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22 Jul 2018

German Open Preview and Prediction: The last clay court ATP 500

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Who’s playing?

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First round matches to watch

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Prediction

(Photo credit: HSV25)

The German Open may have lost some of its prestige since losing its Masters 1000 status and moving in the schedule from before the French Open to after the Championships. But the post-Wimbledon clay court swing is an important one for many of the Tour’s clay specialists, where valuable match wins and prize money can be earned, and the tennis is always competitive. That’s especially true of Hamburg, the biggest tournament in the swing. But who will claim the title?

Who’s playing?

The Hamburg draw is led by top seed and French Open finalist Dominic Thiem. The Austrian has already won two clay court titles this year, triumphing in Buenos Aires and Lyon, but struggled during the grass court season, winning just one match at Halle before retiring when trailing 4-6 5-7 0-2 against Marcos Baghdatis at Wimbledon in the first round. But back on his preferred clay, he will surely have serious ambitions of going all the way in Hamburg.

Thiem is joined in Hamburg by second seed Diego Schwartzman, who earlier this season won the biggest title of his career at the Rio Open and reached the quarterfinals at the French Open, where he was the only man to take a set off Rafael Nadal. Like Thiem, his grass court season was fairly disappointing and he also fell first round in Bastad last week. But there is no doubting his clay court prowess, and if he can find his best tennis he will be a tough proposition to stop.

Third seed Pablo Carreno Busta will be looking to get his season heading back in the right direction after some struggles with his form over the past few months. After reaching the Miami Open semifinals in March, he has lost a number of matches he will surely feel he should have won, and with the US Open fast approaching, where last year he was a semifinalist, he will be aware of the need to rediscover his best form.

Seeded fourth is Damir Dzumhur, whose unrelenting hard work has taken him to three titles in the past year, most recently in Antalya on the grass. Clay is not perhaps his favourite surface, with the Bosnian lacking the weaponry to dictate, but his hard running and consistency from the baseline make him a danger anywhere. Perhaps a longshot for the title considering the depth of quality in the draw, but expect a decent run from him nonetheless.

Twice a semifinalist in Hamburg, fifth seed Philipp Kohlschreiber has often played his best tennis on home soil, and will be looking to do the same again. Sixth seed Marco Cecchinato is in the form of his life, having won his first title in Budapest earlier this season before putting together an astonishing run to the French Open semifinals, which included a four-set win over Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic. Certainly one to watch for.

Rounding out the seeds are seventh seed Richard Gasquet and eighth seed Fernando Verdasco, who both bring good form of their own to Hamburg after some fine play in Bastad. Gasquet made it all the way to the final in Sweden, but couldn’t get past Fabio Fognini there losing 3-6 6-3 1-6. Verdasco also fell to the mercurial Italian, losing an entertaining semifinal battle 1-6 4-6 7-5. Another good run for both seems very achievable in Hamburg.

First round matches to watch

Cecchinato will face an early test when he takes on the ever-entertaining Gael Monfils. The Frenchman recently made a run to the Wimbledon fourth round, his best result at the All England Club, and has been ranked as high as sixth in the world for a reason. When he strings it all together, he is a formidable opponent, but Cecchinato is a shot-maker of some quality himself. Expect some excellent tennis from these two.

Schwartzman’s first round match against Casper Ruud also promises much. The Norwegian teenager has shown already in his fledgling career that he can play on the terre battue, and is in good form after reaching the quarterfinals in Bastad (lost to Gasquet). Schwartzman may well have too much quality for Ruud, but it will be interesting to see what he can do against the world #12, and if Schwartzman makes a slow start, an upset could end up being on the cards.

Prediction

Though the Hamburg field is impressive for the depth of the talent assembled, one man is a cut above the rest and that is Dominic Thiem. Though he struggled during the grass court season to cope with the disappointment of losing the Roland Garros final and looked some way short of his best physically, he should now have had the time and space to readjust. And if he is fit and firing, expect him to have the quality to hit his way to the Hamburg title.

Who do you think will win the German Open? Let us know in the comments below!