Scouting Report: Top Stars Descend On Rio, Delray Beach And Marseille
The frenetic month of February continues with another trio of tournaments. The second ATP World Tour 500 event of the year takes place at the Rio Open presented by Claro, while the Open 13 Provence returns to Marseille and the Delray Beach Open celebrates its 26th edition.
10 THINGS TO WATCH IN RIO DE JANEIRO
(1) What A Week: Twenty-two of the Top 32 players on the ATP World Tour will compete this week in Rio de Janeiro, Delray Beach or Marseille. Leading the way at the Rio Open presented by Claro are defending champion Dominic Thiem and Australian Open and Wimbledon finalist Marin Cilic.
(2) No. 3 And Rising: Only Roger Federer stopped Cilic from claiming two of the past three Grand Slam titles. Despite falling to Federer in the Australian Open and Wimbledon finals, the Croat is at a career-high No. 3 ATP Ranking entering the Rio Open. Cilic will make his tournament debut as the No. 1 seed. The 29-year-old is seeking an ATP World Tour championship for the 11th straight season.
(3) Feet Of Clay: Thiem swept all 10 sets he played at the 2017 Rio Open en route to the second ATP World Tour 500 title of his career. He went 24-5 on clay and 25-22 on other surfaces last season. The World No. 6 is one of two men to beat the Big Four of Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray on clay courts. Three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka is the other.
(4) Spanish Armada: Thiem defeated Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the 2017 Rio Open semi-finals and Pablo Carreno Busta in the final. The Spaniards return this week as the No. 4 and No. 3 seeds respectively. Ramos-Vinolas began the ATP’s Golden Swing by advancing to the Quito final.
(5) Fognini Returns: Like Ramos-Vinolas and Carreno Busta, Fabio Fognini will have appeared at all five editions of the Rio Open. The Italian upset Nadal to reach the 2015 final, which he lost to another Spaniard David Ferrer. Fognini has played in at least two finals each season since 2012.
(6) Schwartzman’s Surge: South America produced one of the ATP World Tour’s most improved players of 2017 in Diego Schwartzman. The 5’7” Argentine earned a new career-high ranking nine times, reached 11 quarter-finals or better, and enjoyed a career-best 39 wins last season.
(7) Melbourne Magic: Australian Open quarter-finalist Tennys Sandgren will make his Rio Open debut after defeating Wawrinka and Thiem in Melbourne as the World No. 97. Sandgren became the lowest-ranked Australian Open quarter-finalist since then-No. 105 Mikael Tillstrom in 1996.
(8) Two-Time Champion: Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay upset Nadal en route to the 2016 Rio Open singles title, then teamed with Carreno Busta to capture the 2017 Rio Open doubles title. Cuevas will defend his doubles crown with Carreno Busta and seek his seventh ATP singles title this week.
(9) Wild Cards: Brazilians Thomaz Bellucci and Thiago Monteiro received wild cards along with #NextGenATP player Casper Ruud of Norway. At the 2017 Rio Open, Ruud earned the first three victories of his career before squandering a match point against Carreno Busta in the semi-finals.
(10) Homegrown Hopes: Marcelo Melo of Brazil and co-World No. 1 Lukasz Kubot of Poland headline the doubles field. They are joined in the draw by Bruno Soares of Brazil and Jamie Murray of Great Britain. A Brazilian has never won the singles or doubles title at the Rio Open.
(2) Title Town: Sock’s run to the 2017 Delray Beach Open title was 12 years in the making. Playing at the same venue as a junior, Sock swept singles and doubles titles at the 2005 USTA Boys’ 12s National Spring Championships and the 2009 USTA Boys’ 18s National Clay Court Championships. Then, he won his first ATP title in doubles alongside James Blake at the 2013 Delray Beach Open.
(3) Anderson Eyes Back-To-Back Titles: On Sunday, Anderson lifted his fourth ATP World Tour trophy at the inaugural New York Open, defeating Querrey in a thrilling encounter that was decided in a third-set tie-break. Now, the big-hitting South African is eyeing his second triumph in as many weeks. Seeded third, he opens against Evgeny Donskoy.
(4) Snowbirds United: Raonic and 18-year-old countryman Denis Shapovalov open their campaigns on Tuesday on Canada Day in Delray Beach. Shapovalov burst onto the scene at Montreal last August by becoming the youngest ATP Masters 1000 semi-finalist in the 28-year history of the series.
