The ATP tour travels to Hamburg this week for what will be the last claycourt tournament in the lead-up to Roland Garros. Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas headline the surprisingly packed field at the German event.
World No. 5 Medvedev returns to action for the first time since losing to eventual champion Dominic Thiem in the semifinals of the 2020 US Open. The Russian didn't play the Italian Open, opting out of the Masters 1000 tournament to give himself some rest.
The top seed is joined by Stefanos Tsitsipas, who will be looking to get his season back on track after a couple of disastrous results. The Greek lost in the fourth round of the US Open despite having six match points, in what was a heartbreaking anticlimax to his North American hardcourt swing. He then put up a subpar performance against Jannik Sinner at Rome last week, exiting the tournament at the very first hurdle.
Medvedev and Tsitsipas will be joined by fellow top 10 players Roberto Bautista Agut and Gael Monfils, as well as Andrey Rublev, Cristian Garin and 2019 champion Nikoloz Basilashvili. Here's a look at how the draw is expected to unfold:
Top half: Daniil Medvedev could have a rematch with Roberto Bautista Agut
Daniil Medvedev had a breakthrough claycourt swing last year, where he reached the final at the Barcelona Open and the semifinals at the Monte Carlo Masters. The Russian's results did not translate to the 2019 French Open though, as he lost in his opening match to Pierre-Hugues Herbert.
However, the Russian will be expected to make the most of his good fortune in terms of his draw at Hamburg. While he faces an in-form Ugo Humbert in the first round, the going gets easier for the World No. 5 after that as he could play either Casper Ruud or Fabio Fognini in the quarterfinals.
Now in normal circumstances this pair of opponents would be a tough challenge on the punishing red dirt of Hamburg. But Fognini is coming off a surgery, and Ruud is bound to be fatigued from his week at the Rome Masters (where he has reached the semis at the time of writing).
If Medvedev succeeds in making the last four at Hamburg, he could face Bautista Agut or Rublev for a place in the final. But Bautista Agut will be tested in his opening match itself, as he takes on two-time Hamburg Open champion Nikoloz Basilashvili.
If the Spaniard's baseline game is on the money in Hamburg, a matchup against Medvedev in the semifinals would make for a blockbuster contest. The pair last met in the quarterfinals of the 2020 Western & Southern Open, where Bautista Agut came out on top in three sets.
On the other side of the quarter, Andrey Rublev will open his campaign against a qualifier. He then might have to stare down the big-serving Kevin Anderson for a place in the quarterfinals.
One of the floaters in the top half of the draw is Benoit Paire, who has had a tumultuous post-lockdown season. The World No. 24 had tested positive for COVID-19 one day prior to the start of the US Open, prompting the organizers to withdraw him from the tournament. Paire's season then got even worse as he suffered a spectacular meltdown during a first-round loss to Jannik Sinner in Rome.
The Frenchman can certainly play on clay though, and could give Medvedev a run for his money if the two meet in the quarterfinals. But Paire will have to show some discipline in a tough opening match against Casper Ruud.
Semifinal prediction: Roberto Bautista Agut vs Daniil Medvedev
Bottom half: Stefanos Tsitsipas looking to rebound from a slump in form
Second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas is one of the favourites to win the title in Hamburg, by dint of his proven claycourt credentials. The Greek won the title at the 2019 Estoril Open before a runner-up finish in Madrid and a semifinal appearance in Rome; the Greek even beat 'King of Clay' Rafael Nadal in the Spanish capital.
The World No. 6 would be disappointed at having lost early Rome last week; he just couldn't get his game under control against Sinner in the second round. However, an early exit from the Masters 1000 tournament would have helped him get in some added preparation for the Hamburg Open.
Tsitsipas starts against Dan Evans, and could face World No. 28 Taylor Fritz in the second round. Gael Monfils and Diego Schwartzman are the top names in the opposite section of this half, which also includes former World No. 3 Kei Nishikori.
Monfils went down to qualifier Dominik Koepfer without much of a fight in Rome, but should be expected to get back to winning ways soon. Already a winner of two titles in 2020, Monfils has a fairly easy opening match (against Yannick Hanfmann) before he takes on either World No. 21 Cristian Garin or comeback kid Kei Nishikori for a place in the quarterfinals.
Garin won two claycourt titles earlier during the season, at the Rio Open and the Cordoba Open, and will be one of the dark horses for the Hamburg title. The Chilean is expected to get the better of his first round opponent Nishikori, who hadn't played a competitive match for more than a year before he made a comeback at Kitzbuhel two weeks ago.
Monfils' possible quarterfinal opponent, Diego Schwartzman, is also a legitimate contender to win this event. Facing claycourt veteran Albert Ramos Vinolas in the first round, the Argentine could play talented youngster Felix Auger-Aliassime in the second.
The Canadian has enjoyed a fine season this year, and could make some noise at the Hamburg Open if he can win his first couple of matches.
Semifinal prediction: Felix Auger-Aliassime vs Stefanos Tsitsipas
Prediction for the final
Stefanos Tsitsipas vs Roberto Bautista Agut
Stefanos TsitsipasPublished 19 Sep 2020, 22:32 IST