For Goffin, work the Paire forehand. Some days it is downright brutal and certainly much weaker than his double handed backhand. His backhand can be a massive weapon.

Prediction: Paire wins in three sets

(5) Stan Wawrinka vs (wc) Tallon Griekspoor
H2H: 1st meeting

Quick Notes
Wawrinka is playing back-to-back weeks for the first time since playing Geneva and Roland Garros in successive weeks last May. He played three straight days in Sofia last week and admitted being a bit fatigued from doing that for the first time since returning from knee surgery. Griekspoor has only played two main draw matches at this level, going 0-2.

Keys to Victory
Legs. For Wawrinka, this is the next test in working his way back to full match fitness. Does he have the legs this week after playing more last week than he has in eight months?

Belief for Griekspoor. Does he have any, knowing that Wawrinka is still less than 100 percent? If he starts fast and stays close, maybe he begins to believe. He absolutely has to serve well to have any chance to sniff an upset.

Prediction: Wawrinka in straight sets

Filip Krajinovic vs (wc) Felix Auger-Aliassime
H2H: 1st meeting

Quick Notes
These two did meet on clay at the Challenger level last year, where Auger-Aliassime won in three sets. This is Auger-Aliassime’s ATP debut at the age of 17. The Canadian did make a semifinal last year indoors on the Challenger circuit, beating Alex De Minaur along the way. Krajinovic was a surprise finalist on this indoor surface at the Paris Masters last season. He’s 10-9 indoors.

Keys to Victory
Nerves for Auger-Aliassime. Not only is this his main draw debut, he’s the featured match at night on Centre Court. Am I the only one who thinks this is an odd spot for his ATP debut? Krajinovic

Dealing with pressure for Krajinovic. He’s 25 and 21-33 all-time at the ATP level, but he’s expected to beat the 17-year old phenom on Tuesday. There is some pressure in that expectation with the crowd likely to be on the youngster’s side. Surface should be a plus for the Serb.

Prediction: Krajinovic wins in three sets

The Ocho v.4


This is my weekly look at the top eight players and/or doubles teams that you need to know about based on last week’s action. Be sure to catch the list every Monday and throw in your two cents on Twitter!

1. Mirza Basic
The 26-year old Bosnian won his first ATP title in Sofia as a qualifier. The win moves him inside the top 100 in the rankings for the first time in his career. Basic moves up 52 spots to #77. His biggest wins of the week came against Philipp Kohlschreiber and Stan Wawrinka. In 2018 in the two tournaments from which he has qualified, Basic has a title and a quarterfinal showing from the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha. So if you see Basic qualifying for the main draw this year, watch out!


2. Roberto Carballes Baena
Another first time title winner at the ATP level, this 24-year old Spaniard took home the crowd at the Quito Open in Ecuador. He beat fellow Spaniard Albert Ramos Vinolas 6-3, 4-6, 6-4. Baena also got a big boost for his ranking as a result, rising 31 spots and slotting just in front of Basic at #76 overall. RCB also came through qualifying in Ecuador to claim his title.

3. Robin Haase-Matwe Middelkoop
The Dutch duo won their second title of 2018, taking home the doubles titles in Sofia over Alexander Peya and Nikola Mektic in a super tie break 5-7, 6-4, 10-4. Haase-Middelkoop also won the doubles titles in Pune, Indian to kick off 2018. For Middelkoop, it’s his second Sofia title as he also won there with Wesley Koolhoff in 2016. The Dutch pair remain 6th in latest doubles rankings. Haase-Middelkoop took a wildcard entry into doubles this week in Rotterdam, where they open against another Dutch wildcard entry in Jesse Timmermans and Jasper Smit.

4. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Tsonga is in “The Ocho” for the wrong reasons. After missing Davis Cup play due to a knee strain, Tsonga returned to tour play at the Open Sud de France. He looked locked in for a spot in the final as he was dominating second seed Lucas Pouille in the semifinals 6-1 and 5-4. That is when Tsonga apparently tore his left hamstring. He was broken in his service game to go to 5-5 and forced to retire from the match. It’s the second tournament already where an injury has limited Tsonga with a knee issue also hindering him in his loss to Nick Kyrgios at the Australian Open.

None of this is good news for the 32-year-old who was forced to skip the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam, where he was set to defend the title. Tsonga has admitted that he is going to have to start making a schedule that will allow his body to hold together better, although over play was not the case in Montpellier.

5. The Skupski Brothers
The British brothers, Ken (34) and Neal (28) won their first ATP doubles titles together in Montpellier as they made their first appearance in an ATP level final since 2013. They beat the team of Ben McLachlan and Hugo Nys. It was Ken’s fourth ATP title overall and the first for Neal. The Skupskis are in good form right now as they came to Montpellier off of winning the Quimper Challenger doubles titles. Their title victory puts them at 14th in the doubles rankings

TENNIS : Open Sud de France 2018 - Montpellier - Finale Doube - 11/02/2018

6. Maximillian Marterer
Not a lot of people have noticed the 22 year old German and his finish in Sofia last week. He made his first ATP quarterfinal, which came on the heels of Marterer making the 3rd round at the Australian Open. He was 0-14 in ATP matches before this season, but now has four wins in six matches in 2018. Marterer is now at a career best 78th in the latest rankings. He’s sinking back to the Challenger level this week as the second seed in Cherbourg.

7. Stan Wawrinka
There wasn’t anything special about Wawrinka’s showing in Sofia, but it was a promising bounce back effort from The Stanimal after he looked not ready for action really in Melbourne. In Sofia, he scored a pair of wins before losing to the eventual champion, Mirza Basic, in the semifinals. Considering he took a late entry after Grigor Dimitrov pulled out due to injury, the Swiss was pleased with his performance.

Wawrinka said after the tournament that he’s still not near his best, but it was good to get in match play. He played back-to-back-to-back days in a tournament for the first time since undergoing knee surgery last year. He’s in Rotterdam this week and probably not expecting much again, but there are at least some positive signs for him to build on. Match toughness and fitness will be the thing that really helps boost his play and he’ll only get that from more matches played.

8. Amadine Hesse-Kristina Mladenovic
The French duo delivered a quarterfinal win in Fed Cup play for France over Belgian tandem of Elise Mertens and Kirsten Flipkens 6-4, 2-6, 6-2. Mladenovic is now 10-2 in Fed Cup doubles and also was responsible for both singles wins for France this weekend. France next plays the United States in the semifinals in April.

2018 ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament Preview


Federer Takes Wildcard in Pursuit of #1 Spot

The big news this week ahead of the start of the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam was the late inclusion of Roger Federer via wildcard. Fed made the decision as he chases the #1 spot in the rankings with a chance to become the oldest player to ever do so. Andre Agassi holds the current record when he hold the top spot at age 33 in 2003. At 36, Federer could dwarf that achievement if he makes the semifinals this week. This is the Swiss’ first trip back to the Dutch tournament since 2013. He is also the last top seed to win or make a final in Rotterdam, accomplishing that in 2012. Slotted behind Fed are Grigor Dimitrov, Alexander Zverev and David Goffin to round out the top four spots.

Dimitrov is making his first appearance since the Australian Open, after skipping his home tournament in Sofia this past week to rest a sore shoulder. The Bulgarian had his best result in Rotterdam last season with a semifinal run to push his career mark to 8-6 at this tournament. Zverev is just 2-3 in three trips to this tournament with a pair of opening match losses. Goffin ended a losing skid in Rotterdam last year with a run to the final. He scored all four of his career wins at this tournament last year after losing his first match in 2013, 2015 and 2016.

