Tennis makes its first stop of the year in the Netherlands for the ATP 500 events of the season. The major storyline surrounding the tournament will be recent Australian Open champion Roger Federer’s chance at reclaiming the world #1 ranking from his long-time rival Rafael Nadal. But there is also plenty of other excitement to look forward to at an event with a strong draw and some passionate fans.
Leading the draw is, of course, former champion Roger Federer. The 20-time Major champion has often made the trip to Rotterdam, and has lifted the title at the Ahoy Rotterdam twice, in 2005 and 2012. Federer needs to reach the semifinals in order to take Nadal’s #1 ranking, and will feel in confident mood going into the tournament. Having won his first seven matches of the year in Melbourne, will he continue that unbeaten run in Holland?
Joining Federer in the draw is a player who has spent much of his career trying to escape comparisons to the great Swiss, Grigor Dimitrov. The Bulgarian finally seemed to have come into his own in an impressive 2017 that saw him make the Australian Open semifinals, and win both the ATP Finals and Cincinnati Masters. This year has not quite gone to plan, with his quarterfinal defeat to Kyle Edmund in Melbourne a disappointment. But there were positives to be taken from Melbourne and a deep run in Rotterdam would really get his 2018 going.
Alexander Zverev, who again lost early at a Major, will be hoping that the return to the best-of-three sets format will lead to an upturn in his form after some early season struggles. He looked listless at times in his five set defeat to Hyeon Chung on Rod Laver Arena, but he has the power to trouble anyone when he is at his best. He certainly can’t be ruled out of causing some damage under the roof in Rotterdam.
Last year’s defeated finalist and world #7 David Goffin will also be taking to the court in Rotterdam. Though he lost surprisingly to Julien Benneteau in Melbourne, he made the semifinals in Montpellier (lost to Gasquet) and was the last man to defeat Federer. Also playing in Rotterdam is Stan Wawrinka, giving the draw two Major champions. He impressed in Sofia and has the quality to win again in Rotterdam, having lifted the title in 2015 (defeated Berdych).
Also amongst the seeds is recent Australian Open quarterfinalist and 2014 champion Tomas Berdych. Berdych, a former world #4, endured a difficult 2017, but has showed promise so far this year and could do well. Frenchmen Lucas Pouille and defending champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga round at the seeds in Rotterdam. Both have had some impressive results indoors over their careers, and can get hot quickly. Ones to watch in a very strong draw.
First round matches to watch
The matchup between Tomas Berdych and the net-rushing Mischa Zverev looks an interesting one. How the German is able to cope with Berdych’s formidable power off the ground will be crucial. But it will also be potentially tricky for the Czech. It is rare in the modern game to face a player that rushes the net as often as Zverev, and the German’s net coverage is very impressive. Berdych will probably back himself but it is far from a foregone conclusion.
Felix Auger-Aliassime is already well-known in the tennis world thanks to the prodigious talent he has shown as such a young age. His first round clash with Paris Masters finalist Filip Krajinovic will be a test for both men. Krajinovic is under pressure to demonstrate that his run to the final in Bercy last year was not a fluke whilst Auger-Aliassime has not yet really tested himself at Tour-level. A hard match to call but likely a good one to watch.
The Rotterdam Open often throws up surprise results. Many players have secured one title at the Ahoy Rotterdam, substantially fewer have managed a repeat. One of those who have is Roger Federer, but even he will consider two titles a poor return for eight previous trips. But bet on him to secure title number three this year. He is confident, and when he is at his best it takes one of his peers to stop him. Though Wawrinka has earned the right to reside in the category, he is still not at full fitness, and it’s hard to see else can stop the ‘Fed Express’.
Who do you think will triumph in Rotterdam? Let us know in the comments below!