I just finished talking about the potential titanic clashes we could see in the semifinals, but the path to the semifinals could make Munich the most exciting 250 event all year. A lot of players are coming into this tournament playing their best tennis all year, which could lead to a lot of upsets and thrilling matches.
So here are some looks at the best match ups of the first round:
Daniel Brands vs. Tobias Kamke: This will be their first ever meeting in an ATP event. Brands is having one of the best years of his career so far compiling a 9-8 record with wins over Baghdatis, Youzhny, Klizan, Chardy, and Monfils twice. He has won four of his last six matches, which were all on clay. Kamke has had his own impressive giant-killing spree while also trying to achieve a career-high ranking. He got his second career win over a top 10 opponent, and also defeated the tournament's No. 8 seed Jugen Melzer. I am picking Kamke to win this matchup.
Jurgen Melzer vs. Gael Monfils: This pair met twice in Roland Garros producing two highly competitive matches. Monfils won the first in four sets and was pushed to the final set in 2009 before getting the win. These two former top 10 players have struggled at times this year, but have also proven that they can still compete for titles. Melzer this year has a 13-12 record while reaching the final in Zagreb and winning the challenger in Dallas before advancing to the Miami quarterfinals. Monfils has struggled to get his ranking back into the top 100 after his injury, but has knocked out some big names in tournaments this year with wins over Kohlschreiber, Haas, and Dolgopolov. I am going with Melzer to win this one.
Ernests Gulbis vs. Jarkko Nieminen: The unpredictable Ernests Gulbis is at it again. He has come out of nowhere to win tournaments after playing some terrible tennis. He owns the head-to-head against Nieminen, but the only real question in this match is: Which head will he wear? Gulbis is like two different players when he is focused and determined and when he simply does not care. He has compiled an incredible 14-4 record, and reached the round of 16 at Barcelona and Indian Wells after winning the tournament in Delray Beach. However, he also lost in the first round of a challenger to a player ranked outside the top 200. Nieminen on the other hand has been a little more consistent. In fact, his only loss to a player ranked outside of the top 70 was to none other than Ernests Gulbis. He has claimed wins against Benneteau, Haas, Davydenko, Goffin, Verdasco, and Klizan. Then just over a week ago, he defeated Milos Raonic, and top 10 player Juan Martin Del Potro. All of his last three wins have come in a third set tiebreaker. However I am predicting his luck will run out with a thrilling win from Gulbis.
Paul-Henri Mathieu vs. Dimitry Tursunov: Both times these two have played, Tursunov has won in an exciting three-set encounter. One of which was the Metz final for one of Tursunov's seven career titles. Tursunov has been a tough player to pin down this year. He has defeated two top 10 players (Ferrer and Tipsarevic), but has lost three matches to players outside the top 200. Mathieu on the flip side has been very easy to predict. He has lost all seven of his ATP matches this year. Any other year, on this surface, Mathieu would win this match up in straight sets. However, Tursunov has been playing well enough to get a win here.
So on we go to the second round:
Thomaz Bellucci vs. Janko Tipsarevic: Bellucci has to get past Grega Zemlja for this meeting to take place, but if it does happen, it would be a golden opportunity for Bellucci to take out the No. 1 seed. Janko Tipsarevic has had a lot of trouble since winning Chennai to open the season. Since then, he has only won six of his last 14 matches with all losses. Tipsarevic's 10-8 record is shockingly bad considering that all 18 of his matches have been against lower-ranked opponents. At one point in the year, he went on a five-match losing streak. Bellucci's season hasn't been a ton better, but his best results have always been on the clay. He is 3-4 this year on clay and won 73 matches and three titles in his career on clay. I think Bellucci can make Tipsarevic feel the pressure, but I think the Serb will begin to turn around his season with a win in Munich against the Brazilian.
Philipp Kohlschreiber vs. Marcos Baghdatis: In terms of sheer entertainment value, this will be the best match of the first two rounds. These are two of the best shot makers in tennis right now, which will cause some mouth-watering rallies. These two have met in this tournament both in 2007 and in 2010. If Baghdatis gets past the first round, this will be the pair's fifth meeting on German soil. Baghdatis leads the head-to-head 4-2. I am picking Kohlschreiber to defeat Baghdatis and make his way back into the top 20 of the world this week by reaching the final.
Ernests Gulbis vs. Tommy Haas: If this match up does happen (and that is a big if), we could see one of the most competitive matches of the week. These two have developed a bit of history with each other over the past nine months. Ernests Gulbis has defeated Tommy Haas in two epic matches. The first was a dramatic five-set win in the first round of the US Open after Haas led by two sets and a break. Then earlier this year, Gulbis defeated Haas in a final set tiebreaker in the semifinals at Delray Beach. As I talked about in my last post, this tournament is very important for Haas, but a win over Gulbis would have extra meaning for him. I am picking Haas to get his revenge and defeat Gulbis in the second round in Munich.
There should be some thrilling matches in the German tournament this year. It hasn't been typically known for having a star-studded lineup or the best matches of any 250 tournament, but it is hard to imagine a tournament that will have story lines like this one will at any point this season. Each round at the BMW Open presents something different to talk about. This is not a tournament that you should wait until Sunday to tune into.