With the European clay court season now well underway, the ATP makes its only stop of the year in Portugal for the Estoril Open. The Estoril Open usually boasts a field full of talent and this year is no exception. A number of the game’s best have made the trip to the Portuguese coast, including a former Grand Slam finalist. With the French Open less than a month away, valuable ranking points and match wins are up for grabs. Who will walk away the champion?
The field is led by last year’s US Open finalist and world #8 Kevin Anderson of South Africa. The big-serving Johannesburg-native is perhaps not thought of as a first-rate clay courter, but he has made the fourth round at the French Open on three occasions, including last year. He has also contested a clay court final, losing in three sets to Tommy Robredo in Casablanca in 2013. He may well view a title-charge in Estoril as within his grasp.
Hoping to defend his title in Estoril is Pablo Carreno Busta, Spain’s world #11. Carreno Busta, who last year made the quarterfinals at the French Open and the semifinals in New York, has emerged as one of the world’s premier clay court players, and he looked impressive in reaching the last four at the Barcelona Open last week, although he will have been disappointed to lose in straight sets to the Greek teenager Stefanos Tsitsipas. A chance to put that result right in Estoril beckons.
Third seeded Kyle Edmund’s clay court season nearly got off to the perfect start in Marrakesh. The Briton fought his way through to a first ever ATP Tour final, but was dismissed by Pablo Andujar 6-2 6-2 in what proved to be a chastening experience for the world #23. He will also be disappointed to have lost out to Andreas Seppi in the first round in Monte Carlo. But with a Grand Slam semifinal appearance already under his belt this year, Edmund will be looking for another good run.
Fourth seeded Gilles Muller’s attacking style does not always translate perfectly on to the clay, the Luxembourger having only twice won a match at Roland Garros in eight attempts. But he did reach the final in Estoril last year (lost to Carreno Busta). Albert Ramos Vinolas, in contrast, is most at home on the red dirt. The fifth seed has had a disappointing year, with the high point a defeat in the final in Quito. But he is always a difficult opponent, especially on clay.
Sixth seeded Robin Haase won both of his career titles on clay, as well as making a further two finals on the surface. When the Dutchman is able to get a string of wins together, he can become quite hard to stop. One to watch for in Portugal this week. Seventh seed Leonardo Mayer has found his way back into the top 50, and will be looking to improve on an already good season with a title. Eighth seed Daniil Medvedev won his first title in Sydney earlier this year, a good week could see him claim another.
First round matches to watch
Portuguese #2 Gastao Elias faces a tough early test against Alex De Minaur of Australia. De Minaur came to the attention of the tennis world earlier in the season when he reached the semifinals in Brisbane and the final in Sydney. He has had to take some tough losses since then, but remains a real talent. How he fares against the experienced Elias may tell much about where his future in the sport lies.
Pablo Andujar, the champion in Marrakesh, will have his work cut out for him against Stefanos Tsitsipas. The Greek built on his impressive performance in Monte Carlo in some style by reaching the final in Barcelona. He took a fairly heavy beating there at the hands of Nadal, but he is hardly the first to experience that. However, it may be hard for him to shake off that loss quickly enough to be accounted a force in Estoril.
It is another excellent draw in Estoril, with a few standout names. But Pablo Carreno Busta seems the most likely champion going into the tournament. Having won in Portugal last year, he will have fond memories of the tournament. When his quality on a clay court is added to that equation, his chances surely grow even further. He will not have it easy in Estoril, but he will have enough to get across the line and lift a fourth career title.
Who do you think will win the tournament in Estoril? Let us know in the comments below!