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After the excitement of the US Open, the ATP Tour switches back to Europe and indoor hard courts, with St Petersburg in Russia being home to one of the tournaments this week.
Mikhail Youzhny heads the draw in his home country here and will face Canada’s Vasek Pospisil in the first round. If as expected the 2004 champion makes it through to the next round he will face Rajeev Ram after the American sent Mathias Bachinger packing in straight sets earlier today. Belarussian qualifier Sergey Betov has never played a match at main tour level but could push Paolo Lorenzi if the Italian has a bad day. Lorenzi much prefers clay and it is a surprise that he has chosen to play here over multiple clay court challengers. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez awaits the winner after he came back from a set and break down to defeat wildcard Evgeny Donskoy.
Fresh off defeating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Martin Klizan should be full of confidence in hard court play and has an extremely winnable opening round fixture in Mikhail Elgin. The Russian wildcard has rarely played on the main tour in singles but was a losing finalist in the doubles here last year. Two more clay courters face each other in Simone Bolelli and Horacio Zeballos. Bolelli picked up the victory in Kitzbuhel early this year but neither player has much chance of going deep here. Russian qualifier Andrey Kumantsov won both his qualifiers in straight sets but will have his work cut out against Jurgen Zopp. Estonian Zopp has recent good form on indoor hard courts having made the semi final of Petange just last week.
A winner in Shanghai challenger 2 weeks ago, Yen-Hsun Lu has been playing well though at a lower level. If fit, he should be far too strong for the Spaniard Roberto Bautista-Agut but there are question marks over his fitness after a retirement in Ningbo challenger last week. Wildcard Teimuraz Gabashvili could well be tired from his weekend exertions in Davis Cup in Brazil but even that should not stop him from defeating world ranked 934 Nikolai Fidirko in the first round. Igor Andreev is scheduled to face 2009 winner Sergiy Stakhovsky although what state he will be in is debatable, having withdrawn two sets behind in Davis Cup action at the weekend. Stakhovsky suffered an embarrassing straight sets to defeat to Ernests Gulbis picking up just four games but his country was successful in taking their Davis Cup tie 3-2 overall. Hot off picking up the Petange title, Tobias Kamke will be full of confidence and could well be returning to the form that saw him pick up the ATP Newcomer of The Year title in 2010. He faces Fabio Fognini who struggled at times in Davis Cup, albeit on a different surface.
Flavio Cipolla defeated another Belarussian qualifier in Andrei Vasilevski to ensure progress to round two here. He will face either Grega Zemlja or Lukas Lacko. Lacko has been poor recently losing six main tour matches in a row but impressed in Zagreb early in the year on fast indoor courts. Meanwhile Zemlja was a semi finalist in Istanbul so is at least winning matches. Florent Serra will be hoping to extend his winning record over Daniel Gimeno-Traver to 2-0 when he takes on the Spaniard in the first round. Serra definitely prefers hard courts but like many others in the tournament, is used to playing a lot more at challenger level. Gimeno-Traver took the title on the clay of Seville last week, defeating Tommy Robredo in the final. The reward for the winner of this tie will be most likely Denis Istomin. The Uzbek had started the year well, impressing in San Jose where he was a losing final but has struggled since and was a first round loser in New York. Lukasz Kubot should not be too troubling an opponent and a win here could be the boost that the troubled Istomin needs.
Finals Prediction – Mikhail Youzhny defeats Tobias Kamke