From 8-13 January Canberra hosted many of the world’s top 100 men’s tennis players as they fought it out for the East Hotel Canberra Challenger tennis title. This was an ATP Challenger event.
Italy’s Andreas Seppi was to emerge as champion after he defeated Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics 5-7, 6-4, 6-3. Many of the competitors from the Canberra event are now down in Melbourne for the Australian Open. In this article we look at who is competing in Melbourne after playing here in Canberra, and we look at who they have drawn in the men’s singles event.
Working through the Canberra draw we had Dudi Sela as the top seed. Dudi lost first round in Canberra after coming in as defending champion. In Melbourne, he will face in-form American Ryan Harrison. Dudi was ranked at 78 going into Canberra but with the 15 January update or the rankings has dropped to 95 after the poor result in Canberra. Harrison is ranked at 45 and goes to Melbourne after a strong performance in Brisbane where he was the runner-up to Nick Kyrgios.
Sela and Harrison are meeting for the first time. Sela has performed stronger at the Australian Open having reached the third round on two occasions however based on recent form I pick Harrison to advance.
Malik Jaziri from Tunisia played Marton Fucsovics in the opening round in Canberra and was forced to retire with illness, most likely heat related. The score was 6-2, 5-1 in favour of his Hungarian opponent at the time of Jaziri’s retirement. Jaziri is ranked at 100 and had a career-high ranking of 47 in February 2017 after reaching the third round at the 2017 Australian Open, a feat he also achieved in 2015 where he lost to Australia’s Nick Kyrgios.
Jaziri faces Italy’s Salvatore Caruso who is ranked at 210 and reached the main draw through the qualifying. Jaziri started 2017 well, but faded as the year went on, as reflected in his ranking. Caruso has mostly played ATP Challenger events or lower. This one is a hard match to pick. Caruso has some form after going through qualifying and that could give him the edge.
Marton Fucsovics went all the way to the final in Canberra, losing 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 to the more experienced Andreas Seppi. In the Australian Open the Hungarian will face Moldova’s Radu Albot. They are closely matched in the rankings with Fucsovics at a career high of 80 and Albot at 87. Fucsovics holds a 3-1 head-to-head lead if taking into account qualifying, challenger and futures matches, it is 2-0 to Fucsovics on the ATP World Tour site.
If Fucsovics is not too fatigued after a tough week in Canberra he has the form on the board to defeat Albot. The Australian Open starts with a run of cool days so that will help the big Hungarian. Fucsovics is 188cm compared to Albot who stands at 175cm.
Kazakhstan player, Mikhail Kukushkin is ranked at 69. He retired from his match in Canberra against Australia’s Jeremy Beale in the opening round. Kukushkin faces Germany’s Peter Gojowczyk who is ranked at 62. Both players have one career title to their name with Kukushkin winning the St Petersburg title back in 2010 and Gojowczyk winning Metz in September 2017 going from qualifying to the title.
Gojowczyk has reached the quarterfinals in Doha and Auckland to open 2018 and Kukushkin made the quarterfinals in Pune before retiring in Canberra after losing the tiebreak and succumbing to illness. Another hard match to pick. The cooler Melbourne weather could help Kukushkin get the win.
Argentina’s Nicolas Kicker who lost in the first round to France’s Elliot Benchetit 6-4, 7-5, has drawn Australia’s Jordan Thompson in the opening round in Melbourne. Kicker is ranked at 93 and Thompson 99. Another close matchup is expected.
In the opening round in Canberra, Chile’s Nicolas Jarry defeated France’s Corentin Moutet who has been awarded the French Open reciprical wildcard. Jarry, ranked 101, plays Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer who is ranked at 52 and reached a career high of 21 in mid-2015. Mayer won the Hamburg ATP 500 event in July 2017 and should be too good for Jarry.
Italy’s Andreas Seppi, who as mentioned earlier, won the Canberra title. That took his ranking to 76, up 11 places. Seppi who has been a giant killer in past Opens having defeated Australia’s Nick Kyrgios in the second round last year and Roger Federer in the third round in 2015. Seppi reached a career-high of 18 in 2013.
Seppi chose not to see who his first-round Australian Open opponent was until he completed the Canberra tournament. It was revealed to him at the press interview after he won the final that he would play Moutet, who is ranked at 155. Moutet is just 18-years-old and is considered an exciting prospect for the future. He stands at just 175cm compared to Seppi at 191cm. Based on form in Canberra you would have to go with Seppi, the only concern is how will Seppi recover from a tough week in Canberra.
Laslo Djere from Serbia is ranked at 85. He lost to world ranked 336, Maxime Janvier in the opening round 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, in a hard-fought battle in hot conditions. Djere is drawn to play world ranked 89, Ivo Karlovic. The veteran from Croatia is always a tough opponent due to his height and big serving. Karlovic reached as high as 14 back in 208, but is slowly heading towards retirement age of 38. Karlovic reached the round of 16 in 2010 where he lost to Rafael Nadal. Djere is playing his first main draw event at the Australian Open and is a good chance to advance past Karlovic.
Germany’s Maximilian Marterer held a match point in the opening round of the Canberra event against Andreas Seppi. He is ranked at 94 and meets fellow German Cedrik-Marcel Stebe who is ranked at 83. You can toss a coin to pick the winner.
Spain’s Guillermo Garcia-Lopez made the third round in Canberra where he was another victim of the good form of Andreas Seppi, losing 6-3, 6-4. The Spaniard who is ranked at 71 will play France’s Benoit Paire who is ranked at 42. Paire, who has reached back-to-back semifinals to open the 2018 season would be the favourite, especially when looking at the 3-1 head 2 head advantage.
Victor Estrella Burgos was a semifinalist in Canberra, losing to Seppi 6-2, 6-2. Estrella Burgos is ranked at 79 and has the honour of playing the number one seed, Rafael Nadal, to open the night session on day one. I am not expecting a huge upset, which it would be if Estrella Burgos could pull off a win.
The final player who competed in the East Hotel Canberra Challenger and is playing in the singles at the Australian Open is Germany’s Florian Mayer, the world number 68. Mayer lost in the third round to Estrella Bugos 7-6(4), 0-6, 6-3. Mayer is drawn to play world number 72 Evgeny Donskoy from Russia. Both players have a few matches under their belt in 2018, and this should be another tight contest.
I will be keeping an eye on the progress of the players that were in Canberra recently, along with Canberra’s very own Nick Kyrgios and Alison Bai who will contest the doubles with Zoe Hives. Other players to watch who have a Canberra connection include Matt Ebden, the winner of the Canberra Challenger back in October 2017.