Scouting Report: 15 Things To Watch In St. Petersburg, Cologne & Sardinia
Last month the ATP announced the addition of four new ATP 250 events to the 2020 provisional schedule on single-year licenses. Two of those tournaments — the bett1HULKS Indoors and the Forte Village Sardegna Open — will be played this week, as will the St. Petersburg Open, which has been upgraded to an ATP 500 this year.
Alexander Zverev leads the way in Cologne at the first of two back-to-back ATP 250s at the same venue. Casper Ruud will try to finish his 2020 clay campaign on a high note in Sardinia, where he will pursue his second ATP Tour title.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN ST. PETERSBURG
1) Rockin’ Rublev: Andrey Rublev cracks the Top 10 in the FedEx ATP Rankings for the first time on Monday, following an incredible stretch in which he reached quarter-finals at the US Open and Roland Garros, with the biggest title of his career at Hamburg in between. The 22-year-old will try to maintain his momentum in St. Petersburg, where he has not yet advanced past the quarter-finals. Rublev won his first ATP Tour title on home soil last year in Moscow.
2) Medvedev & Khachanov Complete Rising Russian Trio: Three Russians have broken into the Top 10 in the past 16 months: Rublev, Daniil Medvedev and Karen Khachanov. All three Russian stars are in the St. Petersburg draw, with Medvedev leading the way at the ATP 500 as the top seed and defending champion. Medvedev faces a stiff test in the first round against former World No. 7 Richard Gasquet, who beat him 6-0, 6-3 at 2018 Montpellier in their only previous clash. Fourth seed Khachanov opens against Aussie James Duckworth.
Watch Russians Take Over Tennis United:
3) Shapo Shining: Few players have been playing as well as Canadian star Denis Shapovalov, who spent his first week inside the Top 10 after reaching the Internazionali BNL d’Italia semi-finals. The second seed plays Sam Querrey in the first round. Shapovalov won their only previous match 7-5 in third set at the 2018 Miami Open presented by Itau. This is his second appearance in St. Petersburg (2018 QF).
4) Stan’s Push: Fifth seed Stan Wawrinka faces a tricky opening test against Brit Daniel Evans. The former World No. 3 has never lost before the semi-finals in St. Petersburg, making the 2016 final and the last four in 2018. Wawrinka is in Shapovalov’s quarter of the draw.
5) Blockbuster Doubles: Khachanov and Rublev might be top singles players, but they have also excelled on the doubles court by reaching two ATP Masters 1000 finals together. The Russians will try to spoil the hopes of top seeds Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski in the first round. The second seeds are Jurgen Melzer and Edouard Roger-Vasselin. Fourth seeds Max Purcell and Luke Saville reached this year’s Australian Open final.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN COLOGNE
1) Zverev Leads The Way: Top seed Zverev suffered a disappointing exit in the fourth round at Roland Garros against reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion Jannik Sinner. But the home favourite still takes momentum into Cologne following his run to the US Open final. The German has captured two ATP Tour titles on home soil (both in Munich) and earned two runner-up finishes (both in Halle). He will begin his run against former World No. 1 Andy Murray or Fernando Verdasco.
2) Felix Pursuing Title No. 1: #NextGenATP Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime is the highest-ranked player without a tour-level crown. Will he change that this week in Cologne? Auger-Aliassime remains the youngest player in the Top 25 of the FedEx ATP Rankings and he has reached five ATP Tour finals, one of which came in Stuttgart, Germany last year. The 20-year-old will play German Daniel Altmaier or qualifier Henri Laaksonen in the second round.
3) Rock-Solid RBA: Few players on Tour are as consistent as Roberto Bautista Agut, who is trying to win a title for the fifth consecutive year. The Spaniard has happy memories in Germany, winning his second of nine titles in Stuttgart six years ago. He showed good form in the country the week before Roland Garros, making the Hamburg quarter-finals, falling short against eventual champion Andrey Rublev. Bautista Agut will open against Gilles Simon or Marton Fucsovics.
4) Magic For Murray? Former World No. 1 Murray made an emotional breakthrough in Antwerp last year, winning his first title in more than two-and-a-half years. Will he be able to replicate that magic at another indoor tournament in Cologne? The Brit will face a familiar foe in the first round in Verdasco, against whom he was won 13 of 16 ATP Head2Head clashes. However, the Spaniard has won their past two matches. The winner will face Zverev in the second round.
5) Kubot/Melo Lead The Way: Top seeds Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo have played in the Nitto ATP Finals together in each of the past three years, but they are currently not in the qualifying cut. They will try to make a push for London this week in Cologne, where Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, who have won all four Grand Slams together, are the second seeds.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN SARDINIA
1) Casper On Clay: Ruud has been a breakthrough star on clay this season, leading the ATP Tour with 17 tour-level wins on the surface through Roland Garros. The Norwegian claimed his first ATP Tour title in Buenos Aires in February and recently made his first ATP Masters 1000 semi-final in Rome. Will the Next Gen ATP Finals alumnus be able to maintain his clay-court production in Sardinia.
2) Momentum For Musetti: #NextGenATP Italian star Lorenzo Musetti made waves in Rome, where he won three qualifying matches before defeating Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori in the main draw. The 18-year-old followed that up with his first ATP Challenger Tour win in Forli. He will try to once again make his mark at tour-level this week as a wild card. He opens against eighth seed Pablo Cuevas. Another #NextGenATP Italian who received a main draw wild card was Giulio Zeppieri, who took a set off Musetti in the third round of Rome qualifying.
3) Fantastic Fabio: Young Italians have been making waves, from Musetti to Sinner, who reached his first Grand Slam quarter-final at Roland Garros. No. 2 Italian Fabio Fognini will try to gain some momentum of his own in Sardinia as he continues his comeback from arthroscopic surgery on both ankles on 30 May 2020. Fognini has won a title in each of the past four years.
4) Dusan’s Charge: Serbian Dusan Lajovic is at World No. 24, one spot off his career-high FedEx ATP Ranking. The 2019 Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters finalist has proven himself on clay, winning his lone title on the surface in Umag last year. Lajovic, the second seed, will be confident after earning recent Top 20 victories against Milos Raonic in Rome and Karen Khachanov in Hamburg.
5) Doubles In Italy: Top seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah will lead the doubles draw in Sardinia. The Colombians are pursuing their first trophy of the season, and they have momentum after reaching the semi-finals at Roland Garros. The field is tough, with second seeds John Peers and Michael Venus victorious in Dubai and Hamburg this year, their first season as a team.