Dominic Thiem has a hard draw at the Erste Bank Open in Vienna (PA Sports)
Five of the world’s top 15 players lead the field at the 500-level Erste Bank Open in Vienna.
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Home hope Dominic Thiem and fellow top-10 player Karen Khachanov lead the field at the ATP Vienna 500 this week as the regular ATP Tour season draws to a close.
Thiem finally won a title on home soil in Kitzbuhel this year, but the Austrian has been handed a very tough draw in Vienna with threatening opponents from the first round, while opportunity knocks in the bottom half of the draw for someone to take advantage.
We break down the draw and predict the semifinalists.
Projected quarterfinal: Dominic Thiem (1) vs Borna Coric (8) (3-1)
Austria’s greatest player since Thomas Muster has never excelled at the Erste Bank Open with two quarterfinals the best he has to show for nine previous appearances in Vienna.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has made the Vienna final three times (PA Sports)
Thiem has both improved as a hard-court player in 2019 and seems to be having a more successful back half of the season than has been customary – witness his China Open title in Beijing – but he has been handed a very tough draw in Vienna, starting with a first-round clash with wildcard Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, champion in Vienna in 2011, runner-up in 2016-17 and winner of two indoor hard-court titles already in this year.
Tsonga also has an 0-2 record vs Thiem, and even if the Austrian gets his first win over the French player it won’t get easier from there with the winner to face Nikoloz Basilashvili or Fernando Verdasco in the second round.
Eighth seed Borna Coric is not having a good season but is a great indoors player, and both Denis Shapovalov and Pablo Carreno Busta are on good form, making the semifinals in Stockholm this week. All in all it’s a nightmare draw for Thiem.
Projected quarterfinal: Matteo Berrettini (3) vs Felix Auger-Aliassime (6) (1-0)
This quarter of the draw is almost as packed with dangerous players as the top one and there are some intriguing matches in prospect from the off.
In qualifying position for the ATP Finals thanks to his Shanghai semifinal run but with a very slender lead on Roberto Bautista Agut, Berrettini has absolutely every incentive to get some wins here and should be fine in the first round against Kyle Edmund, who is currently on a seven-match losing streak. Grigor Dimitrov is likely to await in the second round, though, and although he is on a three-match losing streak he is a good indoors player and has been a bit unlucky with some recent opponents. He could potentially pose a real problem for Berrettini.
Felix Auger-Aliassime hasn’t won back-to-back matches since Montreal and could well be taken out by Andrey Rublev, a semifinalist in Moscow this week, in the first round. Milos Raonic is playing his first tournament since losing to Auger-Aliassime in Montreal and could face him or Rublev in the second round.
Projected quarterfinal: Guido Pella (7) vs Gael Monfils (4) (0-1)
A finalist in Vienna back in 2008, Gael Monfils has won a number of indoor hard-court titles including Rotterdam in 2019 and has an 11-5 record at the Erste Bank Open, and unless Austrian wildcard Denis Novak can do something very unexpected in the first round, he should be headed for a potential second-round rematch with Jannik Sinner, the Italian youngster who beat him in the first round of Antwerp last week.
Karen Khachanov heads the bottom half of the draw (PA Sports)
Guido Pella was a quarterfinalist in Antwerp this week but could be in for a tough time against either Feliciano Lopez or Gilles Simon, who also made the quarterfinals in Antwerp and pushed Stan Wawrinka hard, in the second round after facing a qualifier in the first.
Projected quarterfinal: Diego Schwartzman (5) vs Karen Khachanov (2) (1-1)
With a Masters 1000 Series title defence looming in Paris, Karen Khachanov will hope to improve on this week’s showing at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow – which saw him go out in the quarterfinals to Italian veteran Andreas Seppi – but he is in for a potentially tough first-round clash with big-serving Hubert Hurkacz, although Hurkacz hasn’t shone on indoor hard courts in 2019 (so far).
Two-time Antwerp runner-up Diego Schwartzman is 1-3 since reaching the quarterfinals of the US Open and has a tough path to snap that three-match losing streak in Vienna: Pierre-Hugues Herbert in the first round and potentially Sam Querrey or Adrian Mannarino in the second, both of whom had good wins this week.
Rublev d. Tsonga
Monfils d. Khachanov
Monfils d. Rublev
Erste Bank Open tennis is live from Vienna from 21-27 October 2019