The back half of the seeded field features two former winners in Stan Wawrinka (2015) and Tomas Berdych (2014), who are seeded 5th and 6th. Along with Federer, they are the only players in Rotterdam this week who have won the title previously. Fed won it twice in 2005 and 2012. Montpellier champion Lucas Pouille and Gilles Muller fill out the seeds. Muller slots into the final seeded spot after Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was forced to pull out of the tournament due to a hamstring injury suffered at the Open Sud de France on Saturday.


The ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament has been a bit odd. The top seed has had a hellacious time being involved in the business end of the tournament, failing to even be in the semifinal mix since 2012. In spite of that, there have not been a large amount of upsets for seeds in their first matches over the last four years. A single seed has fallen in their opener three of the last four years with two going down in 2016. You have to go back to 2013 to find the biggest seed dump early when four seeds were taken down in the opening round.

In the current climate of seemingly interchangeable parts outside of Roger Federer, seeds seem to always have potential to be stung and taken out early. Let’s take a look at our weekly list of “The Eliminati” – the players who could pull of some seeded scalps in round one.

Tallon Griekspoor
The Dutch wildcard draws Stan Wawrinka in the opening round. The Swiss got a few needed wins in Sofia last week, but his legs looked a big heavy by the time he was upset in the semifinals by Marius Copil. The 21-year-old Dutchman has nothing in his brief history that says he should upset a top ten player, going 0-2 in his lone main draw matches. One of those came to Gilles Muller last year in Rotterdam. Still, Wawrinka has admitted that he’s short of being match fit after playing three matches in successive days last week. He’ll have had a couple days of rest, but given that he’s still working his way back into shape – stranger things have happened. Still, I’d rate this pretty low on possibilities.

David Ferrer
On paper and this surface, you would think that conditions would favor third seed Alexander Zverev in this match-up. History though shows that Ferrer has beaten Sascha in both career meetings, once on clay and once outdoors on a hard court in Beijing in 2016. That was their last meeting, ending 6-7 (4), 6-1, 7-5 for the Spaniard. The positives for Zverev are that the Spaniard has not played here since 2011 and is 0-3 in this last three matches. Those losses came to Juan Martin Del Potro, Andrey Rublev and Karen Khachanov. All play similar baseline power games, something Sascha does better than any of those three. Ferrer is always in a match if he can see enough second serves from his opponent, so this still is one that could happen if Sascha isn’t on top of his service games.

Daniil Medvedev
The Russian made it into the main draw through qualifying. His serve was decent, but will need to be steadier if he wants to pull off the upset against Gilles Muller. Muller won one and lost one last week in Sofia with Copil beating him in the quarterfinals. The big lefty has avoided losing early in Rotterdam in his previous three trips, but Medvedev might present one of his tougher first round matches here. The Russian is still very up and down as he tries to establish himself at this level – winning the Sydney title and then going just 1-2 since raising that trophy. I think Muller’s serve and volley plus bigger power could trouble the Russian, but again there’s still an opportunity for an upset.

Benoot Paire
Which version of Paire do we get this week? Last week he looked alternately dangerous and disinterested as usual all in one tournament in Montpellier. He draws David Goffin first though and he’s 3-1 against the Belgian. That includes a tough three set match last year indoors in Metz. Goffin’s lone win came in Shanghai in 2016. I mentioned earlier about Goffin’s track record before last year’s finals run, so there is a fairly good recipe for an upset in this one. The question is whether Paire can keep it together and win in Rotterdam. He’s just 1-4 in main draw matches at this tournament.

Andrey Rublev
Another young Russian (20) who has plenty of weapons to trouble the best. He gets Lucas Pouille, the seventh seed who just won the Montpellier title on Sunday. Pouille was lucky to be in that position after being blown off the court by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s power, until Tsonga suffered a hamstring injury in their semifinal match. That pushed Pouille into the final and he took full advantage as he topped Richard Gasquet for his fifth career title. Rublev is another guy who struggles to match pure power, but this isn’t that sort of match-up. The big thing for the Russian is finding groove on serve. Pouille has the quick turnaround to deal with and he’s only played one career match in Rotterdam, a loss.

