The Watch List spotlights the must-know storylines for the upcoming week in tennis. This week, the U.S. Open Series kicks off with the return of Mardy Fish in Atlanta, and Roger Federer tries to rebound after a disappointing loss in Hamburg.
BB&T Atlanta Open
John Isner leads a field that includes Kevin Anderson, Lleyton Hewitt and Bogota champion Ivo Karlovic, but it’s Fish’s return that adds intrigue to the first U.S. Open Series men’s event. Fish has played just one ATP Tour-level tournament since withdrawing from the U.S. Open last September due to complications related to a heart arrhythmia that was diagnosed in May 2012. His only ATP event since came at Indian Wells at the beginning of March, where he won one match before losing to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the third round. Now ranked No. 62, Fish is the No. 6 seed in Atlanta, a tournament he won back-to-back in 2010 and 2011, beating Isner in the final both times. He’ll open against Michael Russell and could play Jack Sock in the second round and Ryan Harrison in the third.
Speaking of Harrison, since losing to Isner in the first round of the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships two weeks ago, he’s been in Florida training alongside other USTA charges with Brad Gilbert. Now ranked No. 132, Harrison has just 75 points to defend from now until the end of the season. The draw-cursed 21-year-old actually has a workable one this week. He opens against Marinko Matosevic and then No. 4 seed Igor Sijsling.
Credit Agricole Suisse Open
Federer was not 100 percent in Hamburg, where he lost in the semifinals to 114th-ranked Federico Delbonis. While everyone was understandably talking about his new racket, it was Federer’s back that was a concern. He played with tape on his back in his semifinal and referenced some off-court struggles that had nothing to do with his racket change.
“I don’t think it had much to do with the racket today,” Federer said after the loss. “I tried everything I could at this tournament. It’s been a difficult week throughout. But I’m happy I fought through many matches. It gives me the matches I was looking for.”
Bad back or not, he’s sticking with his reshuffled schedule and heading the field in Gstaad, Switzerland, an ATP 250 event on clay. Stanislas Wawrinka, Janko Tipsarevic and Juan Monaco round out the top four seeds. In an amusing twist, the two men ranked outside of the top 100 who handed Federer his last two losses, Delbonis and Sergiy Stakhovsky, are on the other half of the draw.
Bank of the West Classic
The first women’s U.S. Open Series event has been decimated by withdrawals. Maria Sharapova, Marion Bartoli and Sabine Lisicki all pulled out, citing injuries they sustained at Wimbledon, leaving the top four seeds as Agnieszka Radwanska, Sam Stosur, Dominika Cibulkova and Jamie Hampton. The weakened draw means it’s a great opportunity to grab some points at this Premier-level event, which features a strong field of young Americans. In addition to Hampton, Madison Keys, Christina McHale, Varvara Lepchenko and Mallory Burdette are also in the main draw.
Vegeta Croatia Open Umag
What do you say, Fabio Fognini? Can you make it three in a row? The Italian has won back-to-back events, in Stuttgart and Hamburg. He’s the No. 3 seed in Umag, behind Richard Gasquet and Andreas Seppi, and he finds himself on the dangerous side of an unbalanced draw. A semifinal against Gasquet looms. Fognini won their only match this year, in Monte Carlo.
It’s a soft field at this International-level hard-court tournament in Baku, Azerbaijan, but the one to watch is Donna Vekic. The 17-year-old, who has already made two WTA finals, including just last month on grass in Birmingham, England, has a great chance to grab her first title this week. She’s the No. 2 seed in a draw topped by No. 38 Bojana Jovanovski.