Swiss Indoors: Preview and predictions

With no Roger Federer to monopolize a spot in the final, the field this year in Basel is essentially wide open as the indoor hard court swing heats up.

Swiss Indoors: Preview and predictions
Last year's finalists Roger Federer (left) and Rafael Nadal hold their trophies in Basel. Photo: ATP World Tour

As the Swiss Indoors in Basel, Switzerland kicks off on Monday, one thing is for sure. For the first time in over a decade, there will be two different finalists from the previous year. Not since 2004-2005 did four different men feature in the Basel final over two years. The main reason for that was Roger Federer reaching 10 straight finals in his hometown starting in 2006. But with the seven-time champion’s season over, along with that of 2015 runner-up Rafael Nadal, the field this year in Basel is wide open for a new man to claim the crown. Here’s what to expect at the 2016 Swiss Indoors.

Top quarter: Wawrinka’s opportunity

Despite what the rankings may have said, the argument could be made the Stan Wawrinka has been the best Swiss player for the past three years. But he’s never managed to take down the man who has overshadowed him, his buddy Federer, in their home nation’s largest tournament. He is the top seed this year and will be looking to finally claim that elusive trophy. His opener will surely be played before a packed house, as he takes on countryman Marco Chiudinelli in the first round. Assuming the top seed is victorious, he would play either Ilya Marchenko or a qualifier in the second round.

Stan Wawrinka lines up a forehand back in Shanghai. Photo: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images
Stan Wawrinka lines up a forehand back in Shanghai. Photo: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Joining Wawrinka in the top quarter is seventh seed Richard Gasquet. The Frenchman will pay Guido Pella in the first round. The winner of that match will play either a qualifier or American teen Taylor Fritz in the second round, likely for the right to play Wawrinka in the quarters. Gasquet is the only person in this quarter who is likely to pose any kind of threat to the top seed.

Quarterfinal prediction: Wawrinka d. Gasquet

Second quarter: The Spanish are coming

Rafael Nadal may be skipping out on Basel this year, but that does not mean that Spain will not be well represented, with three Spaniards finding themselves in the second quarter of the draw. Fourth-seeded Croatian Marin Cilic leads that quarter and has a potentially tricky opening against Mikhail Youzhny. Should he get through that, he’ll play one of the Spaniards, either Fernando Verdasco or Pablo Carreno Busta.

Marin Cilic pumps his fist during a match in Shanghai. Photo: Kevin Lee/Getty Images
Marin Cilic pumps his fist during a match in Shanghai. Photo: Kevin Lee/Getty Images

Eighth seed Jack Sock, who is coming off an impressive run in Shanghai, will look to keep his level up on the quick indoor courts of Basel as he takes on Adrian Mannarino in the first round. The winner of that match will take on the winner between Spain’s Marcel Granollers and home favourite Swiss Henri Laaksonen. Because most of the players in this quarter struggle with consistency, anything could happen, although on the fast indoor courts, big-hitters Cilic and Sock should be fine.

Quarterfinal prediction: Cilic d. Sock

Third quarter: Budding rivalry?

When the Shanghai draw came out, David Goffin was considered to be a goner in the first round as he was drawn to play Juan Martin del Potro. The Belgian won an epic over del Potro on route to the quarterfinals. He may need to go through the Argentinian early again in Basel, as the pair have been drawn on course for a second round clash. Goffin will have to face a tough test first in the form of Marco Baghdatis, while del Potro opens against a qualifier.

Juan Martin del Potro hoists his 2012 Basel trophy. Photo: Urs Flueeler/AP
Juan Martin del Potro hoists his 2012 Basel trophy. Photo: Urs Flueeler/AP

In a bizarre twist, the only three men in the draw to have contested a final in Basel were all drawn into the same quarter. Del Potro is the only former champion (2012-2013) while Goffin reached the 2014 final. The third man to reach a final previously in Basel and compete in 2016 is the 2011 runner-up and 2016 third seed Kei Nishikori. The Japanese will kick off his campaign against Dusan Lajovic. He has not played since a back injury forced him out of Tokyo earlier this month. He awaits the winner between Paolo Lorenzi and Nicolas Mahut in the second round.

Quarterfinal prediction: Del Potro d. Nishikori

Bottom quarter: Raonic looks for turn-around

If anyone benefitted most from Nadal’s withdrawal, it was Milos Raonic, who was bumped up to the tournament’s second seed. The Canadian has had a rough go since Cincinnati, only reaching the quarterfinals of one of his four events, and he had to pull out of that one event (Beijing) with an injury after winning his quarterfinal. He’ll be hoping to turn things around here and build momentum heading into the ATP World Tour Finals. He opens against a qualifier and will play either Andrey Kuznetsov or Frederico Delbonis in the second round.

Milos Raonic hits a backhand in Shanghai. Photo: Kevin Lee/Getty Images
Milos Raonic hits a backhand in Shanghai. Photo: Kevin Lee/Getty Images

Grigor Dimitrov has had a pretty decent fall so far and will be hoping to finish his 2016 on a stronger note. The sixth seed plays Gilles Muller in the first round. Should he be victorious, he would face either Benoit Paire or Florian Mayer in the second round. A quarterfinal between Raonic and Dimitrov would be fitting since they were supposed to play in the semifinals of Beijing, but Raonic was forced out with an injury, giving the Bulgarian a free pass to the final.

Quarterfinal prediction: Raonic d. Dimitrov

Semifinals: Wawrinka d. Cilic, del Potro d. Raonic

Final: Wawrinka d. del Potro