Scouting Report: 30 Things To Watch In Rio de Janeiro, Delray Beach & Marseille
An executive summary of what every fan should know about the coming week on the ATP Tour
The ATP Tour heads into the eighth week of its 2019 season with the second ATP 500 tournament of the year taking place in Rio de Janeiro, alongside ATP 250 events in Delray Beach and Marseille. Dominic Thiem leads the field at the Rio Open presented by Claro, Juan Martin del Potro returns at the Delray Beach Open by VITACOST.com and Stefanos Tsitsipas is the top seed at the Open 13 Provence in Marseille.
10 THINGS TO WATCH IN RIO DE JANEIRO
1) Golden Hour: The month-long “Golden Swing” continues through Latin America, with the Rio Open presented by Claro as the third stop, and the first 500-level clay-court event of the year. Defending champion Diego Schwartzman and 2017 titlist Dominic Thiem are two of the Top 4 seeds, with Italians Fabio Fognini and Argentina Open winner Marco Cecchinato rounding out the top quartet.
2) Winning Thiem: Thiem comes into Rio as the No. 1 seed and World No. 8, aiming to reclaim the title he won in 2017, having lost to Fernando Verdasco in last year’s quarter-finals. The Austrian, who reached his first Grand Slam final on the red clay of Roland Garros last year, has a 10-2 record overall at the Rio Open, including a semi-final showing in his first appearance in 2016.
3) Fog Rolling In: No. 2 seed Fognini has had a slow start to the Golden Swing, as the World No. 16 lost his opening-round matches at Cordoba and Buenos Aires to Aljaz Bedene and Jaume Munar, respectively. But the top-ranked Italian has had some of his finest results at Rio, notably defeating Rafael Nadal in the 2015 semi-finals en route to his career-best finalist showing at the tournament.
4) Turn It Around: No. 3 seed Cecchinato is 0-4 in main-draw matches at the Rio Open, having fallen in the first round in each of the last four editions. However, the No. 2 Italian had a similar 0-3 win-loss record at Buenos Aires going into that event last week, and he ended up hoisting the champion’s trophy. Cecchinato has been rewarded with a new career-high ranking of No. 17.
Watch Cecchinato Win The 2019 Buenos Aires Title
5) The Champ Returns: Schwartzman won his second career title, and first at ATP 500-level, with his run to the Rio trophy last year. He has yet to win a title since then, but he clinched a finalist showing last week in his hometown of Buenos Aires, before falling to Cecchinato. Schwartzman also made the doubles final in Buenos Aires, partnering Thiem, who he had beaten in the singles semi-finals.
6) Growing Seeds: Joao Sousa, Dusan Lajovic, Malek Jaziri, and Nicolas Jarry occupy the other four seeded positions this week, just as they did last week in Buenos Aires. Each of the four players listed have yet to make a quarter-final during the Golden Swing so far this season.
7) Surprise, Surprise: One player who has had a stellar Golden Swing is Juan Ignacio Londero, who won his first five Tour-level matches at Cordoba as a wild card, clinching his maiden ATP Tour singles title in the process. Londero made it through qualifying to grab a main draw spot at Rio.
8) Title Taker: 2016 champion Pablo Cuevas is the third former Rio titlist to feature in this week’s field. The Uruguayan has won six ATP Tour singles titles, all on clay, and four of the six have come in Brazil. Cuevas has won three times in Sao Paulo to go alongside his lone Rio Open title.
9) Going Wild: Two 18-year-olds were given wild cards this week, Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada and Thiago Seyboth Wild of Brazil. They also happen to be two of the most recent US Open boys’ singles champions: Auger-Aliassime won the title in 2016, and Seyboth Wild claimed it last year. The third wild card went to Thiago Monteiro, a 2017 Rio Open quarter-finalist.
10) Double Duty: Brazilian doubles stars Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares are teaming up for the first time at an ATP Tour event since 2016 Stockholm. Former World No. 1 Melo has won 32 ATP Tour doubles titles and former World No. 2 Soares has won 30, but neither player has ever lifted the Rio title. Melo made the 2014 final. Soares has lost in the semi-finals in each of the event’s five editions.
10 THINGS TO WATCH IN DELRAY BEACH
1) Tiafoe Looks to Remain Perfect: World No. 29 Frances Tiafoe, went a perfect 5-0 in his Delray Beach debut last year, taking home the title. He will look to keep that perfect record and win the tournament for the second time in a row, a feat accomplished only once in tournament history (Jason Stoltenberg: 1996-97).
