Scouting Report: 30 Things To Watch In Acapulco, Dubai & Sao Paulo
An executive summary of what every fan should know about the coming week on the ATP Tour
The ATP Tour begins its ninth week of the 2019 season with multiple ATP 500 tournaments taking place in Acapulco and Dubai, alongside the final leg of the 'Golden Swing' at the ATP 250 event in Sao Paulo. Rafael Nadal and Alexander Zverev headline the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC, Kei Nishikori and Roger Federer lead the pack at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships and Rio Open presented by Claro finalists Laslo Djere and Felix Auger-Aliassime feature in a highly competitive field at the Brasil Open.
10 THINGS TO WATCH IN ACAPULCO
1) Two for One: The Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC is one of two ATP 500 events occurring this week, alongside the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. In Acapulco, World No. 2 Rafael Nadal returns to try to claim the title for a third time, after victories in 2005 and 2013. Top 10 players Alexander Zverev and John Isner will also compete alongside former champions David Ferrer and Sam Querrey.
2) Rafa’s Return: Top-seeded Nadal has a stellar 14-1 win-loss at Acapulco. The Spaniard took his only loss at the event in his most recent match, falling in straight sets in the 2017 final to Querrey. Nadal is playing just his second event of 2019, after his finalist showing at the Australian Open.
3) From A to Z: Second-seeded Zverev comes back to Acapulco after a successful tournament debut last year, where he reached the semi-finals before falling to eventual champion Juan Martin del Potro. World No. 3 Zverev, who made the Australian Open fourth round for the first time, is playing just his second ATP Tour draw of 2019, having recently withdrawn from the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam due to an ankle injury.
4) One More Try: No. 3 seed Isner has yet to claim a win at Acapulco in four previous appearances. The top-ranked American lost his first two matches of 2019 at the ASB Classic and the Australian Open, but his year is warming up after back-to-back semi-finals at the New York Open and Delray Beach Open.
5) Final Appearance For Ferrer: Former World No. 3 Ferrer has received a wild card into one of his most prolific events, before the Spaniard plans to play his final tournament at the Mutua Madrid Open in May. Ferrer owns a staggering 31-7 record in Acapulco, winning 19 matches in a row between 2010 and 2013. The 36-year-old won three straight titles from 2010 to 2012, and picked up a fourth trophy in 2015.
6) Former Champ: Querrey was 2-2 at Acapulco before he beat No. 6 Kei Nishikori en route to the 2016 semi-finals, where he lost to Dominic Thiem. He dramatically improved that result in the next edition, avenging his loss to Thiem in the 2017 quarter-finals before handing Nadal his first loss at Acapulco in the final. The American came back in 2018 as the World No. 11, but lost in the first round.
7) What A Climb: Diego Schwartzman was Nadal’s first-round victim in the Spaniard's 2013 Acapulco title run, when the Argentine was a 157th-ranked qualifier. Schwartzman has since climbed up the ATP Rankings, hitting a career-high No. 11 ranking last year. The No. 4 seed was forced to retire during his first-round match at Rio de Janeiro last week as the defending champion, due to a right leg injury.
8) Youth Will Be Served: #NextGenATP players Alex de Minaur and Frances Tiafoe continue to post breakthrough results in 2019. No. 5 seed de Minaur won his first career ATP Tour singles title in his birthplace of Sydney in January. No. 6 seed Tiafoe reached his first Grand Slam quarter-final at the 2019 Australian Open, becoming the youngest American major quarter-finalist since 2003.
9) Going Wild: 2019 Australian Open Boys’ Singles finalist Emilio Nava received a wild card into the main draw. The 17-year-old will play his first ATP Tour match against Mackenzie McDonald, who beat No. 4 Del Potro to reach his first ATP Tour semi-final last week at the Delray Beach Open.
10) Double Duty: Top seeds Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares will attempt to win their third consecutive Acapulco title this week. Also in the field are fellow two-time winners Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan. Last week at the Delray Beach Open, Bob Bryan won his first title since having hip surgery last August.
10 THINGS TO WATCH IN DUBAI
1) Two for One: The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is one of two ATP 500 events taking place this week, alongside the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC in Acapulco. In Dubai, Roger Federer will aim for a record-extending eighth title, while No. 1 seed Kei Nishikori makes his tournament debut seeking his second trophy of 2019. Roberto Bautista Agut also returns, aiming to lift his second straight title at the event.
2) Roger Returns: A title for Federer this week would mark the 100th tour-level singles championship of his career. The Swiss superstar won the first of his seven Dubai titles in 2003; it was his sixth singles title and came before any of his record 20 Grand Slam crowns. Federer opens his campaign with a 14th FedEx ATP Head2Head clash against Philipp Kohlschreiber. The Swiss owns a perfect 13-0 record against the 35-year-old German.
3) Special Kei: Top seed Nishikori comes into Dubai in strong form. Having lost his previous nine finals, Nishikori won his first title since 2016 by defeating Daniil Medvedev in the Brisbane International final during the first week of this season. The Japanese then recorded a third straight quarter-final-or-better showing at a Grand Slam event in Melborne, before a run to the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament semi-finals in Rotterdam.
4) The Champ is Here: Bautista Agut entered Dubai last year on a three-match losing streak, but the Spaniard beat Lucas Pouille in the 2018 final for the first ATP 500 title of his career. The Spaniard owns a 10-1 in 2019 after winning the Qatar ExxonMobil Open and making his first Grand Slam quarter-final in Melbourne.
