RICKY’S PREVIEW AND PREDICTIONS FOR THIS WEEK’S TENNIS TOURNEYS IN RIO DURING MARDI GRAS • DELRAY BEACH, AND MARSEILLE

Written by: on 18th February 2018
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RICKY'S PREVIEW AND PREDICTIONS FOR THIS WEEK'S TENNIS TOURNEYS IN RIO DURING MARDI GRAS • DELRAY BEACH, AND MARSEILLE  |
How great does our stadium look? @jack.sock and @denis.shapovalov get ready to kick off their #DBO2018! – Photo by @delraybeachopen via Instagram.

 

 

By Ricky Dimon

 

This week won’t make the same headlines that those of the previous seven days delivered, as Roger Federer’s return trip to the No. 1 ranking is now complete. Still, another jam-packed trio of February events will offer plenty to appease tennis fans. The South America and Central America swing continues in Rio de Janeiro, where Dominic Thiem and Marin Cilic are among those in action. Juan Martin Del Potro headlines the Delray Beach field, while Stan Wawrinka and Tomas Berdych are on board in Marseille.

 

Rio Open

 

Where: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Surface: Clay

Points: 500

Top seed: Marin Cilic

 

A night to remember! @cilic_marin, @fabiofogna, @marcelomelo83 and @LukaszKubot enjoyed the Champions Parade of Rio Carnival! – Photo by @RioOpenOficial via Twitter.

Cilic may be the No. 1 seed, but Thiem is the clear title favorite—just as he is at any clay-court event that does not include Rafael Nadal. The Austrian kicked off his Golden Swing with a winner’s trophy on Sunday in Buenos Aires, where he did not drop one set the entire way. That is nothing new for Thiem, who went all the way at this Rio de Janeiro tournament last season without surrendering a set or even being extended to a tiebreaker. There is no reason to think anyone in the bottom half of this draw will be able to test him, except maybe Fabio Fognini–if it’s the good Fabio Fognini on that particular day–in the semis. The Italian, however, is opening against Brazil’s own Thomaz Bellucci and could face either Pablo Carreno Busta or Buenos Aires finalist Aljaz Bedene in the quarterfinals.

 

Cilic’s path looks far tougher on paper. The 6’6” Croat likely awaits Gael Monfils in the second round before a possible clash with Diego Schwartzman in the quarterfinals. Schwartzman upset Cilic at the 2017 U.S. Open, and clay obviously gives the diminutive Argentine an even better chance against the world No. 3. A relatively weak second section of the draw should give either Albert Ramos-Vinolas or fellow lefty Guido Pella a prime opportunity to reach the last four.

 

Semifinal picks: Diego Schwartzman over Guido Pella and Dominic Thiem over Fabio Fognini

Final: Thiem over Schwartzman

 

 

Delray Beach Open

 

Where: Delray Beach, Florida

Surface: Hard

Points: 250

Top seed: Jack Sock

 

The 2017 Delray Beach final between Jack Sock and Milos Raonic never happened (Raonic pulled out). This season’s first-rounder between Sock and Raonic also will never happen. They were supposed collide in a blockbuster opener this week, but Nick Kyrgios withdrew on Sunday and the Canadian slid into Kyrgios’ place in the draw as the No. 9 seed. Now Sock is beginning his week against qualifier John-Patrick Smith, while Raonic finds himself in the second section of the bracket with New York champion Kevin Anderson and Americans countrymen Ryan Harrison in round two and John Isner in the last eight

 

The most intriguing section of the draw comes in the bottom half, where the winner of Ivo Karlovic vs. Denis Shapovalov will meet the winner of Adrian Mannarino vs. Jared Donaldson in round two. New York finalist Sam Querrey is also nearby, but there is no rest for the weary because Querrey has to get right back in action against fellow American Taylor Fritz—who has produced plenty of Challenger Tour success already this year. Del Potro, meanwhile, may have to get through big-hitting battles with Jeremy Chardy and Frances Tiafoe before possibly going head-to-head with Australian Open semifinalist Hyeon Chung in the quarters.

 

Semifinal picks: Ryan Harrison over Kevin Anderson and Denis Shapovalov over Hyeon Chung

Final: Shapovalov over Harrison

 

 

Open 13

 

Where: Marseille, France

Surface: Indoor hard

Points: 250

Top seed: Stan Wawrinka

 

Marseille is kicked to the curb this week, relatively speaking, surpassed in prestige certainly by Rio de Janeiro and even by Delray Beach. In 2017, Kyrgios was part of this tournament along with Monfils, Alexander Zverev, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (who won it). Now Kyrgios is hurt (he was going to play in Delray, anyway), Monfils is in Rio, Zverev thinks he is too good for a small 250-point tournament, and even David Goffin—who had been the No. 1 seed—pulled out after suffering a freak eye injury in the Rotterdam semis. Following Goffin’s post-draw pullout, Roberto Bautista Agut moved into the Belgian’s place atop the draw and Karen Khachanov took the Spaniard’s spot as the other seed in the first quarter. Bautista Agut and Khachanov are now on a collision course for the quarters instead of for the second round. Also in the top half of the bracket is Berdych, whose road to the semis looks just about perfect for his liking.

 

Nobody is sitting prettier in a weak bottom half than Lucas Pouille, who already has one title on this indoor hard-court swing (Montpellier). Wawrinka is the other recipient of an opening bye, and by his own admission the Swiss is woefully out of shape as he comes back from a 2017 knee injury. The winner of a first-round date between Gilles Muller and Daniil Medvedev is a more likely semifinal foe for Pouille, whose quarter includes not much more than Gilles Simon, Filip Krajinovic, and Joao Sousa.

 

Semifinal picks: Lucas Pouille over Gilles Muller and Tomas Berdych over Karen Khachanov

Final: Berdych over Pouille

 

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

 

Editors Note: Ryan Harrison’s bad “karma” will catch up with him. He himself said in football he would be fined 15 yards for trash talking and acting like a “clown” in New York. We never cheer against anyone. But in this case Ryan… Tennis was always a Gentleman’s Sport… Just wondering….. Do you see it that way?

 

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