The Week in Preview: Oeiras, Munich

Monday, April 28, 2014 /by
Monica Puig slides on clay in Oeiras, Portugal. (Pedro Mendes)
Monica Puig slides on clay in Oeiras, Portugal. (Pedro Mendes)

“The calm before the storm”: Try as I might, I can’t come up with a better way—OK, a better cliché—to describe the coming week in tennis. Starting next week, the men and women will gather for major back-to-back events in Madrid and Rome, and then, in late May, for the second Grand Slam of the year, the French Open. With that in mind, the top players are in rest mode for now. 

But there are plenty of red-clay courts in Europe, and they might as well get some use. Here’s a look at two small tournaments that will tide us over until things get loud again.

*****

Portugal Open (ATP)

Oeiras, Portugal
$589,710; 250 ranking points
Clay
Draw is here

This is the kind of week where you find out who thinks they can afford to take time off, and who doesn’t. The Big 4 are obviously in the former category, but Tomas Berdych, despite all of his success, apparently is not. The world No. 6 will be the headliner and top seed in Portugal. We’ll see what kind of stripes his clothing company, H&M, comes up with for the occasion.

If this is why Berdych, who has won two of his nine career titles on clay, skipped Davis Cup this spring, he should really try to win the whole thing, right? He’ll at least want to put the memory of his last result, an early loss in Monte Carlo to Guillermo Garcia Lopez, behind him. Berdych will start against either Somdev Devvarman or Matthew Ebden.

Portugal has lured one other resident of the Top 10, Milos Raonic. This past weekend, two of his fellow Next Gen members, Grigor Dimitrov and Kei Nishikori, won titles. Raonic is currently a few places ahead of them in the rankings; will he still be at the end of the clay season? He’ll start against either Pablo Cuevas or Aleksandr Nedovyesov.

Also here: Guillermo Garcia Lopez and Pablo Carreño Busta

First-round match for the tennis-starved to watch: Albert Montanes vs. Barcelona finalist Santiago Giraldo

*****

Portugal Open (WTA)

Oeiras, Portugal
$250,000; WTA International
Clay
Draw is here

The women’s draw in Portugal offers half as much prize money as the men’s, and at first glance the field looks about half as strong. The top seed is 15th-ranked Carla Suarez Navarro; No. 2 is 18th-ranked Eugenie Bouchard. It seems the Canadian, who took a wild card into the event, is officially a gate attraction. Bouchard was impressive on green dirt in Charleston, where she made the semifinals. But she might have a tough start to her red-clay campaign; she plays Alisa Kleybanova in the first round, and could face Svetlana Kuznetsova in the third.

Also here: Sam Stosur. She was raised on Australian hard courts, but clay has been her best surface in recent years.

Photo Galleries: Veteran photographer Pedro Mendes, whose image of Monica Puig leads this post, will be in Oeiras this week shooting for TENNIS.com. You can view his daily photo dispatches here.

*****

BMW Open by FWU AG

Munich, Germany
$589,710; 250 ranking points
Clay
Draw is here

Let me start by asking two questions: 

Does this tournament—BMW Open by FWU AG—have the worst name of any in the sport? Is it even possible to pronounce?

Looking at the draw of the BMWFWUAG—OK, Munich—it’s almost hard to believe that Tommy Haas’ name isn’t at the top of the draw. Sure, he’s only the second seed, after Fabio Fognini. But the 36-year-old grand old man of German tennis is the defending champion, the local hero, and the virtual event spokesperson. And if he’s going to win a tournament, this is one his few opportunities. Haas’ 15 career titles have come in just three countries, the U.S., Germany, and Austria. He’ll start his quest for No. 16 against Alejandro Falla.

Also here: Fabio Fognini and Gael Monfils, in the same half. I don’t know whether to hope they meet in the semifinals or not.

Second-round match to watch: Fognini vs. Dustin Brown. There should be some form of fun to be had from this one.

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