ATP & WTA WEEK IN PREVIEW – Dubai, Acapulco and Sao Paulo

Two months, one Grand Slam and many champions into the 2018 tennis season, attention is turning towards to upcoming big events in Indian Wells and Miami. But there is still another week of tennis to be contested before then, with one WTA and three ATP events spanning Mexico and Brazil.

Here is your preview of the upcoming week of tennis action. Keep an eye out at The Tennis Vlog for a round-up of the latest victories, news and controversies on the tennis circuit.

ATP TOUR

THE DUBAI DUTY FREE TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIPS

WHERE – Dubai, U.A.E

LEVEL OF EVENT – ATP 500

SURFACE – Hard

DEFENDING CHAMPION – Andy Murray (2017) (absent due to surgery)

Usually accustomed to a higher-profile field (generally featuring Novak Djokovic and/or Roger Federer), Dubai tones it down a little this season as Grigor Dimitrov – one of only two top 15 players at the event – heads up the 32 player field. No. 2 seed Lucas Pouille joins him, hoping to build on a run to the Open 13 final at home in France last week. The Frenchman faces a quick turnaround, with a first round clash against former top ten presence Ernests Gulbis unlikely to be forgiving of a slow start.

The seeds feature several players who have produced solid tennis the past couple of years, including Roberto Bautista Agut at no. 3 and Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber – who pushed Roger Federer close in Rotterdam earlier this month – at no. 6.

Almost as strong as the seeds are the wild card offerings. Former Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis wasted no time in downing Viktor Troicki in round one, with 19-year-old one-handed-backhander Stefanos Tsitsipas also moving into round two. Meanwhile, Tunisia’s heavy-hitting Malek Jaziri should give Dimitrov something to think about in the Bulgarian’s opener.

Other notable players in the draw include former prodigy Borna Coric – who is part of a tantilising first round match-up with no. 5 seed Richard Gasquet – and French 26-year-old Pierre-Hugues Herbert. The former doubles world no. 2 has lost his last three singles matches in three sets, the latest of these a close defeat to Pouille last week in Marseille.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE FULL DRAW

THE BRASIL OPEN

VENUE – Sao Paulo, Brazil

LEVEL OF EVENT – ATP 250

SURFACE – Clay

DEFENDING CHAMPION – Pablo Cuevas (2015-7) (present)

First round action is already underway at the Brasil Open. The top three seeds feature clay-court experts in last year’s runner-up Albert Ramos-Vinolas, Italy’s Fabio Fognini (a semifinalist at last week’s Rio Open, also on clay) and no. 3 seed Pablo Cuevas. Frenchman Gael Monfils is also in decent form, having reached the quarter-finals or better at the four non-Grand Slam events he has contested so far this season. The no. 4 seed enters the tournament off a last-eight loss to eventual champion Diego Schwartzman in Rio de Janeiro last week, and has landed in Ramos-Vinolas’ half of the draw.

Three Spaniards and five Brazilians take their place in the 32 player field, but a whopping seven Argentinians outnumber both countries. Dark horses among them include Horacio Zeballos – who famously beat Rafael Nadal in the final of the Spaniard’s first tournament back in 2013 – and qualifier Renzo Olivo, who shocked Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the second round of last year’s French Open. Former champion Federico Delbonis (2014) rounds out the eight seeded men.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE FULL DRAW.

ABIERTO MEXICANO TELCEL PRESENTADO POR HSBC

WHERE – Acapulco, Mexico

LEVEL OF EVENT – ATP 500

SURFACE – Hard

DEFENDING CHAMPION – Sam Querrey (2017) (present, seeded 7th)

The men’s event in Acapulco this week steals the ATP spotlight, with top seed Rafael Nadal – who recently relinquished his spot atop the rankings to Federer – making his first appearance since a heartbreaking quarter-final retirement in the Australian Open quarter-finals. The 16-time Grand Slam champion has no chance to pause for breath, with fellow Spanish lefty Feliciano Lopez lining up to take him on in round one. Current world no. 38 Lopez has won four of his 13 meetings with Nadal, including their most recent clash on the hard-courts of Cincinnati in 2015. The victor in that collision would take on the winner of a battle of young prospects: recently-injured wild card Thanasi Kokkinakis and 20-year-old qualifier Alexander Bublik.

Good friends Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem – who have practically journeyed to the top five side by side over the last season or so – are seeded second and third in Dubai, with 2009 US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro further strengthening the field as the no. 6 seed. This is by far the most packed draw of the week, with dangerous players in every bracket and a multitude of must-watch first round matches. These include Kei Nishikori’s clash with teenage sensation Denis Shapovalov, in what will be the Japanese star’s second appearance at ATP level since returning to tour from injury, del Potro’s showdown with elder Zverev brother Mischa (currently struggling) and Thiem’s duel with fast-rising British 22-year-old Cameron Norrie.

NextGen stars are scattered across the brackets, with Hyeon Chung and Andrey Rublev also present besides those already mentioned.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE FULL DRAW

WTA TOUR

ABIERTO MEXICANO TELCEL PRESENTADO POR HSBC

Acapulco, Mexico

LEVEL OF EVENT – WTA INTERNATIONAL

SURFACE – Hard

DEFENDING CHAMPION – Lesia Tsurenko (2017) (present, seeded 7th)

After a couple of headline events, the WTA takes more of a back seat this week. Defending US Open champion Sloan Stephens – who has struggled greatly since her shock New York victory – enters Mexico as the top seed, with fellow floundering top player Kristina Mladenovic following her as the no. 2 seed. Despite winning the women’s doubles title (alongside Timea Babos) at the Australian Open, the Frenchwoman was on a whopping 15 match losing streak before reaching the St Petersburg Open final at the beginning of this month. Mladenovic has lost her last two matches in straight sets, and even a first round match against a qualifier is a concern.

Big names in the draw include Olympic gold medallist Monica Puig, who is competing for the first time since Melbourne, and former top ten player Belinda Bencic, who entered the season on a winning run before faltering in the second round of the Aussie Open. Puig is currently ranked at world no. 80, and could come up against unpredictable no. 6 seed Alize Cornet in the second round.

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE FULL DRAW

ALSO THIS WEEK: The Oracle Challenger Series in Indian Wells, which is the highest level of ATP Challenger event and the lowest level of WTA tour event. Despite a decent field and its status as a WTA 125k event, I hesitate to call it an ‘official’ WTA tournament.

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Thanks for reading! Remember to follow The Tennis Journal on Twitter to stay up to date. Any predictions for tournament champions? Leave a comment, and if you guess correctly you may get a shout-out in next week’s upload at The Tennis Vlog…

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