Yuichi Sugita
Sugita faces Grigor Dimitrov in the opening round. Dimitrov spanked him when they met in Cincinnati last year after Sugita fought hard in a three set loss to this week’s second seed when they first met at the Rogers Cup in 2016. Sugita never really had a chance last week in Montpellier as he came off a lengthy schedule in Davis Cup play with heavy travel. This week should be a more realistic tell of his form. He’s a tough cookie and with Dimitrov needing to prove healthy, you have to at least acknowledge that Sugita has a chance

Singles Draw Preview

Quarter #1 Seeds
(1) Roger Federer: 23-6 (W – 2005, 2012)
(5) Stan Wawrinka: 6-1 (W – 2015)

Federer opens with qualifier Ruben Bemelmans. The two have never met. Bemelmans isn’t a total schlep on this surface with four finals at the Challenger level over the last two years indoors, including one title. He also made the semifinals in Antwerp last Fall, beating Nick Kyrgios along the way. It’s a big ask, but he could catch Federer with some rust to start, so Bemelmans could push him the distance. You’d think once Federer finds his game though, that this is his match to win. The survivor gets either Philipp Kohlschreiber or Karen Khachanov. The Russian won their only previous encounter on clay. Kohlschreiber has yet to win in an abbreviated start to the season with only two matches under his belt. That should favor Khachanov who was playing last week in Montpellier. The German made the semis in Rotterdam in 2016 and beat Lucas Pouille last year. He’s not without a chance against Khachanov who has problems at times with finding his consistency.

The bottom half features Wawrinka who did score a couple nice wins in Sofia last week, his first action since the Australian Open. He had the Dutch wildcard Greekspoor to start. Again, you would think the Swiss takes that one unless his body is hurting from playing more matches last week than he’s been used to in a good while. If he wins, he’ll battle either Robin Haase or Thiemo de Bakker. The Dutchmen have split two career meetings at this level, but have battled four other times in Challengers and Futures play, also splitting those clashes. de Bakker is 3-8 in Rotterdam, while Haase is 4-9 and has lost his first match here in six of the last seven years.

With Wawrinka still not near his best, this quarter should belong to Federer and get the job done in his quest for the #1 rankings. His second match might be his toughest, but I think only if it’s Khachanov. Tough to call a match against Kohlschreiber tough for him considering that the Swiss is 12-0 against him. If he gets Wawrinka in the quarters, he will be looking for his fifth straight win against Stan and 21st in 24 tries.

Quarter #2 Seeds
(3) Alexander Zverev: 2-3
(9) Gilles Muller: 4-3

Zverev is drawn into a tricky opener against David Ferrer, but I do think he will get through that one. Sascha should have added confidence from his Davis Cup heroics, handing the Germans their tie over Australian with two big singles wins. Should Sascha move on, he will face the winner between Joao Sousa and Andreas Seppi. Sousa is 2-0 against Seppi with his last win coming against the Italian indoors at the Paris Masters. Sousa went 1-1 in Sofia last week, while Seppi gets in as a lucky loser after falling to Martin Klizan in qualifying. Seppi is 7-9 all-time in Rotterdam and has lost his opener in three of his last four trips. Sousa is 0-2. It is a real toss up with both having some decent runs in their careers indoors. Both match-ups should favor Sascha, but they won’t be easy.

In the bottom half, it’s Muller against Daniil Medvedev in a potential upset spot. I think Muller has a bit more power and his serve and volley game could hassle the Russian. As such, I think he might avoid the upset bid. The winner will take on the survivor between Richard Gasquet and qualifier Pierre-Hugues Herbert. PHH lost a tough three setter to Gasquet last week in Montpellier. That was their first match against each other and outside of Montpellier where Gasquet rarely loses, Herbert may have a shot to exact some quick revenge. I think the Muller-Medvedev winner has a shot to make a run.

