ATP 500 Series: Rio Open Preview

Tennis player stands with racquet in hand

We preview the Rio Open which forms part of the ATP 500 series with the event set to take place between Monday 19 February - Sunday 25 February. 

The South American swing of the clay court season reaches its climax with the Rio Open, as the tour migrates north towards Acapulco and then the Masters 1000 events in the States. The eight courts of the Jockey Club Brasiliero include a 6,200 seater stadium that creates a tremendous atmosphere. 

The inaugural Rio Open was won by clay court Ubermensch Rafa Nadal in 2014. The field this week may not have quite the same pizzazz as the European clay-court events, but Marin Cilic and Dominic Thiem certainly add star power and make this week’s destination very much worth your consideration.

Past Winners
2017: Dominic Thiem 
2016: Pablo Cuevas
2015: David Ferrer
2014: Rafael Nadal


First Quarter- Seeded Players- Marin Cilic (1), Diego Schwartzmann (6)
Aussie Open finalist and World Number 3 Cilic hasn’t exactly been handed the kindest draw, with Argentina Open semi-finalist and perennial clay-court threat Gael Monfils looming potentially in the next round- should Cilic dispose of a qualifier. Diego Schwartzmann was terrific in Melbourne, pushing Nadal in four sets in a display that could be a herald of things to come. His performance in Argentina was however disappointing, losing to Bedene in the Round of 16. Schwartzmann- very much a typical clay specialist- may feel an upset is possible here, but I can’t see past Cilic in this quarter. Player to progress- Marin Cilic. 

Second Quarter- Seeded Players- Albert Ramos-Vinolas (4), Pablo Cuevas (7)
Neither Albert Ramos-Vinolas or former champion Pablo Cuevas come into this event in the greatest of form, which could give the likes of Dutra-Silva and Pella a sniff this week. Ramos-Vinolas did reach the final of the less than stellar Equador Open, but lost soundly to Bedene in Argentina. Cuevas lost to Monfils in Argentina and couldn’t make it past the Round of 64 in Melbourne. Having said all that, no one really jumps out at me from the remainder of the quarter. Cuevas may be the man to back over Ramos-Vinolas when one considers his history at this event. Player to progress- Pablo Cuevas

Third Quarter- Seeded Players- Fabio Fognini (5), Pablo Carreno-Busta (3)
Fabio Fognini really performed well in the opening Grand Slam of the year, going down to Tomas Berdych in the Round of 16 in Melbourne. It was the type of performance that suggested a renaissance for the Italian this season. Pablo Carreno-Busta has struggled to recapture the heights that saw him go to the semi-finals in Flushing Meadows last year. While he it took eventual finalist Marin Cilic to knock him out in the Round of 16 in Melbourne, two disappointing weeks on the South American make him hard to back. The controversial Tennys Sandgren will be looking to build on that tremendous quarter-final run in Melbourne. Player to progress- Fabio Fognini. 

Fourth Quarter- Seeded Players- Fernando Verdasco (8), Dominic Thiem (2)
The fourth quarter sees Argentina Open champion Dominic Theim looking to successfully defend his title. The bottom half of the draw looks elementary enough for the Austrian, with perhaps his only concerns waiting in the quarterfinal stage. Fernando Verdasco is always a dangerous competitor on clay and comes up against the similarly talented Leonardo Mayer in a tantalizing first round match. One would assume that the winner of that match would most like face Thiem in the quarters, though it’s hard to look past Thiem this week. He’s probably the second best ‘active’ clay court player in the world; surely Roger Federer remains the ‘closest’ player on clay to Nadal should he play; there is no one close to Rafa. Player to progress- Dominic Thiem

Selected First Round Matches- Upset Watch

Fernando Verdasco (15/20) vs Leonardo Mayer (1/1)
This should be exciting encounter of two card carrying baseliners, but Mayer beat Fognini in Argentina and Verdasco has been insipid in recent events. 

Albert Ramo-Vinolas (3/10) vs Rodrigo Dutra Silva (47/20)
This is purely a piece of wishful speculation. The two haven’t met before and 47/20 just looks appealing for Dutra-Silva- who is more of a doubles specialist. 

Fabio Fognini (9/20) vs Thomas Bellucci (33/20)
While this may seem somewhat counterintuitive- I picked Fognini to emerge from his section- I still think that this section could spring a surprise or two. Fognini leads the head-to-head between the two 4-0, but two of those matches were decided by tight set tiebreaks. 

Written by Damien Kayat for

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