With a field featuring four World Tour Finals’ hopefuls, the Vienna Open promises to be a close and competitive affair. The eight seeds here are all ranked in the Top 20 of the world adding star value. And the chance of qualifying for the season-ending championships is far from the only motivating factor. The French players will all be looking to impress ahead of the Davis Cup showdown against Belgium in November. Though the indoor season traditionally favours big servers and big hitters, in Vienna a slower Rebound Ace surface was introduced two years ago. But who will use the slower conditions to their advantage?
The top seed here is the talented German Alexander Zverev. But, despite his talent, he is struggling for form. Having already qualified for the ATP Finals, there is a concern that his motivation may not be at optimum levels. He has also had a long and gruelling season, and may now be short of energy. The same could be said of second seed Austrian Dominic Thiem who looked jaded during the Asian swing. But, Thiem ought to be fired up in front of his home crowd, and that might just see him through his hardcourt struggles. Both face tricky opponents in the first round with Zverev beginning against the dangerous Serbian Viktor Troicki. Thiem takes on the young Russian Andrey Rublev. It certainly won’t be an easy week for the top two seeds.
Also in the mix is Bulgaria’s third seed Grigor Dimitrov who comes straight from his Stockholm loss in the final to del Potro. Just one match win away from the ATP Finals, he will be eager to secure his spot in London. Other World Tour Finals’ hopefuls Pablo Carreno Busta, Sam Querrey and Kevin Anderson will also surely be looking for a big run in the Austrian capital. The court surface may not help Querrey and Anderson, however. Also in the fray is the towering American John Isner who will likely relish the chance to play on a slower indoor surface.
Another player to watch out for is the Frenchman Tsonga who is fresh from his title win at Antwerp, his career-best fourth ATP title of the year. That win put him back into contention for a spot at the O2, and he will be desperate to gain on Carreno Busta, who currently is in 8th place in the Race. There’s no better sight in tennis than to watch Tsonga in full flow and he was at his best in Antwerp. Can he repeat the trick in Vienna?
Among the non-seeds, there are plenty of names who can upset the odds. Richard Gasquet, who looked in fine form making the quarterfinals in both Tokyo and Shanghai, will look to build on his good play ahead of the Davis Cup final. Diego Schwartzman, Jan-Lennard Struff, and Rublev are also all dangers with Schwartzman in good form having made the final in Antwerp last week.
First round match to watch
The one stand out clash looks to be between Thiem and Rublev. Both have had outstanding years with the Austrian qualifying for the World Tour Finals for the second year in a row and the Russian making the inaugural Next Gen ATP finals. Thiem, who looked tired on the Asian swing crashed out early in all three tournaments and will look to make amends at his home tournament. Rublev too had a sensational year capped by a quarterfinal at the US Open and a first ATP title in Umag. However, he too suffered bad losses on the Asian swing and it will be interesting to see how the duo try to make a comeback.
Another match that catches attention is the one between Tsonga and Karen Khachanov. While the Frenchman is looking to gatecrash the top eight in the race to the World Tour Finals, the Russian is looking to celebrate his qualification to the Next Gen Finals. Both are huge hitters, and there should be plenty of winners for the Austrian crowd to enjoy when they face off.
The draw looks to favour third seed Dimitrov who can book his place at the O2 with a victory over Dennis Novak in the first round. Querrey looms as a potential quarterfinal opponent while Thiem could be an obstacle in the semis. However, both need to make it past a tricky draw to come that far. Even if they do, Dimitrov looks to have the form to beat them, in spite of a disappointing loss in the Stockholm final.
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