The first of two ATP 500 tournaments held in the United States is set to take place in Memphis starting Monday.
The tournament is hosted by The Racquet Club of Memphis and includes ten players in the ATP top 30 including last year's champion Jurgen Melzer.
The tournament features four qualifiers and no byes for any of the seeded players.
1. Marin Cilic (Croatia), 2. Milos Raonic (Canada), 3. John Isner (United States), 4. Sam Querrey (United States), 5. Kei Nishikori (Japan), 6. Tommy Haas (Germany), 7. Alexandr Dolgopolov (Ukraine), 8. NONE (Verdasco withdrew, replaced by Lucky Loser Michael Russell)
Jurgen Melzer d. Milos Raonic 7-5 7-6(4)
First Round Matches to Watch:
1. Ivan Dodig v. Marin Cilic-- The two highest ranked Croatians on the ATP World Tour are set to square off in the opening round in Memphis. Both guys can pack a formidable punch from the ground and off their serves. Cilic leads the head the head series 2-1 but Dodig took their last meeting less than four months ago in the quarterfinals of the ATP 500 event held in Valencia. It should be noted that this result occurred on an indoor hard court which is of course the same surface the two will contest their match on this week. Though Dodig took the spoils in their last meeting, I expect Cilic to flip the script and oust Dodig in straight sets.
2. Igor Sijsling v. Jurgen Melzer- Defending champion Jurgen Melzer has his work cut out for him if he wants to reclaim his title. In his opening round match, the Austrian will take on Igor Sijsling from the Netherlands who recently recorded a three set victory over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Rotterdam. Jurgen Melzer comes into Memphis on the back of a third round appearance in Melbourne and a final in Zagreb where he lost to his likely second round opponent and number one seed, Marin Cilic. Look for Melzer to exploit Sijsling's one-handed backhand and take out the Dutchman in three sets.
3. Denis Istomin v. John Isner- This first round matchup has upset written all over it. Throughout his entire career, Isner's return of serve has been his biggest liability. The big serving American is forced to rely on his serve, forehand and winning a high quantity of tiebreakers. This one dimensional game plan has hampered Isner and will surely do him no favors against Istomin who is an extremely potent returner and has actually played one more tiebreaker than Isner in 2013. Istomin will be putting plenty of returns back into play to hopefully force the American into protracted rallies which are undoubtedly to his advantage. As is such, I'm going to go with Istomin in three tiebreak sets.
Quarter by Quarter:
Marin Cilic's Quarter- Assuming Cilic and Melzer both win their opening round matches, we will be seeing a repeat of the Zagreb final which Cilic took in straight sets. Nishikori and Malisse are both in this top quarter and both play qualifiers in their opening round matches. I'll project that Nishikori and Cilic both reach the quarterfinals. As far as predictions for the quarterfinals go, I'll wait until later this week to make my picks.
Sam Querrey's Quarter- Sam Querrey will have an immediate rematch with Alejandro Falla in the opening round. The American and the Colombian played last week in San Jose which Querrey took in three sets. The speed of the Memphis court should play well into Querrey's hands and I expect him to comfortably move through in straight sets. Alexandr Dolgopolov will likely face Steve Johnson in the first round. Dolgolpolov is short on match play and could be troubled by the power of Johnson. With this said, I expect the seeds to advance creating a Dolgopolov-Querrey quarterfinal
John Isner's Quarter- As previously stated, I expect Isner to lose in the first round to Istomin which means the progression of this quarter's plot is very contingent upon this result. Ryan Harrison has an extremely tricky first round match against the big serving, all court game of Poland's Lukasz Kubot. Due to Fernando Verdasco's withdrawing from the tournament, Michael Russell who lost in the last round of qualifying will take on qualifier Alex Bogomolov in the opening round. I expect Harrison to beat Kubot and the winner of the Russell/Bogomolov match to reach the quarterfinals. Lleyton Hewitt is also in this section of the draw making it even more intriguing and possibly putting another great returner in Isner's tracks. This is now oddly the easiest quarter yet hardest to pick even with Isner in it. With that said, I'm going to go with an Istomin-Harrison quarterfinal matchup.
Milos Raonic's Quarter- Milos Raonic has a tricky opening opponent as he faces Jack Sock of the United States. Both posses monstrous forehand and serves, undoubtedly a perfect storm for a few tiebreakers. The other seeded player in this quarter is Tommy Haas, who along with Raonic formed the final of the SAP Open in San Jose. I expect Haas and Raonic to both reach the quarterfinals and battle once again in Memphis. Three veterans to note in this quarter are Feliciano Lopez, James Blake, and Florian Mayer.
Dark Horse: Denis Istomin