The WTA is headed to Doha for a Premier event this week. But if there is one tournament that you are going to keep track of over the coming days, I’d recommend that you make it the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament.
Better known as ATP Rotterdam.
The withdrawal of Rafael Nadal from any other 500 event would have hit the tournament hard. Nevertheless, some seriously juicy first round matches – not to mention a packed 32 player draw – means that the Netherlands will still be close to the centre of the tennis universe this week.
The event is hardly a big draw by ranking of competitors. Top seed Marin Cilic and world no. 8 Dominic Thiem are, after all, the only top ten players present. But Tomas Berdych only recently vacated that realm, and won the Rotterdam title as recently as 2014, while no. 3 seed David Goffin consolidating a breakthrough 2016 season. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga – former world no. 5, big-time power player, and one of the most effervescent players in men’s tennis – is always a leading threat, and no. 5 seed Grigor Dimitrov is one of the hottest players on tour right now. In three tournaments played, the Bulgarian has won two – and reached the Australian Open semifinals in the other, taking Rafael Nadal to five sets. Dimitrov is fresh off a home title victory in Sofia.
Another man who enters Rotterdam on the back of victory at the weekend is Alexander Zverev. The teen – who is destined for the top of the rankings, multiple Grand Slam titles and who knows, maybe even a spot in the GOAT debate – won his second ATP singles title in Montpellier, and made it double prizes by claiming the doubles trophy, too. Mischa Zverev – his doubles partner and brother, who famously beat top seed Andy Murray in the Melbourne fourth round, also features in this week’s draw.
The first round has already kicked off in the Netherlands, with Pierre-Hugues Herbert – a great doubles player who could be an even better singles player – edging out a 7-6(5) 7-6(5) duel with Spanish lefty Feliciano Lopez. That one lived up to the billing. And if other openers follow suit, we’re in for a genuine treat.
Alex Zverev resumes his rivalry with good friend Thiem in their second first round meeting. Their latest came in their most recent encounter, with Zverev junior coming through in three sets in the opening round of Beijing. Prior to this, the fatigued Austrian had won all three clashes with the German – all of them coming in 2016.
Still, Zverev senior’s maiden meeting with Dimitrov may outdo the aforementioned match. The latter man may be in fiery form, but the calm, sharp serve-and-volleying of Mischa Zverev may jolt the Bulgarian’s rhythm.
This clash is not alone in being tough to predict. Nicolas Mahut and Gilles Simon’s clash of the Frenchman is appetising, while no. 8 seed Lucas Pouille looks for only his second win of the year against the ever-dangerous Philipp Kohlschreiber. Fernando Verdasco and Martin Klizan have the potential to produce an enthralling combat of firepower, and old hands Viktor Troicki and Richard Gasquet could easily take each other down the wire. They are locked at two-all in their head-to-head.
Add to that mix the first round collision between Borna Coric and Karen Khachanov – two of the tour’s most exciting upcoming talents – and the event formerly known as the Rotterdam Open is one to keep a keen eye on in the present.
That said, I’m going to have to schedule rigidly to ensure I watch more than a few matches…