ATP Citi Open Preview

by TennisPig on August 3, 2015

The summer hard court season heats up this week in Washington, D.C. for the Citi Open. Andy Murray leads the charge as the top seed, returning to the court for the first time since his Davis Cup heroics earlier in July. Rounding out the top four seeds are Kei Nishikori, Marin Cilic and Richard Gasquet. This will be the first action for them as well since Wimbledon. Nishikori will be looking to prove health above all else after retiring from Wimbledon with a calf injury. Cilic could be primed for a big summer as he works toward defending his U.S. Open title.

ATP Citi Open1Being the top seed in D.C. has not been conducive to winning the Citi Open. Since 2007, only Andy Roddick and Juan Martin Del Potro (2013) have won this tournament as the top seed. A nonseeded player has made the semifinals in D.C. four of the last five years. In 2010, David Nalbandian won the Citi Open as a wild card, while Radek Stepanek won it as a nonseeded player the following year. So, let’s identify those dangerous floaters in the draw without a seed next to their name.

Steve JohnsonSteve Johnson
Johnson hasn’t been consistent in 2015, but he made the quarterfinals as an unseeded player last year in D.C. He took down seeds John Isner and Ivo Karlovic before losing to eventual champion Milos Raonic.

He opens against Lukas Lacko. This will be the third time the two have met in the last month with Johnson winning both previous encounters.

Seeds Bernard Tomic and Grigor Dimitrov would then stand in his way of the third round and quarterfinals. That’s tough, but given that Tomic and Dimitrov aren’t exactly consistent from week to week, stranger things have happened than Johnson making another deep run.

Alexandr Dolgopolov
A one time winner of the Citi Open in 2012, Dolgopolov’s draw is one that could see him roll into the quarterfinals with some momentum. He has Tim Smyczek up first in a winnable match and then it’s 10th seed Ivo Karlovic. A win there and he may see 5th seed Kevin Anderson. Dog is 2-1 against Karlovic and 1-1 against Anderson. As always, Dolgopolov looks boom or bust this week.

Denis KudlaDenis Kudla
Kudla is entered into the Citi Open as a wild card. He made his first ATP level semifinal in Atlanta last week on the heels of a fourth round run at Wimbledon. His part of the draw has Leonardo Mayer seeded 16th and then 2nd seed Kei Nishikori on the bottom. He opens with a very favorable match-up against Blaz Rola before he would meet Mayer. Kudla should have a shot to make the third round where Nishikori likely would be waiting. Nishikori made the quarters here last year.

Since the Citi Open expanded to a field of 48 in 2013, seeds have been prone to upsets early just like most tournaments. Five seeded players have dropped out in their first matches the past two years. Let’s take a look at the ones who could be in line for an early exit this week.

#7 Felciano Lopez
Lopez will be one of the players making the clay to hard court transition this week. Washington has never been that good to Lopez with a 1-3 mark and two losses in a first-up situation. He gets one of two Aussies, either qualifier John Patrick Smith or Lleyton Hewitt. That is a favorable match-up for Lopez, but he’s definitely not immune to an upset in this spot.

#9 Viktor Troicki
Troicki is a tough call this week. He’s certainly coming off a nice stint on grass this summer where he went 10-4. He also has not played the North American hard court swing since 2012. His first match comes against either Sam Groth or Thomaz Bellucci. Groth would seem more likely. Even though his form has been subpar the last few tournaments, his big serve can always cause an upset.

#11 Bernard Tomic
Last year, Tomic played D.C. following his Bogota title and he was done in his second match. He won’t have an easy opener as he will face either Lacko or Johnson. Johnson already owns a win over Tomic this year, beating him in Halle earlier this summer in straight sets. If that is the match, I like Johnson to score the scalp.

Vasek Pospisil#12 Vasek Pospisil
Although he’s just one year removed from being a finalist here, I’m weary of Pospisil this week. He seemed okay with the bone bruise he suffered from at Wimbledon, but the conditions in Atlanta really hurt him. The D.C. forecast is not very forgiving early this week with highs in the 90s and some humidity. His first match will be against Tommy Haas or Donald Young. That will make things a bit easier on Pospisil, but he could still go down early.

#14 Pablo Cuevas
This is an easy one to spot as a potential knockout with Cuevas much more confortable on clay. He hasn’t played in D.C. since 2008 and is just 2-4 on the surface in 2015. He will face either Yen-Hsun Lu or Ricardas Berankis in the 2nd round. Do the math, enjoy the upset.

#16 Leonardo Mayer
The Argentine is 1-3 lifetime at this tournament. Mayer has not played here since 2012. Mayer could meet red hot Denis Kudla in his first match. If that is the match, Mayer may very well be headed out of the tournament.

