Top-Seeded Nishikori Faces Challenging Draw In Rotterdam
If the top seeds hope to make deep runs at the first ATP 500 event of the year, the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament, they will have to be at their very best from the start.
Top seed Kei Nishikori triumphed at the Brisbane International and advanced to the quarter-finals of the Australian Open to start his season. But he is projected to face a series of stern tests in his Rotterdam debut if he is to capture his first title at this level since Washington in 2015.
The Japanese star plays Pierre-Hugues Herbert in the first round. The Frenchman is still alive at the Open Sud de France in Montpellier, as he pursues his maiden ATP Tour singles title. Herbert is bristling with confidence after completing the Career Grand Slam in doubles (with Mahut) last month in Melbourne. He is at a career-high of No. 44 in the ATP Rankings, and is guaranteed to climb higher next Monday.
If Nishikori comes through that challenge, he could potentially face #NextGenATP Canadian Denis Shapovalov, who beat him last year in Acapulco, in the second round. The first seeded competitor Nishikori could face is ninth seed Nikoloz Basilashvili. The Georgian lifted two ATP 500 titles last year, triumphing in Hamburg (d. Mayer) and Beijing (d. Del Potro).
Second seed Karen Khachanov led the ATP Tour with 20 indoor match wins in 2018. But if he gets past wild card Tallon Griekspoor in his opener, he could possibly face 2017 champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The former World No. 5 leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 2-0, and he also is still alive in the Open Sud de France.
Fifth-seeded Daniil Medvedev could meet Khachanov in the quarter-finals. Medvedev ranked second on the ATP Tour last season with 17 indoor wins. The Russian won the biggest title of his career in Tokyo, and he is competing in the semi-finals of the Sofia Open on Saturday.
Gael Monfils, who is playing Medvedev in Sofia, will face eighth seed David Goffin in his Rotterdam opener. Goffin has won three of their four FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings, but the Frenchman is in good form, putting on a vintage performance to defeat #NextGenATP Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Sofia quarter-finals.
Two more first-round matches to watch are fourth seed Milos Raonic against German veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber and former World No. 3 Stan Wawrinka against Frenchman Benoit Paire. The winners of those two clashes will play one another in the second round.