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Previewing the Week in the ATP: Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur

Sep 23rd 2013

Ahead of more significant tournaments in Tokyo, Beijing, and Shanghai, two ATP 250 events in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur open an all-too-brief Asian swing.  The top guns will hold their fire until next week, but plenty of varied talent has made the trip to Southeast Asia’s indoor hard courts. 

Tomas Berdych


Top half:  The sixth-ranked Tomas Berdych often has played his best tennis during the post-US Open fall season, when the more notable contenders tend to fade.  Indoor hard courts suit his raw ball-striking ferocity, as a strong Davis Cup effort last week reminded us.  He can expect similarly rough-hewn games in his section of the draw.  Two men named Lukas(z), Kubot and Rosol, have earned most of their success on fast courts but have sunk into deep slumps recently.  In the semifinals might await Metz champion Gilles Simon.  This patient Frenchman has excelled in absorbing and blunting the power of stronger men, such as potential second-round opponent Ivo Karlovic.  Simon has won both of his indoor meetings with Berdych, a surprising trend in their rivalry.  Ever dogged by controversy, meanwhile, Bernard Tomic also seeks to gain traction in the fall after yet another disappointing season. 

Bottom half:  Another Aussie in Bangkok, Marinko Matosevic, lies between two fast-court specialists in an otherwise empty third quarter.  Feliciano Lopez reinvigorated a fading career this year by reaching an ATP 500 final in Memphis and winning a small title in Easbtourne.  He also owns victories over notable names such as Fernando Verdasco and Kei Nishikori, but he fell to third seed Milos Raonic when they met at the US Open.  That four-set battle hinted at what we could expect in a Bangkok quarterfinal:  explosive serves, short points, few service breaks, and a tiebreak or two.  The winner likely will face a player of a contrasting style in the semifinals.  If Raonic and Lopez share similar weapons, so do Mikhail Youzhny and Richard Gasquet.  Both men share one-handed backhands, comfort in the forecourt, an affinity for long rallies, and momentum from strong fortnights at the US Open, where Youzhny reached a quarterfinal and Gasquet a semifinal.  Five of Youzhny’s nine career titles have come indoors. 

David Ferrer

Kuala Lumpur

Top half:  European and South American clay specialists proliferate in an Asian tournament on an indoor hard court.  Despite his preference for slower surfaces, David Ferrer won his most significant title on this surface last fall at the Paris Indoors.  Former Kuala Lumpur champion Nikolay Davydenko can say the same, having captured the year-end championships during his career year in 2009.  But a sporadic thorn in Ferrer’s side, Ryan Harrison, might ambush Davydenko to set up a quarterfinal rematch of their arduous Cincinnati three-setter.  Harrison’s youth and inexperience distinguish him from most of the weathered veterans in this section of the draw.  A key exception, Vasek Pospisil hopes to build on his North American summer breakthrough while regrouping from US Open and Davis Cup heartbreak.  Pospisil holds a top-eight seed at an ATP tournament for the first time and could score a mini-upset over fourth seed Jurgen Melzer in the quarterfinals.

Bottom half:  After falling just short of his first major semifinal at the Australian Open, third seed Nicolas Almagro has stagnated for much of the season.  His imposing serve and shot-making talent lend themselves to hard courts as much as to the Spaniard’s native clay.  Almagro cannot take his opening match against Adrian Mannarino too lightly, however, for this streaky journeyman’s compact strokes might suit the court better than his elongated swings.  Another of the omnipresent Frenchmen in the ATP’s second tier, Julien Benneteau, will hope to recapture his form from reaching a final at an indoor 500 tournament in February.  Far more impressive than anyone else in this half, second seed Stanislas Wawrinka enjoyed the best fortnight of his career last month by reaching a US Open semifinal, buttressed by two victories over top-five opponents.  Wawrinka’s stiffest competition might come from Dmitry Tursunov, among the unsung heroes of the US Open Series and a quarterfinalist at his last four non-majors.