After a 26-year absence from the ATP calendar, the Tel Aviv Open will return with an impressive field for 250. Greats like Diego Schwartzman, Marin Cilic or Dominic Thiem will be fighting for the title, although undoubtedly the biggest star is 21-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic. The Serb has been playing his first 250s outside of Belgrade since January 2019 and will also feature in doubles alongside 45-year-old Jonathan Erlich, a former No. 5 in doubles and 2008 Australian Open champion. As always, here at LWOT we will anticipate and predict every game. Who do you think will win?
ATP Tel Aviv day 1 predictions
Liam Broady vs Nicolas Alvarez Varona
Head to head: first meeting
Starting with a taste of qualifying, top seed Liam Broady meets a young Spaniard in Alvarez Varona. Broady had a largely mediocre season, with highlights being a third round at Wimbledon and defeating David Goffin to reach the semi-finals of a Challenger 125 in Phoenix. That was the Brit’s only Challenger semi-final this season. Alvarez Varona has had more trouble this season, a 17-26 record and an unconvincing attempt to join the Challenger Tour full-time. The 21-year-old did reach the final of a Challenger in Liberec, but that was the only time he progressed past the second round this season. As the hard courts play into Broady’s cards even more, we should see the top seed reach the peloton.
Prognosis: Broady in 2
Hugo Grenier vs. Roman Safiullin
Head to head: Grenier 2-0 Safiullin
This should be an equal and enjoyable fight here. Grenier had a strong summer on hard, winning Challengers in Segovia and Cassis and reaching the second round as a lucky loser at the US Open. Safiullin also won two Challenger titles, winning in Nur-Sultan and Chicago, although the Russian has not played since qualifying for the US Open. The Frenchman has won his previous two encounters, played on the Challenger Tour in 2020. In his current form, Grenier should be the favorite here, although Safiullin has the game to win here too.
Prediction: Grenier in 3
Peter Gojowczyk vs. Yshai Oliel
Head to head: first meeting
A good draw for the Israeli wild card here. Oliel contested a mix of Challenger qualifiers and ITF events in 2022 with a winning record but without a game-changing deep run or a particularly impressive win. But here he will have the chance to assert himself against Gojowczyk. The 33-year-old is 13-23 a year and outside of his semi-final run at the Rennes Challenger two weeks ago, the German has not won consecutive games this season. Still, I think his level might be a bit too high for Oliel but the 22-year-old will have a chance here.
Prognosis: Gojowczyk in the 2
Dominic Thiem versus Laslo Djere
Head to head: Djere 1-0 Thiem
After really struggling since the comeback and not getting a win until July, Thiem has gained some momentum with a run to the Rennes Challenger final. The Austrian lost in the second round to Hubert Hurkacz in Metz next week, so he still has work to do to get near his best. Djere, 23-23 on the season, has had a few highlights this season, most notably his fourth ATP Finals in Winston-Salem. Since then, Serbia’s Andrey Rublev has lost two sets at the US Open but lost to Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the Davis Cup and Stan Wawrinka in the Metz qualifier. Djere won their last meeting in Rio de Janeiro in 2019, beginning the run to his biggest career title to date. On hard courts, I think Thiem should have enough to win this time.
Prognosis: Thiem in 3rd place