The second ATP Tour 500 event & first of its kind on clay for the season is taking place this coming week in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This tournament has a rich history & year-after-year features some of the best players in the world. Something to note this year however, is that there are 9 players aged 23 & under featured in the main draw. This presents a great opportunity for the ‘next-gen’ to make some noise here.
Top seeded Dominic Thiem, fresh off a semi final in Buenos Aires, has been drawn in the same quarter as 5th-seeded, Guido Pella. Pella has enjoyed a great patch of form recently, making the final in Cordoba & following it up with a semi final in Buenos Aires. Only defending 10 points here, he’d back himself to reach the quarter finals & likely see Dominic Thiem, whom he lost to in the QF this past week in Argentina 7-6 6-4.
Marco Cecchinato heads up the second quarter, coming off a victory in Buenos Aires, he has received a favourable draw here. 8th-seeded & perennial B&B hope, Nicolas Jarry, has a 1-4 record in 2019 and badly needs to find form here, as he is defending 240 points over the next two weeks.
Two former champions here go head-to-head in the first round as the 4th-seeded, Diego Schwartzman has drawn Pablo Cuevas. Schwartzman owns a 3-2 H2H record over Cuevas, however Cuevas owns the clay court H2H record, 2-1. Young Italian, Lorenzo Sonego, has drawn Spanish veteran, Albert Ramos Vinolas, first up and will like his chances.
The fourth quarter here features a huge chunk of the youngsters here. 5 of the 8 players in this quarter are aged 23 or under & with the up-and-down Fabio Fognini the high seed in this quarter, anything could happen. 21-year-old Spaniard, Jaume Munar, has produced back-to-back quarter finals in his previous two outings, but Leonardo Mayer poses a tough challenge here.
With Guido Pella in great form, I’d back him to defeat the higher-ranked Joao Sousa and progress through to the quarter finals. Another upset alert watch would be on Lorenzo Sonego. His quarter is beatable & Diego Schwartzman has played a lot of tennis this past week.
One To Watch
If Guido Pella was in a quarter other than Dominic Thiem’s, he would be our One To Watch, but that’s not the case. Our One To Watch instead is the 2nd seeded, Fabio Fognini. The inconsistency you get with Fognini means a deep run here would not be surprising. Coming of 3 consecutive losses, including two in the previous two weeks, he will want & need to rectify that. He’s defending quarter final points & albeit a tough quarter, I’m expecting him to bounce back.
Speaking of bouncing back, top seeded Dominic Thiem was our tip in Buenos Aires this past week, however was beaten in the semi finals by Diego Schwartzman. An incredibly tight 3-setter that could have gone either way, this was Thiem’s first tournament coming back from illness. With the matchplay under his belt & a deep run at that, I’m expecting him to bounce back here & produce a much better performance than his 2018 result here in Rio.