After two weeks of seeing packed fields all over Europe in Monte Carlo, Barcelona, and Stuttgart, the diasporic tendencies of the tours return this week, as we see some of the top men in action, though unfortunately, not necessarily at the same tournaments.
BMW Open: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Feliciano Lopez lead the German-afied field in Munich. A glance at the draw and you see a heck of a lot of black, yellow and red. There are eight Germans in the field, an impressive number considering I’d have trouble naming eight German players — male or female — off the top of my head. Marin Cilic and Bernard Tomic are also in action, with Tomic still trying to figure out how to use his varietal game on clay. The young Aussie has yet to win back-to-back main draw matches on clay in his career.
Potential early round matches to watch: Tommy Haas vs. Michael Berrer (first round), Ernests Gulbis vs. Xavier Malisse (first round), Lopez vs. Tomic (third round), Mikhail Youzhny vs. Marin Cilic (third round), Marcos Baghdatis vs. Tsonga (third round).
My pick: Lopez def. Tsonga
Estoril: Juan Martin del Potro skipped Monte Carlo after helping Argentina clinch a spot in the Davis Cup semifinals and will play his first Tour-level clay matches of the season in Estoril, where he’s the defending champion (though he was 2-0 on clay in that Davis Cup tie, beating Cilic and Ivo Karlovic). He’s joined by Richard Gasquet and Stanislas Wawrinka in a men’s draw that shouldn’t present too many problems for the Argentine until a potential semifinal matchup against Wawrinka.
As for the women, Roberta Vinci and Maria Kirilenko top an unpredictable field that includes clay stalwart Anabel Medina Garrigues, Nadia Petrova, Jarmila Gajdosova and Kaia Kanepi. Vania King and Sloane Stephens are also in the draw, with the latter gaining entry as a lucky loser after losing to Heather Watson in qualifying.
Potential early round matches to watch: ATP – Wawrinka vs. Robin Haase (third round), Del Potro vs. Albert Montanes (third round); WTA – Stephens vs. Kanepi (first round), Jie Zheng vs. Ekaterina Makarova (first round), Petrova vs. Gajdosova (second round), Polona Hercog vs. Carla Suarez Navarro (second round), King vs. Kanepi/Stephens (second round), Kirilenko vs. Zheng/Makarova (third round).
My men’s pick: Del Potro def. Ramos
My women’s pick: Petrova def. Medina Garrigues.
Belgrade: It’s a real shame that the Serbian Open hasn’t received the support of its famed Serbian players this year. Without Novak Djokovic, Janko Tipsarevic, Viktor Troicki, or even Nenad Zimonjic, the tournament isn’t the showcase of Serbian talent it has been in the past. The tournament needed to issue two wild cards to Marko Djokovic and Dusan Lajovic just to get any Serbs into the main draw (Djokovic lost on Monday), which failed to attract any players inside the top 35. As it is, the No. 38-ranked Casablanca champion Pablo Andujar leads the field, which does include a few notable names, including David Nalbandian and Ryan Harrison, who could meet in the third round. Tough draw for Harrison, who would have had a good shot at the title if not for the savvy Nalbandian lurking in his section.
Potential early round matches to watch: Fognini vs. Paire (first round), Nalbandian vs. Harrison (third round).
My pick: Nalbandian def. Andujar.
Budapest: Sara Errani goes for her third clay title of the year in Budapest and she’s clearly the one to beat after bagging titles in Acapulco and Barcelona. The Italian is having a banner year. She leads the tour in clay court wins in 2012, compiling an 11-1 record, and she’s No. 4 in match wins on the year, with a 22-8 record. A title in Budapest and she’d be second behind Victoria Azarenka for number of titles in 2012.
Potential early round matches to watch: Ksenia Pervak vs. Elena Vesnina (second round), Petra Martic vs. Timea Babos (second round).
My pick: Errani def. Vesnina.