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Tennis • 10sBalls • The 2018 Season Is Here! Ricky Previews The Week 1 Action From – Brisbane, Doha, And Pune

Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria during a training session at Pat Rafter Arena in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, 29 December 2017. The Brisbane International tennis tournament will run from 31 December 2017 to 07 January 2018. EPA-EFE/DARREN ENGLAND

 

 

The 2018 season is here! Ricky previews the Week 1 action in Brisbane, Doha, and Pune

 

By Ricky Dimon

 

The 2018 ATP season has arrived, figuratively not a moment too soon for almost everyone other than Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer—who monopolized this past year’s four Grand Slams with two titles apiece. Literally, though, it has arrived too soon. Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Kei Nishikori, and Stan Wawrinka are still injured, while Andy Murray is less than 100 percent even though he is playing in Brisbane.

 

Despite so many lingering injury issues involving top players, Week 1 of the upcoming campaign features plenty of intrigue. Murray is joined in the Brisbane field by recent Nitto ATP Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov, Milos Raonic, and Nick Kyrgios. Dominic Thiem is the top seed in Doha ahead of U.S. Open semifinalist Pablo Carreno Busta and Tomas Berdych. Mainstays of India’s lone ATP event (formerly in Chennai, now in Pune) are back–among them Marin Cilic, Roberto Bautista Agut, and Benoit Paire.

 

Brisbane International

With various players dropping like flies all around him during the second half of 2017, Dimitrov won his first Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati and also triumphed at the O2 Arena. The story could be a similar one at the start of this season, with Dimitrov seeded first in Brisbane thanks to Nadal’s withdrawal. Nishikori is also sidelined, so the Bulgarian will have every opportunity to defend his title. That being said, Dimitrov’s draw is not an easy one. He could face either Denis Shapovalov or Kyle Edmund in the quarterfinals before a potential showdown with Nick Kyrgios in the semifinals.

 

Question marks abound in the bottom half of the draw, where both Murray and Raonic reside. Neither one is expected to be 100 percent for this tournament, in which case a confident Damir Dzumhur may make some noise. Dzumhur earned the first two ATP titles of his career last fall in St. Petersburg and Moscow. Mischa Zverev, Jared Donaldson, and Ryan Harrison could also be factors on this side of the bracket.

 

Semifinal predictions: Grigor Dimitrov over Nick Kyrgios and Damir Dzumhur over Steve Johnson

Final: Dimitrov over Dzumhur

 

Qatar ExxonMobil Open

With Murray moving over to Brisbane (he finished runner-up in Doha in 2017) and both Djokovic and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on the sideline, this does not boast the same quality of recent Doha fields. Thiem, Carreno Busta, Berdych, and Albert Ramos-Vinolas are the top four seeds but do not have first-round byes (as is the case in Brisbane and Pune, where there are draws of 28 instead of 32). That could be especially bad news for Thiem, because will open with the dangerous Evgeny Donskoy—one of just five players to beat Federer in 2017. Richard Gasquet is a potential quarterfinal adversary for Thiem, while Berdych could run into Gael Monfils during second-round action.

 

In the bottom half of the draw, Carreno Busta may have a difficult opener on his hands in the form of Borna Coric. U.S. Open quarterfinalist Andrey Rublev, the top-ranked unseeded player at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open, will get things started against Cedrik-Marcel Stebe prior to a possible meeting with Fernando Verdasco.

 

Semifinals: Tomas Berdych over Dominic Thiem and Borna Coric over Feliciano Lopez

Final: Berdych over Coric

 

Tata Open

This event has moved from Chennai to Pune, but that did nothing to deter the two-time champion Cilic. He is once again beginning another season in India, where he lifted trophies in 2009 and 2010. Cilic’s 2017 season was highlighted by a run to the Wimbledon final, which propelled him to a berth in London’s year-end championship. The Croat’s Pune draw is a good one through two matches, but a possible semifinal battle with Bautista Agut—the defending champion—could be difficult.

 

The bottom half of the draw is arguably weaker, thus giving Anderson—the recent Abu Dhabi champion—a prime opportunity to begin 2018 with nothing less than a final appearance. The 6’8’’ South African is on course to face either Paire or Robin Haase in the semifinals.

 

Semifinals: Roberto Bautista Agut over Marin Cilic and Kevin Anderson over Robin Haase

Final: Bautista Agut over Anderson • ?????????

 

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

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