TENNIS analyst Gavin Mair (@gavinnightmair) made a winning start to his WLB career. Gavin's back to look at this week's Rotterdam Open.
ATP Rotterdam | 13th-19th February 2017
Last week my ATP selections were thwarted by Victor Estrella-Burgos. The man from the Dominican Republic remains undefeated in Quito as he impressively overcame a bundle of difficult match-ups.
Estrella-Burgos survived a clay court record of 39 Ivo Karlovic Aces. He then defeated Thomaz Bellucci for the third year running, driving the big-hitting Brazilian crazy with a stronger mental game.
In the final Estrella-Burgos fought back from a set and a break down, even fending off a championship point to dispatch Paolo Lorenzi – who had a better win rate at altitude than the eventual champion, as well as a winning head-to-head record.
These things happen in tennis, but there is opportunity to return to form this week in Rotterdam – an event I will personally be attending this Friday and Saturday.
This is the first ATP 500 level tournament of the year and takes place on indoor court conditions reminiscent to Sofia the week previously – won by the ATP tour’s form player Grigor Dimitrov.
Last year’s Rotterdam event was meant to include Roger Federer, Richard Gasquet and Nick Kyrgios but all withdrew prior to the off. The 2017 event has suffered a similar fate as poster boys Rafael Nadal and Stan Wawrinka announced their non-attendance moments after tickets for the final sold out.
As always I take a look at the draw quarter-by-quarter, using a data-driven approach to inform my opinions.
The badly out of form Marin Cilic lines up as the number one seed. The Croatian, one of the best indoor players in the planet, has revealed a physical and mental hangover from the Davis Cup final at the end of last season.
Cilic looked to be leading his nation to victory, before an inspired Juan Martin del Potro comeback swung the tie in the favour of Argentina. It is interesting to note that this battle took a fair amount out of Del Po and he has not been seen on tour so far this season.
Cilic has a hit and miss record in Rotterdam, losing at the quarter-final stage last season to Gilles Muller (also in this quarter) but reaching the final in 2014. My statistical model has pointed to Cilic picking up some form this week, but it is hard to trust him given his recent disappointments.
Elsewhere, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gilles Muller look the players most likely to stand in the way of Cilic. Tsonga has never played well in Rotterdam and he underperformed relative to his seeding in Montpellier.
Muller has looked in fine fettle this season and lives for the indoor tournaments, before usually hibernating until grass courts are on the schedule.
Muller has a punchers chance to make it through his quarter, especially if Cilic continues his slump.
The second quarter features two former champions in the form of 2014 winner Tomas Berdych, and 2016’s surprise titlist Martin Klizan.
The Slovakian is capable of streaks where he is unplayable, and although his form slightly upturned in Sofia, it would be a major surprise if he backs up last year’s victory.
Berdych looks to be a player in decline. He retains a high ranking but his statistical averages are showing decline from their previous levels. The Czech played on Monday evening and required treatment for a left leg injury during that match. That alone would put me off his chances this week.
Richard Gasquet often struggles in Rotterdam week, which comes hot off the heels of Montpellier where he has routine success (again reaching the final last week). His record in the weeks that follow a deep run is very weak, and when you factor in his visit to Japan for Davis Cup the weekend beforehand then it seems he is another to avoid.
The other seeded player in this quarter is Lucas Pouille, who has had an injury hit start to the 2017 season. The Frenchman scored an indoor title victory last season and had he built up a head of steam then I would consider him more seriously. As it is he another with more questions than answers.
Philipp Kohlschreiber has a nice record at this venue as his final result has exceeded his seeding on two of his past three visits. His potential match-up with Klizan could decide the quarter.
Berdych has the strongest hand, but if he isn’t fit Klizan can exploit weak opposition.
Grigor Dimitrov arrives in the Netherlands with an unparalleled W14-L1 record in 2017, having lifted two titles already and only losing narrowly in a five set thriller at the Australian Open against Rafael Nadal.
The fast start to the season has to slow down eventually as such sustained performance is not a trademark of Dimitrov. In his past two Rotterdam visits he has fallen early and his first round opponent Mischa Zverev is capable of taking advantage of a vulnerable top player.
One player who will certainly be hoping for a Dimitrov slump is the other seed in the third quarter David Goffin. The Belgian not only lost to the Bulgarian in Sunday’s Sofia final but also has a terrible head-to-head record against him.
Furthermore, it is rather peculiar that Goffin has yet to manage a win at this event. I think this is an anomaly as there is no good reason that he can’t perform well on the regulation Rotterdam courts.
If Dimitrov slumps, consistent Goffin the man to take advantage.
Another of last week’s champions Alexander Zverev lines up in the fourth quarter. Facing him in the first round is the second seeded Dominic Thiem.
It is well documented that the coach of Thiem has a masterplan to immerse his prodigy in an uncomfortable schedule to best prepare him for long term challenges, hence why Thiem – who had a dominant spell on the South American clay courts last season – is trying his hand on the European indoor courts.
The younger Zverev may have had a heavy couple of weeks, combining his Montpellier singles victory with a doubles title alongside brother Mischa. Based on his previous record I don’t expect that Alex will drop his form off so quickly.
Last year he followed up a semi final in Montpellier with a quarter final here. My model actually indicates that Zverev hasn’t reached peak form yet on the indoor courts this season – which with a title already in the bag must be a worry to the other players in the field.
A second round encounter with Gilles Simon lies on the horizon, provided the Frenchman gets by his compatriot and last year’s semi-finalist Nicolas Mahut.
Simon has a decent record in Rotterdam reaching the semi final in two of the last four years. Last year the pair met in the second round with Zverev edging it in a 3rd set tiebreak.
The winner of Simon-Zverev will have a good run to at least the semi-final.
Siding with Zverev to continue good form.
ATP Rotterdam – Alexander Zverev to win outright (12/1 Ladbrokes)