2) Delpo Debut: Juan Martin Del Potro returns to the court to begin his 2019 season after having a very successful 2018, picking up two titles (Acapulco, Indian Wells) and reaching the final of a Grand Slam (US Open) for the first time since 2009.
3) Recent Home Turf Advantage: An American has won the tournament the past three years, and this year’s eight Americans will look to make it four. However, in the tournament’s 25 years, Americans have won it only seven times.
4) Back-to-Back: Reilly Opelka will try to continue his winning ways after picking up his first ATP Tour victory in New York, defeating fellow American - and Delray Beach participant - Brayden Schnur in the final, 6-1 6-7(7) 7-6(7).
5) #NextGenATP Steps Up: As Tiafoe tries to defend his title, Yosuke Watanuki, born three months after the American, makes the main draw for the first time this season after picking up victories in qualifying. The 20-year-old appears in just his third-career main draw and will look to notch his second match victory, the first coming in 2018 at his home country’s Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships.
6) Decades Between Them: Two first round matchups see pairings with at least 11 years between them. Jared Donaldson (22) takes on Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (35) and Watanuki (20) faces off against Lukas Lacko (31).
7) First-Time Champion Possibility: Only two former champions return to Delray Beach this year (Del Potro, Tiafoe), down from five in 2018. Just four players in the tournament’s 25-year history have won it more than once (Stoltenberg, Ernests Gulbis, Xavier Malisse, Jan-Michael Gambill).
8) Set the Tone: After a stand-out year in 2018 that saw him reach a career-high rank of No. 8, Isner dropped the first two matches in his 2019 season. Following two wins in New York, the American will look to build off the success to push for another top-10 season finish.
9) Bryan Bros Hunt for Number Five: Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan will look to clinch their seventh finals birth and fifth tournament victory this week as they appear in Delray Beach for the 12th time. The pair are also searching for their first tournament victory together in 2019 after notching two wins in 2018 (Miami, Monte-Carlo).
10 THINGS TO WATCH IN MARSEILLE
1) Top 15 Contenders: Plenty of veterans as well as rising stars headline the draw in Marseille this week. World No. 12 Stefanos Tsitsipas and No. 13 Borna Coric lead the charge as the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, respectively. Tsitsipas has yet to win a first-round match here in two tries, but recent Tour success indicates that this year's result could be quite a different story.
3) King of Marseille: Three-time Open 13 Provence champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga returns as a wild card and aims for a fourth crown this year. Tsonga, currently ranked No. 112, claimed the Marseille title in 2009, 2013 and 2017, and earned runner-up honors in 2014 behind Gulbis.
4) French Brigade: Along with Tsonga, No. 6 seed Gilles Simon, No. 7 Gael Monfils, No. 8 Jeremy Chardy, Benoit Paire, Ugo Humbert and Antoine Hoang will represent the home country in this year's draw. Simon won the title in 2007 and 2015, and Monfils was the runner-up in 2015.
5) #NextGenATP Leaders: Tsitsipas finished 2018 with the Next Gen ATP title and started the 2019 season strong with an Australian Open semi-final appearance (l. to Nadal) that included a win over No. 3 Roger Federer. At 20 years old, Tsitsipas remains a top #NextGenATP contender, along with 19-year-old Denis Shapovalov, who recently reached the quarter-finals in Montpellier and Rotterdam and comes to Marseille as the No. 4 seed.
6) Riding Momentum: Monfils is fresh off winning his eighth career ATP title in Rotterdam on Sunday, after going 13 months without lifting a trophy. Prior to Rotterdam, the 32-year-old reached the semi-finals at Sofia, notching wins over Mikhail Kukushkin and Tsitsipas.
Watch Monfils Beat Wawrinka For The 2019 Rotterdam Title
7) Dark Horse: Serbian Filip Krajinovic has had good fortune in France each year, having reached the quarter-finals in Montpellier early this month, the quarter-finals at Marseille in 2018, and the finals of the ATP Masters 1000 event in Paris in 2017.
8) On the Rise: Italian Matteo Berrettini has proven to be a threat on the ATP Tour. The 22-year-old earned wins over Khachanov and Fernando Verdasco en route to reaching the semi-finals at Sofia earlier this month. His success pushed him to a career-high ranking of No. 46 on Feb. 11.
9) Title Defenders: 2018 doubles champions Raven Klaasen and Michael Venus enter as the No. 2 seeds behind Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic. Venus is undefeated in Marseille, having won two titles here (also 2016). Klaasen and Venus reached the final in Auckland and the quarter-finals at the Australian Open this year.
10) Doubles Trouble: As the top seeds, Marach and Pavic own five titles together, and their recent success includes a semi-final appearance in Auckland.