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Tennis from 10sBalls • Ricky’s ATP Preview And Picks For 2019: Doha, Brisbane, And Pune

Andy Murray of Great Britain in action during a training session at the Pat Rafter Arena ahead of the Brisbane International in Brisbane, Australia, 30 December 2018. The Brisbane International will run from 30 December 2018 to 06 January 2019. EPA-EFE/GLENN HUNT EDITORIAL USE ONLY AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT
Andy Murray of Great Britain in action during a training session at the Pat Rafter Arena ahead of the Brisbane International in Brisbane, Australia, 30 December 2018. The Brisbane International will run from 30 December 2018 to 06 January 2019. EPA-EFE/GLENN HUNT

 

 

By Ricky Dimon

 

Roger Federer has been amazingly resurgent in recent seasons; Novak Djokovic made an incredible comeback in 2018. Who will it be in this year? We may begin to find out sooner rather than later, as Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, Tomas Berdych, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga are all in action in the first week.

 

Djokovic and Berdych are part of a Doha draw that also features Dominic Thiem and David Goffin. Murray and Tsonga are joined in a loaded Brisbane International draw by Rafael Nadal, Kei Nishikori, Grigor Dimitrov, and Nick Kyrgios. In Pune, 2018 finalists Kevin Anderson and Gilles Simon have returned.

 

Qatar ExxonMobil Open

Where: Doha, Qatar
Prize money: $1,313,215
Top seed: Novak Djokovic
2018 champion: Gael Monfils (not playing)

 

Draw analysis: There’s nothing not to like about Djokovic’s chances in Doha. The world No. 1 dominated the second half of 2018, he is a two-time champion of this event (2016 and 2017), and he is coming off title—albeit an insignificant one—in Abu Dhabi. Moreover, the Doha field is not quite as impressive as usual with Brisbane now sharing a lot of the spoils. Wawrinka, Karen Khachanov, Nikoloz Basilashvili, and Andrey Rublev will be among those challenging Djokovic in the top half of the bracket. But either Wawrinka or Khachanov will be gone right off the bast, as they have to go head-to-head in a blockbuster R1 battle.

 

Thiem, the No. 2 seed, made a decent hard-court run to the Doha semis last season before withdrawing due to illness. The jury is still out on the Austrian’s hard-court form, so the bottom half of this draw is wide open. Fellow seeds Goffin, Marco Cecchinato, and Fernando Verdasco are far from invulnerable, too. Berdych is back to lead an unseeded contention that could do some serious damage, with Philipp Kohlschreiber, Peter Gojowyczk, Adrian Mannarino, and 2018 SF paricipant Guido Pella also in the mix.

 

First-round upset possibility: Matteo Berrettini over (7) Roberto Bautista Agut. Bautista Agut generally starts his years in red-hot form, but he is coming off an injury-plagued 2018 campaign. Berrettini was one of the breakout performers of this past year.

 

Semifinals: Novak Djokovic over Karen Khachanov and Fernando Verdasco over Adrian Mannarino

Final: Djokovic over Verdasco

 

Brisbane International

Where: Brisbane, Australia
Surface: Hard
Prize money: $527,880
Points: 250

Top seed: Rafael Nadal
Defending champion: Nick Kyrgios

 

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France in action during a training session at the Pat Rafter Arena ahead of the Brisbane International in Brisbane, Australia, 30 December 2018. The Brisbane International will run from 30 December 2018 to 06 January 2019.  EPA-EFE/GLENN HUNT

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France in action during a training session at the Pat Rafter Arena ahead of the Brisbane International in Brisbane, Australia, 30 December 2018. The Brisbane International will run from 30 December 2018 to 06 January 2019. EPA-EFE/GLENN HUNT

Draw analysis: How will Nadal rebound from his basically lost second half of 2018? The six-man Abu Dhabi exho did nothing to answer any questions, so the Spaniard’s effort in Brisbane will be the talk of the tour in week one of 2019. Tsonga is a possible opening opponent for Nadal, while the top quarter of the draw also includes up-and-coming Australian and 2018 semifinalist Alex de Minaur. An intriguing second section includes Murray, Milos Raonic, and Daniil Medvedev.

 

A rematch of last year’s final is the bottom-half headliner right off the bat, with Kyrgios facing familiar foe Ryan Harrison in round one. Nishikori, Dimitrov, and Kyle Edmund should also contend for a place in Sunday’s championship match.

 

First-round upset possibility: Yoshihito Nishioka over (6) Grigor Dimitrov. Dimitrov took an alarming step back in 2018, while Nishikioka was in the running for Comeback Player of the Year. There will be a lot of pressure on the Bulgarian right away, as an immediate first-round loss would once again raise some eyebrows.

 

Semifinal picks: Milos Raonic over Alex de Minaur and Kei Nishikori over Nick Kyrgios

Final: Nishikori over Raonic

 

Tata Open

Where: Pune, India
Prize money: $527,880
Top seed: Kevin Anderson
Defending champion: Gilles Simon

 

Draw analysis: Will anyone be able to challenge Anderson in Pune with the rest of the top players in the world having taken their talents to Brisbane and Doha? Wawrinka, Bautista Agut, and Marin Cilic—three long-time participants in India—are absent this time. Hyeon Chung is making an appearance, but his health is always a question mark and as the No. 2 seed he cannot meet Anderson until the title tilt.

 

The sixth-ranked South African, who finished runner-up to Simon last season in Pune, should roll through a soft top quarter of the bracket before possibly running into Simon in the semis—or another Frenchman, Benoit Paire. Chung will likely face a tougher road, as his opener could come against Ernests Gulbis prior to a potential quarterfinal date with Ivo Karlovic.

 

First-round upset possibility: Radu Albot over (7) Jaume Munar. Munar is no slouch on hard courts, but he would rather contest this matchup on clay. The more late-blooming Albot started to make a name for himself in 2017 and 2018. This should be a competitive, hard-fought contest between two grinders.

 

Semifinals: Kevin Anderson over Benoit Paire and Hyeon Chung over Michael Mmoh

Final: Anderson over Chung

 

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

 

Editor’s Note – we are a site for all ages, 10-100. So we will leave “it” alone. But “it” is funny…

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