Scouting Report: 30 Things To Watch In Rotterdam, New York & Buenos Aires
An executive summary of what every fan should know about the coming week on the ATP Tour
The ATP Tour heads into the seventh week of its 2019 season with the opening ATP 500 tournament of the year taking place in Rotterdam, alongside ATP 250 events in New York and Buenos Aires. Kei Nishikori leads the way at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament, John Isner headlines the New York Open and Dominic Thiem is the top seed at the Argentina Open.
10 THINGS TO WATCH IN ROTTERDAM
1) First 500 of Season: The ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament is the first of 13 ATP Tour 500 tournaments of the season. Eight of the Top 25 players in the ATP Rankings will vie for the title at Rotterdam, led by top seed and World No. 7 Kei Nishikori, who is making his event debut.
2) Special Kei: Nishikori comes to Rotterdam for the first time in strong form. Having lost his previous nine finals, the Japanese star claimed his first title since 2016 by defeating Daniil Medvedev in the Brisbane final during the first week of the season. He then got through three five-set matches at the Australian Open en route to his third straight quarter-final-or-better showing at a Grand Slam event.
3) Russian Rising: No. 2 seed Karen Khachanov ended 2018 with a bang, defeating four Top 10 players to claim his first ATP Masters 1000 title at the Rolex Paris Masters. The 22-year-old, currently ranked a career-high No. 11, reached the third round at the Australian Open for the first time last month – one of 10 men under 23 to reach that stage.
4) Title Taker: Khachanov’s compatriot Medvedev was another of those ten men, as he reached the second week of a Grand Slam for the first time in Melbourne. The 22-year-old led the ATP Tour in hard-court wins last season with 38, and went 3-0 in finals in 2018. After losing the Brisbane final to Nishikori, Medvedev is back to winning ways, after lifting his fourth career title at the Sofia Open last week.
5) Greece is the Word: Last year, Stefanos Tsitsipas became the first Greek player to be ranked in the Top 20, win an ATP Tour title (Stockholm), and play an ATP Masters 1000 final (Toronto). The 20-year-old is still rising in 2019, as he made his first Grand Slam semi-final at the Australian Open, which made him the youngest Grand Slam semi-finalist since Novak Djokovic at the 2007 US Open.
6) Stan the Man: Stan Wawrinka is one of four former champions in the field, as he aims to reach his first semi-final of the season. The former World No. 3, a wild card this week, beat then-Top 10 players Milos Raonic and Tomas Berdych to claim the 2015 title, but last year he fell in the first round to 259th-ranked Tallon Griekspoor. Griekspoor also received a wild card this year.
7) Guess Who’s Back: Another former champion in the draw is 2017 titlist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The former World No. 5, who missed seven months of last season after knee surgery, re-entered the winners' circle last week when he claimed his 17th career title as a 210th-ranked wild card at the Open Sud de France. It was Tsonga’s first title since he emerged victorious at the European Open in October 2017.
8) The Champs Are Here: Berdych and Martin Klizan are the two other previous victors in the field. 2014 champion Berdych, like Tsonga, missed half of last season due to injuries, but he has put together a blistering 10-3 start to the year, reaching the Doha final and the Montpellier semi-finals. Klizan, meanwhile, claimed the fourth of his six career titles in Rotterdam in 2016.
9) O Canada: No. 4 seed Raonic and No. 10 seed Denis Shapovalov are the two Top 25 players representing Canada in Rotterdam this week. Raonic made the semi-finals in his only prior showing at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in 2015, before losing to eventual champion Wawrinka.
10) Double the Fun: Last year’s finalists Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic are back in Rotterdam as the top seeds, looking to reverse a notable result from last season. Their loss in last year’s title match to Frenchmen Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut snapped their 17-0 start to 2018.
10 THINGS TO WATCH IN NEW YORK
1) Twice as Nice: The New York Open is back at the NYCB Live, home of the Nassau Coliseum, for the second straight year. In 2018, the tournament relocated from Memphis to Long Island, ensuring the continuation of one of the ATP Tour’s longest-running tournaments in the United States. Prior to last year, Long Island had not held an ATP Tour tournament since 2004.
2) Top Man: American John Isner is the No. 1 seed at the 2019 New York Open. Despite an 0-2 start to 2019, World No. 9 Isner aims to recapture the momentum from his career-best season in 2018, when he won his first ATP Masters 1000 title at Miami, made his first-ever Grand Slam semi-final at Wimbledon, debuted at the Nitto ATP Finals and gained a new career-high ranking of No. 8.
3) Rising Foe: Not far behind Isner as the No. 2-ranked American is 21-year-old Frances Tiafoe, who currently sits at a new career-high ranking of World No. 29. At the Australian Open last month, Tiafoe upset fifth seed Kevin Anderson for his biggest career win en route to becoming the youngest American Grand Slam quarter-finalist since 20-year-old Andy Roddick at 2003 Wimbledon.
4) Persistence is Rewarded: Sixth-seeded American Sam Querrey returns to this event for the 14th straight year, having contested every edition since his first appearance in 2006, when the event took place in San Jose. After two semi-final showings at San Jose and two more at Memphis, Querrey finally reached the championship match of the event for the first time, on Long Island last year.
