ATP Rotterdam, San Jose, and Sao Paolo – Monday 13th February until Sunday 19th February 2012

After a week’s break from tournament tennis for Davis Cup ties, the ATP tour heads to the Netherlands for the ABN AMRO event and it is here I’ll be focusing my attentions for the next seven days.

Clearly the Rotterdam competition is the main event on tour with the winner pocketing almost €300,000 compared to €95,000 in San Jose and €85,000 in Sao Paolo. It is therefore no surprise to see a strong field assembled in the Netherlands’ second largest City, with names such as top seed Roger Federer, 2009 US Open Champion Juan Martin Del Potro, and my selection this week, Tomas Berdych.

The 2nd seed comes into this week off the back of a tournament win in Montpellier a fortnight ago (also indoor) and having helped his native Czech Republic to a win against Italy in the Davis Cup, ultimately racing into an unassailable 3-0 lead, Berdych was able to recuperate on Sunday in preparation for his participation this coming week.

He doesn’t have the greatest of records here, reaching the quarter finals on just one occasion from six previous attempts. He does, however, have a doubles title here to his name from 2008 so clearly acts on the surface. Looking at the draw sheet, I don’t think Berdych need have any major concerns. Admittedly the world number seven has a tendency to show his best form in the bigger events but I’m encouraged by his performance in France two weeks ago, where he beat some pretty useful players in Philipp Kohlschreiber and Gael Monfils too.

Berdych gave an interview recently stating what a difficult generation it is to be playing tennis in and he’s not wrong. With Novak Djokovic looking set to dominate the men’s game for the foreseeable future, and the main chasing pack being made up of Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray, Berdych finds himself in the third tier of chasing players.

There are certainly question marks over Federer’s form at present. Rather surprisingly, John Isner was able to get the better of him in the Swiss’ own backyard, which was made all the more remarkable given the surface was Isner’s least favored , red clay.

Berdych has a rather unappealing head-to-head record of 10-4 against Federer. That said, he has won three of the last five meetings which may suggest he’s turning a corner when it comes to getting the better of the Swiss maestro. It would of course be disrespectful to dismiss the likes of Marcos Baghdatis and Juan Martin Del Potro who Berdych will need to defeat in order to advance to the latter stages. He also doesn’t have a great head-to-head record against the other seeded players in the tournament which, along with Federer’s participation, may help to inflate his price somewhat.

In conclusion, if he can negotiate some fairly tricky matches in the early stages, Berdych has a great chance of lifting his second trophy in as many tournaments.

Selection – Tomas Berdych

Elsewhere, the Spanish stranglehold on the Brasil Open looks set to continue with Nicolas Almagro chasing a third title in Sao Paolo. A Spaniard has held the trophy aloft in each of the last four years and I believe Almagro has a great chance to extend this record into a fifth year. Only two other top-30 players grace the draw (Gilles Simon & Fernando Verdasco), with the former not known for his clay court exploits and the latter possibly in regressive form at present, dropping to his lowest ATP world ranking of 26th since May 2008. Simon played on the red stuff 10 times in 2011 including a Davis Cup tie and with the exception of a tournament win in Hamburg (winning four of his five matches in three tight sets), he didn’t make it past the last eight on a single occasion.

Admittedly there a few dangerous clay court specialists lurking in the draw but I’d be most comfortable siding with the most talented player on the surface in my opinion, which is Nicolas Almagro.

Selection – Nicolas Almagro

Finally in San Jose, 3rd seed and defending champion Milos Raonic has a losing head-to-head record with the first and second seeds (Monfils & Roddick) and with very little to choose between the top two seeds, I’d side with last week’s finalist Gael Monfils. He could have played in Rotterdam for the greater prize money but playing in California shows he’s serious about winning this. There is obviously a concern that with Monfils playing Davis Cup in Canada he’s just sticking around in the North America region but money talks and I feel if he wanted to jet back to the Netherland, he would have done.

Selection – Gael Monfils

Follow Chris on Twitter @cdquinn86

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