Quarter #3 Seeds
(4) David Goffin: 4-4
(6) Tomas Berdych: 19-8 (W – 2014)

Goffin has the potential difficult opener against Benoit Paire and the winner there could see former champion Martin Klizan in the second round. Klizan came through qualifying again this year and faces off against Feliciano Lopez in the opening round. Lopez looks to line up as a loser in his spot again. He’s lost eight of nine matches in his career in Rotterdam. Klizan definitely looks like he could make a move to the quarterfinals at least, especially if Paire can help him by eliminating Goffin. Goffin’s loss to Gasquet in Montpellier was somewhat puzzling to me last week as he looked ready to make a push for the title, but was shaky against the Frenchman. So much like Paire – which Goffin shows up in Rotterdam?

The other half sees Berdych starting against Mischa Zverev. The German has a pretty good record indoors in recent years. Zverev does own a couple of wins in five tries against Berdych, but the majority of their meetings came before 2013, They met once last year on clay and it was Berdych who won. Zverev may contend well in this spot, so Berdych definitely needs to have his best from the opening ball. The winner gets Jan-Lennard Struff or Viktor Troicki. Struff went 7-5 indoors last year. Troicki made the quarters in Sofia last week, losing to Wawrinka in the quarters. The Serb has the experience advantage here, but is so inconsistent from week-to-week that I would not be surprised to see Struff win.

People don’t like to trust Berdych, but the Czech has good records against the contenders here at 2-1 against Goffin, 2-0 against Paire and 4-0 against Klizan. He could sneak through here and into the semis.

Quarter #4 Seeds
(2) Grigor Dimitrov: 8-6
(7) Lucas Pouille: 0-1

Pouille arrives with the form after scoring a somewhat surprising title win in Montpellier against Richard Gasquet on Sunday. Dimitrov arrives with the health questions surrounding his shoulder. Dimitrov has the better draw in this quarter despite getting a potential road block in Sugita in round one. A win would net him an easier second round foe against either young Canadian Felix Augure-Aliassime or Filip Krajinovic. The 17-year old phenom from Canada is making his ATP debut in this spot. Krajinovic had the miracle run as a qualifier to the Paris Masters final late last season, losing to Jack Sock. It’s going to be tough for Felix to win, but interesting to watch.

Pouille has the more difficult half of this quarter with Andrey Rublev to open. The second round would pit him against either Sofia finalist Marius Copil or Damir Dzumhur. I think Rublev is the tougher battle to get through, but Dzumhur is a feisty sort who had some big success indoors late in 2017. Based on talent, this should be Pouille or Rublev’s half to push into the quarters. Rublev like many of the young Russians is having difficulty putting things together from match to match with his serve and he has a habit of letting his temper influence the proceedings too often. He needs early success I think and a win over Pouille would do that of course.

This is a quarter that could get flipped upside down and might show the most promise for an unseeded player to make their way into the semifinals. Keep in mind that an unseeded player has made the semifinals in three of the last four years.

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.

Roger Federer
Martin Klizan

David Goffin
Lucas Pouille


ALl eyes will once again be on Roger Federer in his bid to become the oldest player to hold the #1 ranking on the ATP World Tour. Things should set up well for Fed to get that done, but he might run into trouble in the semis against Alexander Zverev. The bottom half of the draw looks more open to an unseeded player making a run. An unseeded player has made the final twice in the last four years and one of those guys is back in a similar position in Martin Klizan. Also keep an eye on Rublev and maybe Medvedev if either can find some consistency.

Bottom line – Federer is the rightful favorite and I think Zverev is a natural second choice after finding some confidence and form in Davis Cup play. Berdych is one I think you still keep track of because he could take advantage of some upsets in the bottom half.

