Monday, April 27, 2015

Istanbul Open Preview

The TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Open (which really needs a simpler name) got a major boost by the addition of Roger Federer to their draw, and the Swiss legend is the heavy favorite to take home the title.  Federer doesn't play very many 250 level tournaments these days, though he's been known to play smaller tournaments for some hefty appearance fees.  It must be nice for him to play a clay court tournament without having Nadal or Djokovic to deal with, and a title in Istanbul would further boost Federer's confidence heading into the heart of the clay court season.  Other than Federer and second seeded Grigor Dimitrov, the draw is relatively lacking in terms of star power. 

Federer couldn't have asked for an easier half, as the other seeds are Mikhail Kukushkin, the struggling Santiago Giraldo and Diego Schwartzman (3-10 on the ATP Tour this year).  Other than Federer the next most intriguing player in the top half is 17 year old Andrey Rublev, who just cracked the top 300 in the world.  Rublev could give Giraldo trouble if he wins his first match, but expect Giraldo to have the honor of going down to Federer in the semifinals.

As a whole the bottom half is deeper, but Dimitrov is clearly the favorite to advance to the finals.  Thomaz Belluci already knocked out 7th seeded Mikhail Youhzny, and could face 3rd seeded Pablo Cuevas who he beat in Miami in the quarterfinals.  Cuevas should reach the semis, but he hasn't been particularly impressive in 2015 and an upset wouldn't be particularly surprising.  At the bottom of the draw, look for 19 year old qualifier (and future star) Thanasi Kokkinakis to take out 5th seeded Andreas Haider-Maurer before going down to Dimitrov in the quarters.   In the semifinals, expect Dimitrov to blow past Cuevas just like he did in their only prior meeting in Paris (indoors). 

In an intriguing finals matchup of the top two seeds, look for Federer to top Dimitrov in straights.  Dimitrov has never taken a set from Federer in three prior meetings, and doesn't appear to be getting any closer.  If Dimitrov finds his 2014 form the match should at least be competitive, but if he plays the way he has much of 2015 he could be lucky to get 3 games each set.  A win for Federer in Istanbul may not mean much for his French Open chances, but would at least make him forget his loss to Gael Monfils in Monte Carlo.  

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