(3)Felix Auger-Aliassime d (1)Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4, 6-2
1, 2, 3, NS
SEEDS: ONE & DONE (1st Match Loss)
3 out of 8
ROTTERDAM NEWS & NOTES
*Auger-Aliassime’s championship run last year in Rotterdam was the first underdog hit in the title match at this tournament since 2019. Even so, Felix was just a slight dog at 2.06 (+106). Gael Monfils was that last underdog winner in 2019 at 2.38 (+138). 2016 was the last big dog scalp when unseeded Martin Klizan toppled Monfils at 3.62 (+262). Each of the last three title matches in Rotterdam has gone done in straight sets. That broke a string where four of five runs from 2015-2019 saw the championship match go three sets.
*Felix’s win also marked the fourth time in the past five years in Rotterdam that a top four seed has taken home the title. The top seed has not won in Rotterdam since Roger Federer last did the trick in 2018. Tsitsipas’ run to the final in 2022 as the #1 seed was the first time the top seed had been as far as the final four since 2019. There have been just three unseeded champions in Rotterdam since 2008. Michael Llodra won it that year and was joined by Martin Klizan in 2016 and Gael Monfils in 2019 as the only other unseeded winners in the last 15 years.
*There were eleven underdog winners overall in the 2022 run of the AMN Amro WTT out of 31 matches played. Amazingly, that was the third straight year with exactly eleven underdog winners in Rotterdam. The biggest scalp came in round when when Jiri Lehecka upended (5)Denis Shapovalov at 4.71 (+371). The next biggest hit came in round two when (4)Hubert Hurkacz was taken out by Lorenzo Musetti at 3.62 (+262). Seven of the eleven underdog wins were very modest in the range from 2.02 (+102) to 2.19 (+119) with five of those coming in round one.
*A dozen of the 31 matches played in 2022 required three sets to be settled. That was the most three set matches in Rotterdam since 2016 when 15 of the 31 went the distance. Tie breaks were few and far between last year with only 13 sets required a breaker out of 75 played. Rotterdam generally has rated as a medium to slower indoor court over the years.
*This 32 player draw is LOADED. How loaded? The top eight seeds are all ranked inside the top 16 and of the 32 players participating, 20 are ranked inside the top 50. Stefanos Tsitsipas leads the charge as the top seed for the second straight season. Andrey Rublev, defending champion Felix Auger-Aliassime and Holger Rune round out the top four. Auger-Aliassime has been an interesting case study in Rotterdam, alternating round one losses in his four trips here with a finals appearance in 2019 and the title run last year. Tsitsipas has made the semifinals and final in his last two trips. Rublev has been very good at this stop with a pair of quarterfinals, a semifinal and a title in Rotterdam in his four times at this tournament. Rune makes his Rotterdam debut this year.
*The back half of the seeded field hasn’t had near that sort of success in Rotterdam. (5)Hubert Hurkacz has yet to get beyond the round of 16 in three tries and makes his first appearance since the Australian Open. Daniil Medvedev, seeded sixth, has stumbled in the opening round each of the last two seasons after initially seeing success in Rotterdam with a quarterfinal and semifinal showing in 2018 and 2019. He too will play for the first time since Melbourne. Pablo Carreno Busta did make the semis in his lone trip to Rotterdam in 2020, but the Spaniard has only played three matches in 2023 (1-2). Alexander Zverev has found this stop to be a horror show with first round flops in three of his five stops. The German has only been as far as the quarterfinals one time at the AMRO Open.
*Even though unseeded players rarely win the title in Rotterdam, they have had plenty of deep runs. Lehecka’s semifinal showing in 2022 was the 7th straight run that at least one unseeded player has made it into the final four. Auger-Aliassime was the last unseeded finalist in 2020. With the quality depth in this field, that trend could easily continue. You’ve got both Montpellier finalists, Jannik Sinner and Maxime Cressy, as part of that unseeded mix to keep an eye on. I’ll touch more on those guys in the forecast below.
FIRST ROUND BANGERS
*Stan Wawrinka vs Alexander Bublik
Bublik arrives with eight straight losses at ATP events dating back to 2022. Wawrinka hasn’t won a tour level match since right around the same time in Basel last season, a string of four straight main draw losses. He did get a confidence boosing win in Davis Cup play, but this is a big spot for both. They’ve met three times with Wawrinka winning the last at this year’s United Cup in Australia 6-3, 7-6. Bublik won in clay last year in Monte-Carlo and the third meeting in Metz was cut short due to a retirement by Wawrinka.
