With the bett1HULKS Indoors Open heading to a finish on Sunday, fans can now brace themselves for Round 2 of the indoor tennis tournament in Cologne. From Monday, the bett1HULKS Championship or Cologne 2 will kick off with a host of top names in the fray.
Under normal circumstances, this ATP 250 event wouldn’t draw a lot of attention. But with limited tennis on offer this year, the top stars are making the most of the new tournaments on the tour.
Much like in Cologne 1, Alexander Zverev is the top seed here as well. The other stars who are confirmed to join him from the first tournament are Roberto Bautista Agut, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Fernando Verdasco, Andy Murray, Hubert Hurkacz, Jan-Lennard Struff and Marin Cilic.
Amongst the new entrants, the biggest draws would be second seed Diego Schwartzman, third seed Denis Shapovalov and teenage sensation Jannik Sinner.
The main draw action will kick off on Monday, and here is a look at the prospects of the top players.
Top half: Alexander Zverev looks for a title in his home country, again
Seeded players:  Alexander Zverev,  Denis Shapovalov,  Hubert Hurkacz,  Adrian Mannarino
Expected semifinal: Alexander Zverev vs Denis Shapovalov
Dark horse: Jannik Sinner
Analysis: As of the time of writing, top seed Alexander Zverev has reached the final of the Cologne 1 event, all set to take on Felix Auger-Aliassime on Sunday.
The German has been in good form over the past week and will be looking to bring that to Cologne 2 as well. That said, back-to-back deep runs in consecutive weeks could also bring in the fatigue factor for Zverev.
The World No. 7 has a rather straightforward draw until the semis, where he’s expected to face St. Petersburg semifinalist Denis Shapovalov. The Canadian will be a bit more well-rested than Zverev and might be able to take advantage of that when or if they face each other.
Both of these in-form players have received a bye in the first round as expected, and will play directly in the Round of 16. While Zverev is likely to face either Fernando Verdasco or John Millman in his first match, Shapovalov will face one of Jordan Thompson or Gilles Simon.
The most exciting opening round match would be the one between sixth seed Hubert Hurkacz and wildcard entrant Jannik Sinner.
The Italian was supposed to play at St. Petersburg, but pulled out at the last minute due to a stomach bug. If Sinner regains his fitness and replicates his French Open form, we can expect him to go deep in this half.
Eighth seed Adrian Mannarino completes the list of seeded players in this half. The Frenchman suffered an unexpected first-round loss at St. Petersburg, and will be looking to make amends in Cologne.
Semifinal prediction: Alexander Zverev vs Denis Shapovalov
Bottom half: Diego Schwartzman to play his first tournament since Roland Garros
Seeded players:  Diego Schwartzman,  Roberto Bautista Agut,  Felix Auger-Aliassime,  Jan-Lennard Struff
Expected semifinal: Diego Schwartzman vs Roberto Bautista Agut
Dark horse: Alejandro Davidovich Fokina
Analysis: Three of the seeded players in the bottom half of Cologne 2 are continuing on from the first tournament. And they will be joined by one of the most in-form players over the last one month - Diego Schwartzman.
The Argentine will be playing his first tournament since the French Open. Schwartzman made the final in Rome and the semis in Paris, but will be faced with a different challenge as he looks to adapt to the indoor hardcourts at Cologne.
Schwartzman has received a bye in the first round and is slated to face either Andy Murray or Danilo Petrovic in the second round. His quarterfinal could be a tricky one as he is likely to face one of Felix Auger-Aliassime, Marin Cilic or Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.
Roberto Bautista Agut and Felix Auger-Aliassime have both been in pretty good rhythm too, and have adapted well to the conditions so far. However, the Canadian went one better than the Spaniard by defeating him in the semifinals at Cologne 1.
Felix Auger-Aliassime deserves special mention for turning around his season after a miserable claycourt swing.
The Canadian was ousted in the opening rounds at both Rome and Paris, and in Hamburg he could progress only until the second round. However, back on his favored surface, Auger-Aliassime is showing glimpses of his form from the US Open - where he made the fourth round before losing to eventual champion Dominic Thiem.
The 20-year-old has had an excellent run in Cologne 1 but is faced with a trickier task this time around. Auger-Aliassime opens his campaign against Steve Johnson before going on to face one of Marin Cilic or Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.
On the other hand, Roberto Bautista Agut has a rather straightforward draw. In his second round, he will take on a qualifier or Daniel Altmaier; the Spaniard is slated to face a seeded player only in the quarterfinals, which should theoretically be Jan-Lennard Struff.
Semifinal prediction: Diego Schwartzman vs Roberto Bautista Agut
Denis Shapovalov vs Diego Schwartzman
Diego SchwartzmanPublished 18 Oct 2020, 02:51 IST