Week in Preview: Rotterdam, Buenos Aires, Memphis, St. Petersburg

by: Steve Tignor February 08, 2016

Nadal could use a win, and Buenos Aires would seem to be a logical place to get one. (AP)

The Australian Open hangover period has passed, and February, that most modest of months, is upon us. In tennis, the calm comes after the storm, as the tours slowly build their way toward March’s big, dual-gender events in the United States. For now, the players have gone their separate ways again, to indoor hard-court events up north, outdoor clay-court events down south, and in the case of the WTA’s Taiwan Open, one last lingering tournament in Asia. Here’s a look ahead at a busily low-key week.


ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament (ATP)

Rotterdam, Netherlands
$1,781,340; 500 ranking points
Indoor hard court
Draw is here

The week’s most important ATP event doesn’t feel quite as important as it usually does. Roger Federer was forced to pull out after having knee surgery. The tournament is also missing defending champion Stan Wawrinka, 2014 champion Tomas Berdych, and Grigor Dimitrov and Dominic Thiem, two entertaining players who have done well here in the past. Unfortunately, two entertaining players who are here, Gael Monfils and Ernests Gulbis, face each other in the first round. 

Who might take advantage of all these absences and snap up Rotterdam’s 500 points? Richard Gasquet, winner in Montpelier over the weekend, is the top seed; Marin Cilic is the second seed; Gilles Simon and David Goffin are third and fourth.

Returning: 2013 finalist Julien Benneteau

First-round match to watch: Vasek Pospisil vs. Alexander Zverev


Argentina Open (ATP)

Buenos Aires
$523,470; 250 ranking points
Draw is here

After his quick exit in Melbourne, Rafael Nadal could use a win, and Buenos Aires would seem to be a logical place to get one. The tournament was one of three that he won in 2015; now Rafa is back, and back on clay, as a wild card and the top seed. He’ll begin against either Marco Cecchinato or his friend, Juan Monaco.

Nadal is not the only name of note in Buenos Aires. While it’s just a 250, it has lured a few surprising names from up north. The third seed is Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and the fifth seed is Thiem, both of whom have played Rotterdam in the past. And while fourth seed John Isner would normally be expected to lead the U.S. charge in Memphis this week, the big man has opted for South American clay instead. He may regret it if he plays Fernando Verdasco in his opener.

Also here: David Ferrer, Fabio Fognini, Alexandr Dolgopolov, Pablo Cuevas


Memphis Open (ATP)

Memphis, USA
$618,030; 250 ranking points
Indoor hard court
Draw is here

In the days when it was a 500-level event, Memphis attracted a smattering of highly-ranked players from outside the States. Now that it's a 250, that smattering has been reduced to one: defending champion Kei Nishikori. Otherwise, this a mostly American affair: Thirteen of the tournament’s 28 main-draw players are U.S. natives. This fact leads to a few occurrences that you don’t see many other places: Donald Young is the third seed and has a first-round bye, 59th-ranked Denis Kudla is the fifth seed, and 112th-ranked Ryan Harrison has earned a direct acceptance into a main draw.

In other words, if you like to see American players competing at the ATP level, this is the tournament for you. Of particular interest will be next-generation kids Frances Tiafoe, Taylor Fritz, Tommy Paul, and Michael Mmoh.

First-round all-American matches to watch: Harrison vs. Tiafoe; Fritz vs. Mmoh


St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy (WTA)

St. Petersburg, Russia
$753,000; Premier
Indoor hard
Draw is here

This tournament may have a retrograde name, but it’s a Premier event with a sizable purse. It has also attracted a decent field, led by top-four seeds Belinda Bencic, Roberta Vinci, Caroline Wozniacki, and Ana Ivanovic. 

When it comes to the WTA’s future, many of us started the year on the Garbiñe Muguruza bandwagon; but is the 18-year-old Bencic's the more reliable ride? After losing in respectable fashion to Maria Sharapova in Melbourne, Bencic followed with a three-win performance for Switzerland in Fed Cup this weekend. Now she’ll have a chance to show what she can do with No. 1-seed expectations on her shoulders.


Taiwan Open (WTA)

Kaohsiung, Taiwan
$500,000; International
Draw is here

At 35, Venus Williams has shown signs of slowing down on the court, but not in her travel schedule. Here she is—after losing in the first round in Auckland and Melbourne—still in Asia, still trying to get her season started. The top-seeded Williams, who has already fallen five spots in the rankings in 2016, will go for her first win of the year against wild card Pei-Chi Lee.

As for the second seed, Misaki Doi, is she still wondering what might have been at the Australian Open? She held, and lost, a match point against Angelique Kerber in the first round.

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