Doubles Draw Preview

1. Kubot-Melo
2. Marach-Pavic
3. Herbert-Mahut
4. Rojer-Tecau

Top Half Breakdown
Kubot-Melo got away to a winning start on Monday in a dangerous spot against Raven Klaasen and Michael Venus. The top seeds prevailed 7-6 (2), 7-5. Kubot-Melo are in just their second trip to Rotterdam, having lost in the quarterfinals last year. The third seeds, Pierre Hugues-Herbert and Nicolas Mahut are also in this half. The French pair made the semifinals here last year. With the loaded field, Kubot-Melo will face tough tests all along the way. Their quarterfinal match comes against either Ivan Dodig and Rajeev Ram or the Zverev brothers, Alexander and Mischa. Dodig-Ram lost their first match together for this season in Montpellier last week.

The Zverevs have a good history of being factors when they play doubles together. They went 10-7 as a combo last year, including a title in Montpellier and a finals trip in Halle. They only lost their first match of a tournament twice in eight tournaments played, but one was here in Rotterdam. If the Zverevs win, they would face Kubot-Melo for the third time in the last two seasons. They’re 0-2, but took the top seeds to a super tie break in both previous meetings. Herbert-Mahut open against Marcin Matkowski and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi. The French should prevail. The winners get the winner between Lucas Pouille/Karen Khachanov vs Rohan Bopanna/Edouard Roger-Vasselin. Bopanna-ERV are 4-2 on the season and seem the likelier winners.

The Pig-nosticator

The top seeds have not been involved in the final in this tournament since Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic won the titles in 2010. That doesn’t bode well for Kubot-Melo. Nicolas Mahut however has had a magic touch at this tournament with multiple partners. He won with Vasek Pospisil in 2016 and with Michael Llodra in 2014. Herbert-Mahut might have a shot, but the danger for them could be Bopanna and Roger-Vasselin. I like the survivor of that potential match to push through to the final.

Bottom Half Breakdown
This half includes 2018’s unbeaten pairing of Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic. The top ranked duo is 14-0. This is their first run in Rotterdam. This half also includes Rojer-Tecau as the other seeds. Rojer-Tecau have the most experience as a duo in this tournament, having gone 11-3 in their careers together. They won the title in 2015. Marach-Pavic will need to be alert against Dutch qualifiers Thiemo de Bakker and Sander Arends. Arends teamed with Antonio Sancic last week in Montpellier to make the semis. Having match play already, they could be a bit dangerous. The survivors get Damir Dzumhur and Filip Krajinovic. They beat Andrey Rublev and Nenad Zimonjic 6-3, 6-3 in round one.

In the other part of this half with Rojer-Tecau, the fourth seeds play Marc and Feliciano Lopez in round one. Rojer-Tecau have dominated the Spaniards 3-1 in head-to-head matches, including a 6-4, 6-4 win last year in Rotterdam. A win and they could be looking at Robin Haase and Matwe Middelkoop in the quarters. The Dutch pair have been hot early this season with titles in Pune and Sofia. They take on a pair of young Dutchman in the opening round and should get through. Haase-Middelkoop will be a dangerous duo if they face the fourth seeds and they could pull off the upset.

The Pig-nosticator

As long as Marach-Pavic don’t get caught cold in round one, this again looks like their half of the draw to take. A clash with Rojer-Tecau would be mouth watering with the teams splitting two matches in 2017. Marach-Pavic winning indoors in Vienna, while Rojer-Tecau won outdoors in Shanghai. Hard to go against Marach-Pavic who were hot indoors late last season too.


If you believe the top seed curse here, you take Kubot-Melo out of the mix. Marach-Pavic have to be the favorites until they lose, but there are plenty of dangerous teams in this loaded field, including the vets Rojer and Tecau. Herbert-Mahut have the magic #3 seed that has belonged to the Rotterdam title holders three times in the past five years, so you have to look at them as well. If we’re talking unseeded outsiders that could snatch the titles, look no further than Haase-Middelkoop or perhaps Bopanna-ERV.

I think when it’s money time though, a seed is going to take the victory this week. For me, it’s a toss up between Marach-Pavic and Herbert-Mahut. I have a gut feeling this is the spot where Marach-Pavic may finally lose a match this season.