This week could have been even better, but Stan Wawrinka and Rafael Nadal withdrew from Rotterdam. Still, based on the standards of the relative dog days of February, the three upcoming tournaments have plenty to offer. Each of the four European swing finalists from this past week—Alexander Zverev, Richard Gasquet, Grigor Dimitrov, and David Goffin—are heading straight to Rotterdam. They will be joined there by Marin Cilic, Dominic Thiem, Tomas Berdych, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, among many others.
On the other side of the pond, huge servers Ivo Karlovic and John Isner headline the Memphis field. Former Memphis master Kei Nishikori is taking his talents to the Golden Swing as the No. 1 seed in Buenos Aires.
ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament
Where: Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Surface: Indoor hard
Prize money: 1,724,930 Euros
Top seed: Marin Cilic
Defending champion: Martin Klizan
Draw analysis: Cilic can barely buy a win this season, but he finds himself as the top seed in Rotterdam following the exits of Wawrinka and Nadal. The Croat is 1-3 in 2017 with losses to Jozef Kovalik (Chennai), Dan Evans (Australian Open), and Dustin Brown (Montpellier). Cilic doesn’t have an easy opener this week, either, as talent first-round opponent Benoit Paire is coming off a semifinal showing in Montpellier. Tsonga, also a semifinalist in Montpellier, is the other seed in the top quarter of the Rotterdam bracket. The second section is wide open because seeds Berdych and Lucas Pouille are not exactly setting the world on fire at the moment. Thus the door could be open for either Gasquet—the Montpellier runner-up—or defending champion Martin Klizan.
Zverev, who triumphed over Gasquet on Sunday, will try to maintain his hot streak at Thiem’s expense in round one. It’s a tale of two players going in opposite directions, with Thiem just 5-4 this year and having lost to four opponents ranked below him. If Zverev wins, the draw will open up considerably because Roberto Bautista Agut (elbow injury) has already vacated that section of the bracket. Potential semifinal adversaries for Zverev and Thiem are Goffin, Dimitrov, and Mischa Zverev.
First-round upset alert: Alexander Zverev over (2) Dominic Thiem. Playing an insane schedule worked out well for Thiem early last season, but it bogged him down at the end of 2016 and it has not helped him so far in 2017. This week’s No. 2 seed is coming off an opening loss in Sofia to Nikoloz Basilashvili. Zverev trails the head-to-head series 3-1 (all last year), but he won their most recent encounter at the Shanghai Masters. And of course a considerable edge in current form goes to the German.
Hot: David Goffin, Alexander Zverev, Grigor Dimitrov, Gilles Muller, Mischa Zverev
Cold: Marin Cilic, Dominic Thiem, Tomas Berdych, Borna Coric, Martin Klizan, Philipp Kohlschreiber
Semifinal predictions: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga over Richard Gasquet and Alexander Zverev over Grigor Dimitrov
Final: Tsonga over Zverev
Where: Memphis, Tennessee
Surface: Indoor hard
Prize money: $642,750
Top seed: Ivo Karlovic
2016 champion: Kei Nishikori (not playing)
Draw analysis: As usual, the Memphis Open has a distinct American flavor—to the extent that three of the four opening-round bye recipients hail from the host nation. An American may have a decent chance to capture the title, too, now that Nishikori is gone. Isner arguably has the best draw at the bottom of the bracket, although he could face a tough American wild card in the quarterfinals (either Jared Donaldson or fellow huge server Reilly Opelka). Potential semifinal adversaries for Isner—or someone else—are Sam Querrey, Steve Darcis, and Ryan Harrison. Darcis is coming off Davis Cup heroics for Belgium and a quarterfinal performance in Sofia, while Harrison recently triumphed at the Dallas Challenger.
Karlovic is not only making a quick transition from clay courts to indoor hard (lost last week in Quito to eventual champion Victor Estrella Burgos), but he also has a difficult road in front of him. An in-form Jordan Thompson is likely the Croat’s second-round opponent, and he could face former Memphis finalist Taylor Fritz in the quarters. An intriguing second section of the bracket features Steve Johnson, Bernard Tomic, Dustin Brown, and Frances Tiafoe.
First-round upset alert: Taylor Fritz over (8) Yen-Hsun Lu. This, of course, would only be an upset on paper. Fritz has fallen to No. 114 in the world, whereas Lu snagged the final seed in Memphis at 59th in the rankings. But Fritz finished runner-up at this tournament in 2016, so he has to feeling good about a return trip. The American is 0-1 at the ATP level in 2017, but he reached the Dallas Challenger final earlier this month. Lu is coming off a relatively bad Australian Open first-round loss to Andrey Rublev.
Hot: Steve Darcis, Nikoloz Basilashvili, Jordan Thompson, Ryan Harrison
Cold: Bernard Tomic, Taylor Fritz, Tim Smyczek, Mikhail Kukushkin, Kevin Anderson, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez
Semifinal predictions: Steve Johnson over Jordan Thompson and Steve Darcis over John Isner
Final: Johnson over Darcis
Where: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Prize money: $546,680
Top seed: Kei Nishikori
2016 champion: Dominic Thiem (not playing)
Draw analysis: Apparently four straight Memphis titles were enough for Nishikori. The world No. 5 has decided to switch things up and move from the hard courts of the United States to the red clay of South America. But perhaps the more things change, the more they will stay the same. After all, Nishikori has to be considered a considerable favorite to triumph this week in Buenos Aires. He finds himself in the same half of the bracket as No. 3 seed David Ferrer, but the Spaniard—ranked 27th—appears to be a shadow of his former self at 34 years old. Ferrer is a in a tough quarter that also features Fabio Fognini, Carlos Berlocq, and three-time Quito champion Estrella Burgos.
Pablo Cuevas and Pablo Carreno Busta are the bottom-half seeds who may have designs of stealing the title from Nishikori. Carreno Busta, who recently won a decisive fifth rubber for Spain in Davis Cup competition against Croatia, should not have trouble taking advantage of a favorable draw and reaching the semifinals in Buenos Aires. Cuevas’ potential path appears to be more difficult, as he could await an opener against Alexandr Dolgopolov before possibly running into an in-form Paolo Lorenzi.
First-round upset alert: Guido Pella over (5) Albert Ramos-Vinolas. A Davis Cup first-round tie between Argentina and Italy all came down to Pella earlier this month and he could not get the job done for the defending champions. Pella, who lost to Lorenzi 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 on Day 1, dropped the decider to Fognini from two sets up. He has a chance to make amends this week, playing again in front of the home crowd in Buenos Aires. Ramos-Vinolas reached the Quito semifinals last week but got blown out by Lorenzi.
Hot: Pablo Carreno Busta, Paolo Lorenzi, Victor Estrella Burgos
Cold: David Ferrer, Stephane Robert, Tommy Robredo, Alexandr Dolgopolov, Janko Tipsarevic
Semifinal predictions: Kei Nishikori over David Ferrer and Pablo Carreno Busta over Paolo Lorenzi
Final: Nishikori over Carreno Busta
Comments and your own predictions are appreciated!