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Tennis • Ricky’s Preview And Predictions For Events In Montpellier, Sofia, and Quito

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France in action during his third round match against Nick Kyrgios of Australia at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 19 January 2018. EPA-EFE/LUKAS COCH



Ricky’s preview and predictions for this week’s events in Montpellier, Sofia, and Quito


By Ricky Dimon


February is for only diehard tennis fans.


There is nothing (no 500s, no Masters 1000s, and certainly no Grand Slams) to when the appetites of those less appreciative in the tennis world, but there are a whopping 12 events from now through the end of the month. That’s three every single week for those counting. The chaos begins in Montpellier, Sofia, and Quito, with David Goffin, Stan Wawrinka, Pablo Carreno Busta, and Gael Monfils among those in action.


Open Sud de France


Where: Montpellier, France

Surface: Indoor hard

Top seed: David Goffin

2017 champion: Alexander Zverev (not playing)


You will not see any 250-point draws much more lopsided than this one. The first quarter in Montpellier boasts Goffin, David Ferrer, Karen Khachanov, Julien Benneteau, and recent Pune champion Gilles Simon. This may be an especially unfortunate recipe for Goffin, who had to play a live fourth rubber in the first-round Davis Cup tie between Belgium and Hungary on Sunday (defeated Marton Fucsovics in four sets). The seventh-ranked Belgian will likely open against Simon (presumably on Thursday) before possibly meeting Benneteau, who upset him at the Australian Open. Also in the top half of the Montpellier draw are Richard Gasquet and Sydney champ Daniil Medvedev—who will square off against each other in round one.


The other side of the bracket is not entirely without intrigue. Nicolas Mahut and Dustin Brown are going head-to-head in a big-serving opener, while Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Andrey Rublev are on a collision course for the quarters. Benoit Paire and Mischa Zverev will open with a rematch of their 2017 U.S. Open five-setter, with the winner potentially moving on to face second-seeded Lucas Pouille in the quarterfinals.


Semifinal picks: David Goffin over Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga over Benoit Paire

Final: Tsonga over Goffin



Sofia Open


Where: Sofia, Bulgaria

Surface: Indoor hard

Top seed: Stan Wawrinka

2017 champion: Grigor Dimitrov (not playing)


Dimitrov was expected to defend his Sofia title in front of the home fans, but he became a late withdrawal due to a shoulder issue. The 2017 Nitto ATP Finals champion is out; Wawrinka is in. That is far from an even trade these days, and it is one that the rest of the field will certainly take. After all, the 32-year-old Swiss had not played since Wimbledon last summer until he turned up in Melbourne, where he struggled mightily in both a win over Ricardas Berankis and a loss to Tennys Sandgren.


With Wawrinka vulnerable, the top half of the Sofia bracket is wide open for the likes of Viktor Troicki, Philipp Kohlschreiber, and Joao Sousa. Solid on all surfaces, Sousa has captured each of his two career ATP titles on indoor hard courts. A strong crop of veterans will battle it out on the other side of the Sofia bracket, which is home to Gilles Muller, Andreas Seppi, Mikhail Youzhny, Marcos Baghdatis, Robin Haase, and Adrian Mannarino.


Semifinal picks: Joao Sousa over Viktor Troicki and Gilles Muller over Marcos Baghdatis

Final: Muller over Sousa



Ecuador Open


Where: Quito, Ecuador

Surface: Clay

Top seed: Pablo Carreno Busta

Defending champion: Victor Estrella Burgos


The Victor Estrella Burgos Invitational is now in its fourth years of existence. So far, no one else has been invited to lift the trophy. Estrella Burgos owns three career ATP titles and all three have come in Quito—in 2015, 2016, and again in 2017. If ever there was a single-tournament specialist on the ATP Tour, it’s Estrella Burgos at the Ecuador Open—or more like the Ecuardo Closed To Everyone Except Estrella Burgos. Now 37 years old, though, the Dominic Republic’s top player is toiling down at 87th in the rankings so the door may be ajar for someone else to walk through and take the title. Estrella Burgos could face four consecutive lefties prior to the final—Thomaz Bellucci, Gerald Melzer, Albert Ramos-Vinolas, and either Horacio Zeballos or Thiago Monteiro. The newly blond-haired Monfils, however, may have something to say about that in the bottom half.


A softer top side of the draw includes Carreno Busta, who was a disaster the last two months of 2017 after reaching the U.S. Open semis. But Quito’s top seed played well in Melbourne (fourth-round appearance) and picked up a huge doubles victory in Spain’s Davis Cup win over Great Britain. Carreno Busta could be tested by Ivo Karlovic in the Quito quarterfinals and Paolo Lorenzi in the final four.


Semifinal picks: Pablo Carreno Busta over Paolo Lorenzi and Victor Estrella Burgos over Thiago Monteiro

Final: Estrella Burgos over Carreno Busta


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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