UTS2 Men’s Preview: Zverev, Dimitrov headline loaded two-week field

UTS2 is set to launch tomorrow, with ten ATP stars battling for the crown. Here’s a full preview and breakdown of the event.

The Ultimate Tennis Showdown is getting a sequel. Four new players have joined the field and are ready to try to take the 2nd UTS crown. Here is a full preview of the event and a prediction of who is going to win the second title.

A look at the full field

Of the ten players, six of them already competed in UTS1. The highest-seeded player from the first go-around is #2 ranked Richard Gasquet, who had his title hopes dashed after losing to eventual champion, Matteo Berrettini, in the semifinals. He’ll be one of the favorites going into the weekend given his stellar play over the last five weeks.

While The Virtuoso is the only top-four player to take a 2nd crack at the title, there are a few players that were on the cusp of getting into the semifinals but fell just short. Feliciano Lopez finished 5th with a sets record 4-5; it was only one game behind G4th-ranked David Goffin’s 5-4. Lopez will look to get into the top four but will have to face tougher competition in order to do so

Corentin Moutet will also be competing for the second time. His late start to the event proved to be his downfall; he only played in seven matches and ended with a 3-4 record. He put on a few good showings towards the end of the tournament and was a contender to slip into the fourth spot as the weeks wore down.

The three remaining players who are getting a second chance didn’t prove to be huge threats to the top. The best of the three was Alexei Popyrin, who after a solid couple of weeks to start, faltered significantly down the stretch. After going 2-0 on the first weekend, he imploded completely over the final four weeks and finished with a 1-6 record in his last seven matches.

Dustin Brown and Benoit Paire are the final two players from UTS1. They were ranked 9th and 10th, respectively, and were virtually no threat to the players at the top throughout the five weeks of play. They’ll aim to shock the field and make a huge jump from where they finished last time.

The four new players are all members of the ATP top 20. Headlining the list is 7th-ranked Alexander Zverev (dubbed ‘The Lion’), who will be playing in his first tournament since the controversial Adria Tour mishap from last month. All things considered, Zverev was playing well but had major trouble with his serve. If he gets his woes corrected, he’ll be a dangerous player for the next two weeks.

Grigor Dimitrov (Grigor) will also be playing in the UTS2 and is the 2nd member to come from the Adria Tour situation. It’s unknown how ready he is to play; he tested positive for COVID-19 during the second leg of the tour and wasn’t anywhere close to his best. Like Zverev, he could make some noise if he’s on form and ready to go tomorrow.

The second Spaniard joining the UTS event will be Fernando Verdasco (El Fuego). The World #52 hasn’t seen much action so far in 2020 (4-4 before the shutdown). He’s a scrapper and could be a surprise top-four finisher.

The final player competing in the UTS is 20th-ranked Felix Auger-Aliassime (The Panther). The 19-year-old had a great start to the year, reaching the finals of Marseille and Rotterdam (0-2 in those matches), as well as an appearance in the Adelaide semis. If he can continue his momentum into this event, he’ll join the packed list of contenders for the top four.

Top four prediction

The field is much more competitive this time around. Apart from the three new players in the top 20, Gasquet has been playing very well over the last month and Lopez could make the jump into the top four if he continues playing consistently.

Given Zverev’s success over the last few years, it’s safe to assume he’ll be a top-four finisher. Auger-Aliassime is a solid bet to finish in the top four due to his stellar play so far this year. Gasquet is going to be a contender once again; he’s been playing great tennis and has the advantage of experience playing under the fast-paced rules the UTS uses.

The last slot is wide open. Lopez and Moutet were close to reaching the semis during UTS1 and could use their second chance to do so. Dimitrov’s positive test is behind him, which could open the door for him to sneak into the top four if his game comes together at the right time.

Day 1 match schedule (July 25)

Match #1: El Torero (Feliciano Lopez) vs The Sniper (Alexei Popyrin)

Match #2: Grigor (Grigor Dimitrov) vs The Virtuoso (Richard Gasquet)

Match #3: The Rebel (Benoit Paire) vs The Artist (Dustin Brown)

Match #4: The Tornado (Corentin Moutet) vs El Fuego (Fernando Verdasco)

Coverage begins at 6 PM CEST.