5) More Marin: No. 3 seed Marin Cilic returns to action for the first time since his fourth-round loss to Bautista Agut at the Australian Open. That is his lone event of the year so far: Cilic withdrew from the events in Pune and Rotterdam with knee injuries. The Croatian is back in Dubai for the first time since reaching his second straight quarter-final at the ATP 500 event in 2010.
6) Russians Risen: 22-year-old Karen Khachanov and Medvedev, who just turned 23, are flying the flag for Russia in the Top 15, having won seven singles titles between them since the start of 2018. They were two of the 10 men under 23 to reach the Australian Open third round, which was the most at a Grand Slam event since the same amount made that stage at 2008 Roland Garros.
7) Greece Lightning: In 2018, Stefanos Tsitsipas became the first Greek player to rank inside the Top 20 of the ATP Rankings, win an ATP Tour title, and play an ATP Masters 1000 final. The 20-year-old is still on the rise in 2019, as he made his first Grand Slam semi-final in Melbourne, becoming the youngest major semi-finalist since Novak Djokovic at the 2007 US Open. He won his second ATP Tour title last week at the Open 13 Provence.
8) Berd is the Word: Tomas Berdych reached consecutive Dubai finals in 2013 (l. to Djokovic) and 2014 (l. to Federer). The Czech missed half of 2018 due to injuries, but has put together a great 11-4 start to 2019, making the Qatar ExxonMobil Open final and the Open Sud de France semi-finals.
9) Going Wild: Marcos Baghdatis received one of the three wild cards this week; the Cypriot was the 2016 Dubai runner-up, falling to Stan Wawrinka. The other former finalist in the field is Fernando Verdasco, who lost to then-World No. 1 Andy Murray in the 2017 championship match.
10) Double Duty: Two-time defending champions Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau go for the hat trick in the doubles draw. The Dutch-Romanian duo is 10-2 over the past four years at the tournament. Meanwhile, No. 1 seeds Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic seek their first match wins at the event.
10 THINGS TO WATCH IN SAO PAULO
1) Three-Time Champ: Ten of the players in the Sao Paulo draw already have clay court titles under their belt. Among them are wild card and No. 5 seed Pablo Cuevas, who claimed the Brasil Open title for three consecutive years, from 2015 to 2017. The Uruguayan also owns three other clay titles from 2014 Bastad, 2014 Umag, and 2016 Rio de Janeiro.
2) Clay Specialists: Among the other clay-court champions in Sao Paulo are Federico Delbonis (2014 Sao Paulo, 2016 Marrakech), Leonardo Mayer (2014 and 2017 Hamburg), Roberto Carballes Baena (2018 Quito), Albert Ramos-Vinolas (2016 Bastad), Taro Daniel (2018 Istanbul), Paolo Lorenzi (2016 Kitzbuhel), Joao Sousa (2018 Estoril) and Juan Ignacio Londero (2019 Cordoba).
3) Maiden Titles: Londero of Argentina and Laslo Djere of Serbia claimed their first tour-level titles this season on clay. Londero, the Sao Paulo No. 7 seed, took the crown at the Cordoba Open earlier this month, while Djere won the title at the Rio Open presented by Claro on Sunday.
4) Leading the Pack: Sitting atop the draw this week is 2017 semi-finalist Joao Sousa, who is No. 38 in the ATP Rankings. Sousa owns three titles, the most recent at last year's Millennium Estoril Open. This is the first time Sousa has been the top seed in a tour-level draw.
5) #NextGenATP: Three #NextGenATP stars enter the draw in Sao Paulo, including 20-year-old Casper Ruud, 18-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime, and 18-year-old Brazilian Thiago Seyboth Wild. Seyboth Wild is the reigning US Open Boys' Singles champion.
6) Career Highs: Auger-Aliassime and Djere faced off in the Rio de Janeiro final on Sunday, each seeking their first career title. The 23-year-old Djere took the win, improving his ranking from No. 90 to a career-high No. 37. Auger-Aliassime jumped to a career-high No. 60.
7) Big Breakthrough: World No. 389 Pedro Sakamoto of Brazil is into his first ATP Tour main draw after advancing through qualifying, where he defeated former World No. 37 Carlos Berlocq. Sakamoto fell in the second round of qualifying in Sao Paulo last year.
8) Title Defence: Delbonis and Maximo Gonzalez teamed up to claim the doubles trophy here last year and return to defend their championship this week. Gonzalez won a title earlier this month at the Argentina Open (w/ Zeballos) and reached the Cordoba Open final (w/ Jarry).
9) Joining Forces: The top-seeded tandem of Cuevas and Horacio Zeballos team up with 20 tour-level doubles titles between them, two of which were in Sao Paulo. Cuevas was the 2010 doubles champion (w/ M. Granollers), while Zeballos triumphed in 2016 (w/ Peralta). Zeballos has lifted 11 doubles titles, while Cuevas owns nine.
10) Past Champions: Others in the doubles draw with previous Brasil Open titles include 2017 winner Rogerio Dutra Silva (w/ Sa), who enters as a wild card with Thomaz Bellucci, and 2014 titlist Philipp Oswald (w/ Garcia-Lopez), who teams up with David Marrero this week.