Sunday, February 22, 2015

Argentina Open Preview

While the other tour events this week are 500 level tournaments, the Argentina Open is the lone 250.  Rafael Nadal headlines the field, and is your heavy favorite despite his upset loss to Fabio Fognini last week in Rio de Janeiro

The next highest seed in Nadal's quarter is Pablo Carreno-Busta, and Nadal should coast into the semifinals.  Thomaz Belluci, Federico Delbonis and Carreno-Busta are all talented players, but none have started particularly well to begin 2015.  It's hard to see Nadal even losing a set on his way to the semis.

The next quarter contains Rio finalist Fabio Fognini and the talented Jiri Vesely.  Fognini may be a bit worn down physically and mentally following his dramatic win over Nadal and run to the finals in Rio, so Vesely gets the edge here.  Vesely has cooled down considerably since taking the title in Auckland earlier this year, but he is still a dangerous player who should be able to take advantage of this draw.

In the bottom half, third seeded Pablo Cuevas (is he really 23 in the world?) could face Argentinean Leonardo Mayer in one of the quarterfinals.  Cuevas has already won a 250 level tournament on clay this year in Sao Paulo, and has had lots of success on clay over the last year.  Mayer isn't far behind in the rankings, but Cuevas (who lost to Nadal in three sets last week) should get past the fifth seeded Mayer. 

The bottom quarter is relatively weak, and is led by second seeded Tommy Robredo.  Robredo has only won one match so far this year, and is vulnerable to an upset.  Look for Nicolas Almagro (making a comeback after missing much of 2014) to upset seventh seeded Pablo Andjuar and Robredo on his way to the semis.  Almagro has already beaten Robredo this year, and seems ready to make his move in 2015 after getting a few tournaments under his belt.

In the semifinals Vesely won't have enough to get past Nadal, although he should put up a good fight.  Nadal is beginning to find his form, and his loss to Fognini after playing past 3 in the morning the night before is understandable.  In the other semis, expect Cuevas to get past Almagro for the third time already this year.  Almagro should get better as the year progresses, but doesn't seem quite ready to get past Cuevas at this point in the season.

The finals will be a rematch of last week's Rio de Janeiro quarterfinals between Nadal and Cuevas.  While Nadal prevailed 6-0 in the third, he wasn't far from losing in straights.  However, Nadal should be in better form than he was last week after shaking off some of the rust.  Cuevas plays somewhat like Tommy Robredo, which would be a compliment unless you're facing Rafael Nadal.  Nadal will work over the Cuevas one-handed backhand for a straight set victory, and will be your 2015 Argentina Open champion.

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