*(6)Daniil Medvedev vs Alejandro Davidovich-Fokina
Given Medvedev’s struggles in Rotterdam the last two trips, this could be interesting. ADF played indoors in Montpellier last week with a win via retirement and then a straight sets loss. He was 0-6 indoors in 2022, but he nearly knocked out Tsitsipas in the opening round a year ago when he fell in three sets 7-5, 6-7, 6-4. He beat Bautista-Agut in his Rotterdam debut back in 2021. Medvedev should be ready for a fight in this one and it will be interesting to see how he responds after going out in round three at the Australian Open.
*Botic van de Zandschulp vs Borna Coric
Another blockbuster unseeded clash and a repeat of a first round battle in 2021 here in Rotterdam that Coric won 6-4, 7-6. That is the only time these two have met. BZDZ hasn’t played since Australia, while Coric was in Montpellier last week where he split two matches after winning two indoors in Davis Cup play as well. He’ll have the reps advantage to start, but if the Dutchman finds his rhythm, this should again be a tight contest.
*(5)Hubert Hurkacz vs Roberto Bautista-Agut
A tough draw for Hubi who is 0-3 against RBA. Half of the eight sets these two have played went to tie breaks to show that it’s still usually a battle between the two. This will be their first meeting in over a year with the last coming at the ATP Cup in 2022. It will be interesting to see how this shakes out with RBA losing his opener last week in Montpellier and Hurkacz of course not seeing action in almost three weeks. Given their previous encounters, this is likely to be a tricky match for both but one that could be good to watch.
*(2)Andrey Rublev vs Alex de Minaur
Not the best of draws for the second seed with the Aussie having beaten him two of their three career meetings. ADM won both played on hard courts, with one indoors at the 2018 NextGen Finals. Their last battle came in Monte-Carlo on clay last year where Rublev came through 2-6, 6-1, 6-4. Both players started the year well with Rublev making the quarters in Melbourne and de Minaur going through to the round of 16. For both, this is their return to action for the first time since the Aussie swing. Alex had some big wins indoors in 2002, beating Medvedev, Shapovalov and Korda. Rublev had the pedigree in Rotterdam, but this looks like a challenging opener depending on how quickly both can establish form again.
Your eyes naturally plug into a potential round two battle between Tsitsipas and Sinner. That’s been a winning formula for the Greek who has taken out Sinner in five of the six meetings. That includes their five set battle in Australia earlier this season. Given the matchups and the form of Sinner, I’d say it seems likely we get this one and Sinner might feel like it’s his time to get a W in what would be their first indoor meeting. On the other side, Carreno Busta is on upset alter in round one against Gasquet. Overall I think PCB is the more consistent player, but we saw some good stuff from Gasquet early in the season when he won the title in Auckland. He’s still capable and could take advantage of any rust that the Spaniard might have at this point. The survivor there takes on the Wawrinka-Bublik winner in what looks like a pretty open part of this quarter. It’s hard to think Wawrinka or Bublik would make the push with both having trouble getting any wins, so it might be PCB or Gasquet as the front runner.
For me this quarter really looks like it’s Tsitsipas or Sinner. Sinner arrives with the better form, but Tsitsipas has had his number and plays well at this venue. I give Stef the nod as most of the matchups that could happen in this section still favor him overall.
ONE AND DONE WATCH
Gasquet over (7)Carreno Busta
This quarter looks like it’s set up well for Rune who lost a heart breaker in the Montpellier semis to Cressy last week. Otherwise, he looked solid in his indoor return where he has won 21 of his last 24 matches on the surface. The intrigue will be how he adjusts to Rotterdam that will play a bit different than Montpellier. Still, he gets qualifier Lestienne first and then could see Huesler for the second straight week. Rune broke a two match losing streak against the Swiss by beating him in Montpellier, but it’s always tricky playing the same guy two weeks in a row. Huesler to me looks the danger with Zverev as the other seed here and still searching for his best. As such, even Kwon could be a tough one to start and Griekspoor looms as a real danger perhaps in round two. The homestanding Dutchman is 6-1 to start the season, but was poor indoors in his first regular run through an ATP schedule in 2022 at 2-9. He does have better confidence if early results are any indication though, so perhaps this will continue his surge to start the season. Griekspoor needs to be at his best to start though with Ymer as a quality qualifier in round one who could spring an upset.
If not Rune, Huesler and Griekspoor are the lurkers I see here with big potential to push to a semifinal berth. I give Huesler that nod as the most dangerous since he’s won a few against Rune and beat Zverev in Davis Cup play recently.
