Scouting Report: Djokovic Headlines In Tel Aviv, Ruud In Seoul & Sinner In Sofia
Editor's note: This story has been edited to reflect the withdrawal of Jack Draper from Sofia.
A host of top names head to Seoul, Sofia and Tel Aviv this week on the ATP Tour as a trio of ATP 250 hard-court events host the action from 26 September to 2 October.
World No. 2 Casper Ruud competes at the Eugene Korea Open Tennis Championships in Seoul, where he is looking to back up his run to the US Open final with a strong showing on the outdoor courts in the South Korean capital.
Jannik Sinner and Novak Djokovic head indoors as the top seeds at the Sofia Open and Tel Aviv Watergen Open, respectively. Grigor Dimitrov will also seek to impress his home fans in Sofia, while Marin Cilic and Dominic Thiem join Djokovic in the Tel Aviv draw.
ATPTour.com looks at five things to watch at each event.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN SEOUL
1) Ruud Top Seed: Casper Ruud has achieved many things in 2022, but lifting a tour-level trophy on hard courts is not one of them. The Norwegian’s three titles this season have all come on clay, but the World No. 2 will be feeling confident as he arrives in Seoul. He reached the final of the US Open in New York in his most recent individual tour-level event.
2) Can Norrie, Fritz Boost Turin Hopes?: Second seed Cameron Norrie and third seed Taylor Fritz look to back up their impressive 2022 hard-court form this week in Seoul during an important week for their Nitto ATP Finals qualification hopes.
Norrie won the title in Delray Beach and has also reached finals on hard courts in Acapulco and Los Cabos this year, but he remains outside the qualification spots for the season-ending showpiece. The Briton is 11th in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin, while Indian Wells champion Fritz is in 10th. Can either player make their move this week in South Korea?
3) ATP Tour Returns To Seoul: The ATP Tour returns to the South Korean capital for the first time since 1996 with this week’s outdoor hard-court tournament at the Seoul Olympic Park Tennis Centre. World No. 74 Soonwoo Kwon leads the home charge, with the 24-year-old taking on fellow South Korean Yunseong Chung in his opening match.
4) Tseng Chases Milan Spot: One of the brightest prospects in Asian tennis, #NextGenATP 21-year-old Chun-Hsin Tseng from Chinese Taipei, sits in eighth place in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Milan as he bids to qualify for the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals for the first time. Tseng will hope to bolster his chances with a strong start in Seoul against San Diego semi-finalist Christopher O’Connell.
5) Chung Partners Kwon On Return: This week’s event in Seoul will see the return of a former Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals winner after an extended injury layoff.
Hyeon Chung, champion in Milan in 2017 and a semi-finalist at the 2018 Australian Open, will team with fellow South Korean Kwon on the doubles court in front of their home fans. The former World No. 19 Chung has not played a competitive match since October 2020 due to injury.
FOLLOW THIS WEEK'S ACTION
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN SOFIA
1) Sinner Seeks Sofia Hat-trick: Top seed Sinner arrives in Bulgaria seeking his third straight crown at the ATP 250 indoor hard-court event. Sinner did not drop a set en route to the title last year, and the Italian will hope for a similarly strong set of performances as he looks to make a charge towards the qualification spots for the Nitto ATP Finals. The 21-year-old Sinner, who is 43-13 for the 2022 season, is currently 14th in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin.
2) Dimitrov To Delight Home Fans? Like Sinner, home favourite Dimitrov is yet to experience defeat in Sofia, where he captured the title on his sole appearance in 2017.
The former World No. 3 has struggled for consistency this season since reaching the semi-finals at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters in April, but he has won three of his eight tour-level titles on indoor hard courts, including the 2017 Nitto ATP Finals. Can his passionate home support carry him to further success this week?
3) #NextGenATP Rising: #NextGenATP stars Lorenzo Musetti and Holger Rune are both seeded in Bulgaria, where they can consolidate their respective positions of third and fourth in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Milan with a strong showing. Fourth seed Musetti fell in the first round on his maiden appearance in Sofia in 2021, while fifth seed Rune will be making his tournament debut this week.
4) Carreno Busta Eyes More Hard-Court Success: Second seed Pablo Carreno Busta returns to competitive action for the first time since reaching the fourth round of the US Open. The Spaniard lifted his maiden ATP Masters 1000 trophy on the hard-courts of Montreal in August, and Carreno Busta will hope some big performances in Sofia can keep him in touching distance of Nitto ATP Finals qualification. The 31-year-old is currently 12th in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin.
5) Bolelli/Fognini Top Seeds: Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini headline the doubles draw in the Bulgarian capital, where the 10th-placed pair in the Pepperstone ATP Live Doubles Teams Rankings is chasing its third tour-level title of the season. Second seeds Rafael Matos and David Vega Hernandez have gone one better than that so far in 2022, lifting three ATP Tour trophies since first teaming in April.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN TEL AVIV
1) Djokovic Returns To Action: Novak Djokovic will compete in Israel, where the 88-time tour-level titlist is the top seed. Djokovic is chasing his third tour-level crown of the year following triumphs in Rome and at Wimbledon. His run to his 21st Grand Slam crown in London means the Serbian only needs to finish in the Top 20 of the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin in order to qualify for November’s Nitto ATP Finals. Djokovic currently is in 15th.
2) Schwartzman & Cilic Seek First Title Of Year: Diego Schwartzman and Marin Cilic are both bidding for their first tour-level trophies of 2022 in Tel Aviv. Both stars have delivered high-class performances this season. Schwartzman reached finals on clay in Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro in February while Cilic was a semi-finalist at Roland Garros. Can either player transport that clay-court form to the similarly slow indoor hard courts?
3) Thiem To Take Next Step?: Dominic Thiem has shown flashes of his best form in recent weeks. The Austrian reached the final of an ATP Challenger Tour event in Rennes and notched his 10th tour-level victory of the season against Richard Gasquet in Metz before falling to Hubert Hurkacz.
The 17-time tour-level titlist has struggled to return to winning ways since missing nine months with a wrist injury, but wild card Thiem will hope to add to his recent spate of wins with a fast start in his Tel Aviv campaign.
4) Trip To Tel Aviv: As with Seoul, Tel Aviv hosts an ATP Tour event for the first time since 1996 this week, when the Tel Aviv International Convention Center will host the ATP 250 indoor hard-court event. The Israeli city was the venue of Jimmy Connors' final career singles title in 1989, while Aaron Krickstein still holds the ATP record for the youngest winner of a Tour event with his 1983 Tel Aviv triumph.
5) Krawietz/Mies Chase Turin Spot: Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies head to Tel Aviv in pursuit of their third ATP Tour crown of the 2022 season. The second seeds can boost their Nitto ATP Finals qualification hopes with a good result in Israel. Krawietz and Mies are 11th in the Pepperstone ATP Live Doubles Teams Rankings, but they will face stiff competition from a field that includes top seeds Rohan Bopanna and Matwe Middelkoop, while Djokovic teams with home favourite Jonathan Erlich.