Scouting Report: 30 Things To Watch In Antwerp, Moscow & Stockholm
An executive summary of what every fan should know about the coming week on the ATP World Tour
Only indoor tennis remains on the calendar, beginning with ATP World Tour 250-level events this week in Antwerp, Moscow and Stockholm.
At the European Open in Antwerp, defending champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 2016 titlist Richard Gasquet and two-time finalist Diego Schwartzman lead the field alongside Next Gen ATP Finals contenders Frances Tiafoe and Jaume Munar. Marco Cecchinato and Daniil Medvedev are the Top 2 seeds at the VTB Kremlin Cup. And at the 50th edition of the Intrum Stockholm Open, a new champion will be crowned. Top 2 seeds John Isner and Fabio Fognini are joined by #NextGenATP stars Stefanos Tsitsipas, Denis Shapovalov, Alex de Minaur and Taylor Fritz.
10 THINGS TO WATCH IN ANTWERP
1) Ranking Pressure: Tsonga is appearing in just his fourth tournament of the season. The former World No. 5 underwent left knee surgery in April and missed more than seven months before returning at Metz in September. As the reigning Antwerp champion, Tsonga is putting 250 of his 740 ATP Ranking points on the line. He defends 300 more points next week as the 2017 Vienna finalist.
2) Inaugural Champion: Gasquet returns to Antwerp after winning the inaugural title in 2016. The Frenchman has won 15 tour-level titles. He ended a 20-month championship drought by winning at ’s-Hertogenbosch in June, and showed more signs of good form in Tokyo, where he advanced to the semi-finals.
3) Right at Home: Frenchmen have crossed their northern border and swept the first two titles at the European Open. Besides Tsonga and Gasquet, Gilles Simon and Gael Monfils are in the field this week. Simon won titles this year at Pune and Metz, while Monfils triumphed in Doha.
4) Next Step: Schwartzman is 7-2 in Antwerp with his only losses coming in the tournament’s first two finals. The 5’7” Argentine is currently World No. 16. But if Schwartzman cracks the Top 10, he would be the shortest player to join the elite group since 5’6” Harold Solomon in 1981.
5) First Time for Everything: Kyle Edmund will be the No. 1 seed at a tour-level event for the first time this week. In 2018 alone, the 23-year-old has broken into the Top 15 of the ATP Rankings, passed Andy Murray as the No. 1 Brit, earned the four biggest wins of his career, and reached his first ATP World Tour final, Grand Slam semi-final and ATP World Tour Masters 1000 quarter-final.
6) ATP Race to Milan: Only two weeks remain in the ATP Race to Milan, which determines the seven players born in 1997 or later who directly qualify for the Next Gen ATP Finals. Tiafoe is fifth and Munar is eighth in the Race entering the European Open, where valuable points are on the line.
7) Milos’ Push: Wild card Milos Raonic has competed in 47 tournaments and reached six finals since winning his eighth and most recent title at Brisbane during the first week of the 2016 season. But the Canadian, who has climbed as high as World No. 3, is back in the Top 20 of the ATP Rankings at No. 20.
8) Belgium-mans: Fellow wild card Ruben Bemelmans earned three wins in three sets to reach the 2017 Antwerp semi-finals. The Belgian returns home this week after tying an Open Era record by qualifying for the fifth time at Wimbledon. He also qualified for the third time at the Australian Open.
9) Unlikely Contenders: Ben McLachlan and Jan-Lennard Struff are 11th in the ATP Doubles Race to London and can add as many as 250 points by winning the Antwerp title. McLachlan and Struff are 21-11 together since joining forces at the Australian Open, highlighted by the Tokyo title.
10 THINGS TO WATCH IN MOSCOW
1) Sicilian Sensation: Cecchinato entered the season with four wins on the ATP World Tour. The 26-year-old has 23 wins in 2018 alone with clay-court titles at Budapest and Umag. Cecchinato upset 2016 champion Novak Djokovic at Roland Garros to become the first Grand Slam semi-finalist from Italy in 40 years. On Monday, Cecchinato will break into the Top 20 of the ATP Rankings.
2) Russian No. 1: Medvedev became the Russian No. 1 on 8 October after winning his third and biggest title of the season at the ATP World Tour 500-level event in Tokyo. All three of Medvedev’s title wins have come over opponents playing on home soil. He defeated Alex de Minaur in the Sydney final, Steve Johnson in the Winston-Salem championship match and then-No. 12 Kei Nishikori in the Tokyo final.
3) 22 and Rising: Fellow 22-year-old Moscow native Karen Khachanov is the No. 3 seed in Moscow after accepting a wild card. While Medvedev has 37 wins on the season, Khachanov is not far behind with 35. The former Russian No. 1 won the second title of his career at Marseille in February and advanced to his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 quarter-final and semi-final at Toronto in August.
