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Ricky’s preview and picks for this week’s ATP events in Doha, Marseille, Rio de Janeiro, and Delray Beach

Roberto Bautista Agut will be a force in Doha. EPA-EFE/JASON O’BRIEN

By Ricky Dimon

If you prioritize quantity over quality, the February swing on the ATP Tour is for you. Actually, the quality isn’t bad—but it’s the sheer volume of tournaments that defines the month. This particular week is the biggest of all, with four events on the schedule: Doha, Marseille, Rio de Janeiro, and Delray Beach. Half of the top 10 is in action: Stefanos Tsitsipas, Matteo Berrettini, Andrey Rublev, Casper Ruud, and Felix Auger-Aliassime.

Qatar ExxonMobil Open

Where: Doha, Qatar
Surface: Hard
Points: 250

Top seed: Denis Shapovalov
Defending champion: Nikoloz Basilashvili

Doha used to be a season-opening event, but that all changed when the Covid-19 pandemic started rearranging tennis schedules in 2020. Now this tournament gets a little bit lost in the February shuffle, and a much weaker field than usual is a result. Denis Shapovalov is the top seed at No. 12 in the world and even Marin Cilic has a first-round bye even though he is outside the top 20. Speaking of Cilic, a bye is the only good thing about his draw. The 33-year-old Croat has to go up against Botic Van de Zandschulp in round two and possible quarterfinal foes include Karen Khachanov and Emil Ruusuvuori. Roberto Bautista Agut, Dan Evans, and Andy Murray are also part of a loaded bottom half.

Shapovalov’s side of the bracket is friendlier. The Canadian is not in great form, though, so the door could be open for Nikoloz Basilashvili, Alexander Bublik, Lloyd Harris, Soonwoo Kwon, Arthur Rinderknech, or Lorenzo Musetti. Bublik recently secured his first ATP title in Montpellier, while Musetti picked up some much-needed momentum by reaching last week’s Rotterdam quarterfinals.

Quarterfinal picks: Arthur Rinderknech over Denis Shapovalov, Soonwoo Kwon over Lorenzo Musetti, Botic Van de Zandschulp over Emil Ruusuvuori, and Roberto Bautista Agut over Dan Evans

Semifinals: Kwon over Rinderknech and Bautista Agut over Van de Zandschulp

Final: Bautista Agut over Kwon

Rotterdam champion Felix Auger Aliassime plays for a second straight title in Marseille. EPA-EFE/MICK TSIKAS AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT

Open 13

Where: Marseille, France
Surface: Indoor hard
Points: 250

Top seed: Stefanos Tsitsipas
2021 champion: Daniil Medvedev (not playing)

Auger-Aliassime finally won his first ATP title on Sunday. After being 0-8 lifetime in ATP finals, the Canadian took down Rublev in the Rotterdam semis and Tsitsipas in the championship match. His path to the Marseille final could be reversed. He is on a collision course with Tsitsipas for the semis, while Rublev is on the other side of the draw this time around. Auger-Aliassime should not have any trouble in his first two rounds, and the same can be said for Tsitsipas.

Rublev’s road may be a bit more difficult. The second-seeded Russian awaits either Mikael Ymer or Richard Gasquet in round two before possibly running into an in-form Tallon Griekspoor in the quarterfinals. Aslan Karatsev is a potential semifinal opponent for Rublev in what would be an intriguing all-Russian showdown.

Quarterfinal picks: Stefanos Tsitsipas over Alexei Popyrin, Felix Auger-Aliassime over Ilya Ivashka, Aslan Karatsev over Kamil Majchrzak, and Andrey Rublev over Tallon Griekspoor

Semifinals: Auger-Aliassime over Tsitsipas and Rublev over Karatsev

Final: Auger-Aliassime over Rublev

Spanish phenom Carlos Alcaraz fires up. EPA-EFE/JASON O’BRIEN

Rio Open

Where: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Surface: Clay
: 500

Top seed: Matteo Berrettini
Defending champion: Cristian Garin

Just like Auger-Aliassime vs. Tsitsipas in Marseille, there could also be a semifinal rematch in Rio. Ruud overcame Diego Schwartzman in three sets for the Buenos Aires title this past weekend and they are on the same side of the Rio draw. It won’t be a cakewalk to get there, however, as Schwartzman is on course to meet Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the last eight and Ruud’s section includes Lorenzo Sonego, Laslo Djere, and Miomir Kecmanovic.

Berrettini is making a rare appearance on the Golden Swing and he is being greeted with a rough draw. The Italian will kick off his campaign against either Sebastian Baez or Brazil’s own Thiago Monteiro, while Carlos Alcaraz also finds himself in the top quarter. Berrettini needed five sets to get past Alcaraz at the Australian Open. Meanwhile, defending champion Cristian Garin is in a relatively open section that also features veterans Pablo Carreno Busta, Fabio Fognini, and Fernando Verdasco.

Quarterfinal picks: Carlos Alcaraz over Matteo Berrettini, Pablo Carreno Busta over Cristian Garin, Diego Schwartzman over Albert Ramos-Vinolas, and Casper Ruud over Miomir Kecmanovic

Semifinals: Alcaraz over Carreno Busta and Ruud over Schwartzman

Final: Ruud over Alcaraz

Sebastian Korda can go deep in Delray Beach. EPA-EFE/NEIL HALL EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Delray Beach Open

Where: Delray Beach, Florida
Surface: Hard
: 250

Top seed: Cameron Norrie
2021 champion: Hubert Hurkacz (not playing)

As always, Delray Beach has a distinct American flavor. Exactly half of the 28 players in the field hail from the host nation, including first-round bye recipients Reilly Opelka and Tommy Paul. Opelka, who lives in Delray, is coming off a title in Dallas on Sunday. The 6’11’’ American won his hometown tournament in 2020, so that should give him even more confidence heading into this week. All three of Opelka’s ATP titles have come at 250s in the United States. Jack Sock in the second round and Brandon Nakashima in the quarters may not be easy for Opelka, however.

On the other side of the bracket, Sebastian Korda hopes to go one step further than he did last year in Delray Beach. Adelaide champion Thanasi Kokkinakis is a tough first-round opponent for Korda in a section that is also home to No. 1 seed Cameron Norrie. With Norrie struggling so far to build on his breakthrough 2021 campaign, Dallas runner-up Jenson Brooksby may be favored to reach another final.

Quarterfinal picks: Sebastian Korda over Cameron Norrie, Jenson Brooksby over Tommy Paul, Maxime Cressy over Grigor Dimitrov, and Reilly Opelka over Brandon Nakashima

Semifinals: Korda over Brooksby and Opelka over Cressy

Final: Korda over Opelka

Ricky contributes to10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.