Quarters Breakdown

1st Quarter: #1 Andy Murray

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Murray played this tournament just once, way back in 2006 where he made the Final. In his return, he has a nice draw. Pablo Cuevas is the seed in his way to the quarterfinals and Cuevas likely will not be in the way at that point. More likely, he will have to get past Berankis or Lu to get a quarterfinal spot. That should allow Murray to conserve some energy for the tail-end of the tournament.

The bottom part of the quarter has much more talent with 8th seeded John Isner and 12th seeded Vasek Pospisl highlighting that part of the draw. Isner shouldn’t be discounted from a run simply because of playing Atlanta this past week. During his two previous wins in Atlanta, he was able to make the D.C. Final back in 2013 and lost in a third set tie break to Steve Johnson last year. A better draw this year with Victor Estrella-Burgos or wild card Nicolas Jarry first-up will help him get off to a good start likely. Pospisil has Haas or Young. If he handles the heat better this week, perhaps he will be in line for another run. I’m not banking on that until he proves it. Isner should have reason to believe he can get to the quarterfinals here.

Second Quarter: #4 Richard Gasquet

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Gasquet has not played in about a month now since his Wimbledon semifinal run, so he should be back to being match fit this week. Gasquet will get Malek Jaziri or Gilles Muller first-up. Muller would be tougher, but he could be gassed after the long week of singles and doubles play in Atlanta. 15th seed Jack Sock is floating around in the other part of the top half of this draw. Sock had a poor showing in Atlanta with early losses in singles and doubles. His effort level was the most troublesome thing. That makes this a key week for him to either bounce back or possibly fall into a slump. He gets Marinko Matosevic or Ruben Bemelmans to open which should allow him a chance for a win. This will be Sock’s best draw in his third trip to D.C., so perhaps he can do some damage.

In the bottom half of the quarter, it’s Grigor Dimitrov as the six seed and Bernard Tomic as the eleventh seed. Dimitrov will be the one to watch as he comes in with a slew of changes in his life since Wimbledon. Dimitrov has dumped both his coach Roger Rasheed and girlfriend Maria Sharapova. Dimitrov is slated to face qualifier Guido Pella or Marcos Baghdatis, although Baghdatis’ includsion in this tournament is in serious question following a leg injury in the Atlanta Final. This part of the quarter could legitimately go to anyone, but I have a feeling that Dimitrov will enjoy the freedom from expectation and his former coach and girlfriend.

Third Quarter: #3 Marin Cilic

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Cilic leads the charge in one half with 13th seeded Sam Querrey as the scheduled roadblock to the quarterfinals. Cilic scored his best result of 2015 with a quarterfinal showing at Wimbledon and he could be ready to roll this summer. I like this draw quite a bit as his first match will be either Dudi Sela or Hyeon Chung. Neither can match his power. Querrey looks like the expected third round opponent as he will face either Go Soeda or qualifier Darian King. It would be disappointing if Cilic did not at least make the quarters.

In the other half, there should be plenty more intrigue and aces with Ivo Karlovic as the 10th seed and Kevin Anderson as the fifth seed. Karlovic could be an early casualty though with Dolgopolov a possible second round opponent. Anderson should fare better with qualifier Yoshihito Nishioka or Alexander Zverev as his first oppponent. Anderson has made three straight quarterfinals in D.C. and seems comfortable here. He has the easier road, but this might be one of those unseeded slots with Dolgopolov getting to the quarters. Don’t be shocked if that happens or if Dolgopolov loses in the first round.

Fourth Quarter: #2 Kei Nishikori

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This hasn’t been Nishikori’s best tournament with a 6-4 record and last year’s quarterfinal as his best result. This year, his draw looks like it sets up nicely for something similar to 2014. He will face either Ryan Harrison or James Duckworth in his opener in the second round. If he survives there, a date with 16th seed Leo Mayer or maybe more likely wildcard Denis Kudla is on tap for the third round. Kudla could be a big time bracket buster again this week, but he’ll need to amp up his game against better quality competition this week.

The top half of this quarter is much more wide open with 7th seed Feliciano Lopez and 9th seed Viktor Troicki. This looks like another part of the draw that could see a nonseed sneak through to the latter stages. Even though he has been below-par since the switch back to hard courts, Sam Groth is a name to watch in this part of the draw. His big serve though will always give him a chance if he can rediscover some consistency with it. Of the two seeds, I think Troicki is the more likely to find his game suited to the surface. If he gets off well, Troicki might be the one to get through this quarter. I just think Nishikori might be a tournament away from really getting his flow going again.

Futures Watch

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Cilic +1000
Dimitrov +2000

I’d probably play it safe and wait a match to see how Dimitrov comes out of the gates before recommending an investment there. I think Cilic at that price looks like a pretty decent investment this week in D.C.

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