5) Follow the Path: Steve Johnson will try for a similar breakthrough to Querrey’s. The American No. 3 has been a three-time quarter-finalist at the event, but has been stopped in that round each time. Johnson is also going for his first win of the year after an 0-2 start.
6) Aussie Rules: No. 4 seed John Millman has posted consistent results since upsetting Roger Federer to reach the quarter-finals of the US Open last year. Last month, the Australian No. 2 advanced to the quarter-finals at Sydney for the first time in four appearances, and he also picked up match victories at the Australian Open and at home at the Brisbane International.
7) Down Under Breakthroughs: Over the past 13 months, No. 8 seed Tennys Sandgren has hit two milestones in the Southern Hemisphere. Nearly one year after the American made his first Grand Slam quarter-final in Melbourne, Sandgren won his first ATP Tour title in Auckland this January.
8) Former Victor: American Ryan Harrison is the lone former champion in the draw. The 26-year-old won his first ATP Tour singles title at the event’s final year in Memphis in 2017. Harrison has made three more finals since then, at the BB&T Atlanta Open in 2017 and 2018 and also at the Brisbane International last year.
9) 40-Love: Last year’s quarter-finalist Ivo Karlovic returns having set some recent records. The Croat, who turns 40 on 28 February, became the oldest champion in ATP Challenger Tour history when he won at Calgary, CAN last October. He then made the Pune final in January to become the oldest player to reach a tour-level final since 43-year-old Ken Rosewall won at Hong Kong in 1977.
10) Oh Brother: After right hip surgery last year on 2 August, Bob Bryan has returned to action alongside brother Mike Bryan this year. The top-seeded Bryans are 5-3 to start the season, with the Auckland semi-finals and the Australian Open quarter-finals as their top results thus far in 2019.
10 THINGS TO WATCH IN BUENOS AIRES
1) Swing Time: The month-long 'Golden Swing' continues through Latin America, as the Argentina Open in Buenos Aires takes its spot as the second clay-court event of the season, following the inaugural Cordoba Open last week. Dominic Thiem has been the one to watch of late in Buenos Aires, winning the event in two of the past three years, and the Austrian returns in 2019.
2) Thiem Work: Thiem is the top seed and defending champion, as the World No. 8 continues to build his clay-court credentials all over the globe. The Austrian, who reached his first Grand Slam final on the red clay of Roland Garros last year, is undefeated in Buenos Aires to date. Thiem is 9-0 in his two appearances in the Argentine capital, including a semi-final win over Rafael Nadal in 2016.
3) Fog Rolling In: Fabio Fognini is the No. 2 seed this week, but the Italian No. 1 has had mixed results in Buenos Aires. Fognini reached the Argentina Open final in 2014, acquitting himself well that week before falling to Buenos Aires stalwart David Ferrer in the title match. But in his four consecutive appearances following that result, Fognini has failed to win a match.
4) Banner Year: No. 3 seed Marco Cecchinato is not far behind his compatriot Fognini in the rankings. While Fognini claimed three titles in 2018, Cecchinato had a milestone year of his own, becoming the first Italian Grand Slam semi-finalist in 40 years when he made the final four at Roland Garros. However, Cecchinato is yet to win a main-draw match at Buenos Aires (0-3).
5) Hometown Hero: Buenos Aires resident Diego Schwartzman comes in as the highest-ranked Argentine in the field, seeded No. 4. While holding just a 5-5 record at the tournament, Schwartzman’s finishes are improving. In 2017, he lost a 3-setter to eventual finalist Kei Nishikori in the second round, and last year, he reached the quarter-finals for the very first time.
6) Three Times a Winner: Former World No. 3 Ferrer got a wild card into one of his most prolific events, before the Spaniard plans to play his final tournament at ATP Masters 1000 Madrid in May. Ferrer has a staggering 23-6 record at Buenos Aires to date, winning 17 matches in a row between 2012 and 2016. He won three straight titles in 2012, 2013, and 2014, and was a finalist in 2010.
7) Slovenian Star: After making the final last year, Aljaz Bedene is back in Buenos Aires to try to go one further and claim a first ATP Tour title. Bedene had won only one match at Buenos Aires prior to 2018, but the Slovene powered into his third career final last year before losing to Thiem.
8) Youth Will Be Served: 18-year-old wild card Felix Auger-Aliassime is the youngest player in the field this week; the 103rd-ranked #NextGenATP Canadian is the only player ranked in the Top 175 who is yet to turn 19. The other wild card went to 20-year-old Argentine Francisco Cerundolo, who will make his ATP Tour main draw debut this week.
9) New Sensation: Last week in Cordoba, wild card Juan Ignacio Londero pulled off a stunning run to his first ATP Tour title despite never having won a tour-level match in his career beforehand. The 25-year-old Argentine’s ranking skyrocketed 43 spots to No. 69 after his heroics.
10) Doubling Up: Argentines Maximo Gonzalez and Horacio Zeballos are the No. 1 seeds in Buenos Aires. Zeballos is aiming for a third Argentina Open title with three different partners: he won in 2010 alongside Sebastian Prieto and last year with Andres Molteni.