ONE AND DONE WATCH
Kwon over (8)Zverev
Auger-Aliassime certainly looks the guy to beat in this quarter. Felix needs to find better consistency though to be a legitimate threat to repeat as champion at this event. That feat has been achieved five times with the most recent being Monfils back-to-back wins in 2019 and 2020. Although Sonego can be tough on hard surfaces, I don’t see him pulling out an upset in round one against FAA. The Italian is 4-15 in his career against the top ten although given Felix’s up and down nature this year, a three set match wouldn’t be surprising. Goffin might be interesting if he makes it to round two against Felix. The Belgian has seen better days, but he can still be a pest as an underdog. Even though he holds some old wins over Barrerre, his first round foe, I would not be surprised if the French qualifier put up a good fight and perhaps even pulled out a win.
In the other half, it’s a tough draw for Medvedev. The opener with Davidovich Fokina is one to watch and even if he survives, it’s not easy for round two with Coric or van de Zandschulp waiting. Meddy is 3-0 against BVDZ, but has lost four of six to Coric. The caveat to those losses is none have come since 2018, so it’s a very different world for both players at this point. Still, Coric was a semifinalist here in 2021 and could be the toughest out of the unseeded players. That Coric-BVDZ matchup should be one of the better ones in round one. Botic will have to overcome some potential rust since he has not played since January 18th, while Coric has had reps indoors the last few weeks. Even though he struggled at 4-6 indoors in 2022, he’s still usually a tough out and could be that again if he finds his rhythm quick enough in this one.
There is an obvious comfort level for Felix at this tournament, but his consistency from set to set early in 2023 is slightly concerning. This is a good week for him to find better in that category. The most troubling matchup for him would be Medvedev who has beaten him four out of four times although last year’s Australian Open matchup yielded Felix’s closest shot in the five set loss. Coric also owns a couple of wins over the Canadian too, including last year in Cincinnati. Of course there are plenty of outcomes that could see him face neither player en route to a semifinal. This for me might be the most difficult quarter to choose and one where I think an unseeded player like Coric, van de Zandschulp or even Davidovich Fokina could surprise.
ONE AND DONE WATCH
Davidovich Fokina over (6)Medvedev
This one sets up to be tough for both seeds too with the loaded aspect of this draw. Should Rublev outlast de Minaur, he could meet Cressy in round two. The American has been great at times in Montpellier with his serve and volley. Rublev does own the lone win in their head-to-head from last year in Washington. That still look to be a difficult matchup if it happens – Van Rijthoven is no pushover against the American in round one and Cressy will have to shake off the finals loss from Sunday. Hurkacz has Bautista-Agut and the question will be who finds their rhythm first? The survivor sees Dimitrov or Karatsev in round two. Dimitrov is always a bit of a wildcard these days, but he did beat Karatsev in straights in Melbourne this year and owns a 2-1 head-to-head lead. The Bulgarian is also 2-0 against Hurkacz and 4-1 against RBA. If he gets out of round one, he could definitely be a dark horse in this section.
Pedigree says Rublev and while some of these matchups could be tough, they still lean into his game mostly on this surface I think. Getting past de Minaur might wind up being the trickiest spot for the Russian. I still give him an edge in this quarter however with Dimitrov as the unseeded player to watch if things go off script.
ONE AND DONE WATCH
de Minaur over (2)Rublev
Bautista-Agut over (5)Hurkacz
I’m stunned to see Daniil Medvedev as the leading price in the outright market at around 4.0 (+300). I guess I understand why Tsitsipas is being put in the second spot because of the potential clash with Sinner in round two, but I don’t see any way that justifies Medvedev being labelled the favorite to win in Rotterdam. Rune at 9.5 (+850) definitely piques my interest given his form indoors in the last six months. He also owns two wins over Tsitsipas, so he looks like a guy to focus on in the top half amongst the seeds. If you’re looking to pop a big price on someone who might be able to make that unseeded run, Huesler at 60.0 (+5000) might be interesting. Sinner at 9.0 (+800) is too low for me given his likely date with Tsitsipas in round two and potentially needing to get through Rune in that top half too.
In that Medvedev half, I’d much rather take the other Russian in Rublev at 10.0 (+900). Felix is in at around 11.0 (+1000). I think that is fair because conceivably he has to go through Medvedev and Rublev who have both had his number. As such and with all the babble I had earlier about Felix’s consistency issues, I’ll pass on the defending champ even though he seems to absolutely love playing at this event. Coric at 29.0 (+2800) is the longshot option I might like best in this bottom half. I’m still just dumbfounded at the price on Medvedev this week and maybe he’ll prove me to be a buffoon, but big time pass on that one.
Here’s my two choices for this week. Join me for the daily #PIGPIX and I’ll be doing a little tweet preview of the doubles field on Monday.
Rublev 10.0 (+900)
Rune 9.5 (+850)