4) Even Younger: Neither Medvedev nor Khachanov began 2018 as the Russian No. 1. That honor went to Andrey Rublev, who turns 21 on 20 October. After struggling with a back injury, Rublev is seventh in the ATP Race to Milan with seven players due to qualify for the Next Gen ATP Finals.
5) The Champ is Here: Damir Dzumhur made history in 2017 as the first player to sweep both Russian tournaments in a single season. The St. Petersburg and Moscow champion ended 2017 on a 24-7 run. Dzumhur added his third ATP World Tour title at Antalya in June.
6) Welcome to Russia: While Dzumhur feels right at home on indoor Russian hard courts, Nick Kyrgios will be making his debut in Russia this week. The 23-year-old wild card started his season on a seven-match winning streak. The Australian lifted his first trophy on home soil in Brisbane for his fourth career title.
7) Comeback Kliz: In 2017, Martin Klizan injured his left calf and did not play a tour-level match after Wimbledon. He fell to No. 181 in the ATP Rankings on 26 February 2018. Klizan is back in the Top 50 after winning the Kitzbuhel title in August and reaching the St. Petersburg final in September.
8) Indoor Krajinovic: Filip Krajinovic reached the final of the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in Paris last year as a qualifier. Injured for much of 2018, Krajinovic can try to regain some of that form as the No. 4 seed in Moscow, which is held indoors just like the Paris tournament.
9) Dream Team: For the first time since reaching the Masters 1000 final in Miami this March, Khachanov and Rublev will play doubles together at an ATP World Tour event. The Russians beat Nitto ATP Finals qualifiers Jamie Murray/Bruno Soares and Oliver Marach/Mate Pavic in Miami.
10) Defending Champs: Max Mirnyi and Philipp Oswald, the No. 3 seeds, have already captured two tour-level titles this season. The defending champions will try to earn their fourth trophy as a team this week.
10 THINGS TO WATCH IN STOCKHOLM
1) Papa Isner: Isner is playing his first ATP World Tour event as a father following the birth of his daughter, Hunter, on 15 September. It’s been a banner year for Isner, who won his first Masters 1000 title in Miami, reached his first Grand Slam semi-final at Wimbledon and achieved a career-high No. 8 in the ATP Rankings on 16 July.
2) Fabio on Fire: Up to 1,750 points are at stake over the final three weeks of the regular season, giving both Isner and Fognini an outside shot in the ATP Race to London. After becoming the first Italian in 41 years to win three titles in a single season, Fognini hopes to become the first Italian on record to win four titles in a year. He was within a point of doing so at Chengdu on 30 September.
3) Different Socks: Jack Sock was 24th in the 2017 ATP Race to London with one week remaining, yet he qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals by winning the Paris title. Sock appears destined to return to London in doubles. Sock is 32-12 in doubles with five titles, including a victory Delray Beach with his Stockholm partner Jackson Withrow.
4) Mill-mania: John Millman scored the biggest win of his career over then-No. 2 Roger Federer at the US Open. But a muscle tear sidelined him for the next four weeks. Stockholm will be the site of Millman’s first tour-level match since his loss to Novak Djokovic in the US Open quarter-finals.
5) Greece Lightning: Tsitsipas broke into the Top 15 in August following a fourth-round run at Wimbledon and four Top 10 wins en route to the Toronto final. He is the first Greek to be ranked that high, reach the Round of 16 at a Grand Slam and play for a Masters 1000 championship.
6) Winning Feeling: Like Tsitsipas, seventh-seeded Shapovalov has earned 30 wins in a season for the first time. Though the 19-year-old is still seeking his first final on the ATP World Tour, he became both the youngest quarter-finalist and semi-finalist in Mutua Madrid Open tournament history in May.
7) Youth is Served: Fellow 19-year-old De Minaur has reached two finals this season, including in Washington, D.C., where there were four semi-finalists under the age of 22 for the first time on Tour since Buenos Aires in 1995. On Monday, De Minaur will set a career-high ATP Ranking for the 18th time this year.
8) Phenomenal Fritz: Before the breakthroughs of De Minaur and Shapovalov, an 18-year-old Fritz advanced to the 2016 Memphis final in the third tour-level event of his career. Nearly three years later, Fritz remains the youngest finalist on the ATP World Tour since Kei Nishikori, 18, at the 2008 Delray Beach Open.
9) Chasing Chung: #NextGenATP players Fritz, De Minaur, Shapovalov and Tsitsipas all are trying to follow in the footsteps of Stockholm wild card Hyeon Chung, who won the 2017 Next Gen ATP Finals title.
10) Top Seeds: Marc Lopez and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi are teaming up for the first time, despite playing one another on the doubles court three times this year. They have won a combined 30 tour-level titles.