(5) Delpo In Delray: Returning to Delray Beach is Del Potro, who won his first eight matches and 16 sets at the event before semi-final losses in 2016 and 2017. The Argentine was No.1,042 in the ATP Rankings at the 2016 Delray Beach Open, following his fourth wrist surgery. He rose 1,000 spots to No. 42 ahead of the 2017 Delray Beach Open. Del Potro broke back into the Top 10 on 15 January 2018.
(6) Homecoming Kev: Anderson returns to Delray Beach for a ninth straight year. The Palm Beach County resident won the 2012 title and reached the 2014 final, but he has lost his past three matches in Delray. Anderson defeated Querrey en route to his first Grand Slam final at the 2017 US Open.
(7) Norrie Lucky Loser: When Australian No. 1 Nick Kyrgios was forced to withdraw with an elbow injury ahead of the tournament, lucky loser Cameron Norrie was awarded a lucky loser entry into the main draw. The Brit is making his ATP World Tour hard-court debut after an electric 2017 campaign that saw him win three ATP Challenger Tour titles and rise to a career-high of No. 110 in the ATP Rankings. He could crack the Top 100 with a strong showing in Delray Beach.
(8) No Qualifying Needed: Also making his main draw debut in Delray Beach is 21-year-old Hyeon Chung, who lost in qualifying one year ago. After ending 2017 as the Next Gen ATP Finals champion, Chung defeated Djokovic en route to the Australian Open semi-finals last month.
(9) Red, White And Blue: All Top 5 and nine of the Top 10 Americans are in the Delray Beach draw, including #NextGenATP players Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe. Also in the field are three-time semi-finalist John Isner and 2015 finalist Donald Young, who have combined for one win in 2018.
(10) Bros Are Back: Four-time doubles champions and six-time finalists Bob and Mike Bryan will make their 11th appearance at the Delray Beach Open. Despite winning two of their record 114 titles in 2017, the American twins finished a season outside of the Top 10 for the first time since 2001.
(2) Goffin The Great: Goffin ended the 2017 season as one of the hottest players on the ATP World Tour. He won 25 of his last 33 matches with back-to-back titles at Shenzhen and Tokyo, then victories over Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer at the Nitto ATP Finals. Goffin became the first Belgian to break into the Top 10, qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals and defeat a World No. 1 player.
(3) Wawrinka’s Recovery: After undergoing two left knee surgeries in August, Wawrinka returned last month at the Australian Open with a first-round win over Ricardas Berankis. Following a semi-final run at Sofia and an opening-round loss at Rotterdam, Wawrinka enters Marseille at 3-3 on the year. The Swiss is also 3-3 lifetime at the Open 13 Provence, never advancing past the quarter-finals.
(4) Best Of France: Since their meeting in the 2017 Marseille final, Pouille has passed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the ATP Rankings and emerged as the No. 1 Frenchman. Pouille defeated Tsonga, Benoit Paire and Richard Gasquet en route to the Montpellier championship two weeks ago.
(5) The Champs Are Here: Joining Pouille this week are Davis Cup teammates Julien Benneteau, Pierre-Hugues Herbert, Nicolas Mahut and Gilles Simon. After capturing his first ATP title at 2007 Marseille, Simon won the event again in 2015. He is making his 12th Marseille appearance.
(6) Czech Is Balanced: Few players on the ATP World Tour are as consistent as 2013 Marseille finalist Tomas Berdych. Last month, the Czech reached the Australian Open quarter-finals for the seventh time in eight years. He has been ranked in the Top 20 each week since 15 March 2010.
(7) Much Improved: Bosnian Damir Dzumhur is seeded following a sensational 2017 season. Dzumhur ended the year on a 24-7 run, highlighted by his first two ATP World Tour titles at St. Petersburg and Moscow. He upset then-No. 3 Wawrinka at Dubai for the biggest win of his career.
(8) Fond Memories: Filip Krajinovic returns to France this week for the first time since his run to the ATP Masters 1000 Paris final last fall. Ranked 77th at the time, the Serbian qualified and became the lowest-ranked ATP Masters 1000 finalist since then-No. 98 Mardy Fish at 2008 Indian Wells.
(9) Born In 2000: Seventeen-year-olds Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada and Hugo Gaston of France received wild cards. Auger-Aliassime made his ATP World Tour debut last week at Rotterdam, while Gaston debuts this week after capturing the Australian Open junior doubles title.
(10) Familiar Face: Two-time doubles champion Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France returns to Marseille alongside Rohan Bopanna of India. Roger-Vasselin won the Open 13 Provence title in 2012 with Mahut and in 2014 with Benneteau. He has not played doubles at Marseille since then.