2014 ATP Montpellier Previews, Picks
Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast
Two European indoor hard court 250s and a South American clay 250 are on the calendar this week, as the ATP tour returns to normal post-Australian Open/Davis Cup.
Open Sud de France
ATP World Tour 250
February 3-February 9, 2014|
Prize Money: € 426,605
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Richard Gasquet (9)
2: Gilles Simon (20)
3: Jerzy Janowicz (21)
4: Dmitry Tursunov (28)
A whole boatload of Frenchman and other European players make up the field in Montpellier.
First Round matchups to watch:
Teymuraz Gabashvili vs. Dustin Brown
A battle of veteran journeyman who have shown good form in early 2014: Gabashvili made the third round of the Australian Open and also just won a dead rubber for Russia against Poland in the Davis Cup. Brown, the flamboyant big server, has an ATP quarterfinal on his record but has lost 2 straight matches now and will seek to return to form. If Gabashvili is tired, Brown has to be the favorite and his serve will suit indoor tennis.
Roberto Bautista Agut vs. Adrian Mannarino
Bautista Agut looked red hot in January, reaching week 2 at the Aussie Open, and before that, the semifinals of ATP Auckland. He has been playing some tremendous, aggressive, motivated tennis on hard courts. However, he played an exceptionally poor Davis Cup rubber against Philipp Kohlschreiber indoors on Friday, losing in straights, and appeared totally out sorts, meaning this match with Mannarino will be a test of his true form as he seeks to keep moving up the rankings.
Mannarino went just 1-3 in January and is in poor form, but he does have a split 1-1 h2h with RBA in his career, and he will be at home in France. RBA should win, but his DC showing of 0-2, which includes a dead rubber, is cause for concern.
2 time and defending champion Richard Gasquet will play Paul Henri Mathieu or Nicolas Mahut in an all French round 2 battle. Gasquet notched a DC win for the French on Friday and will be adjusting from clay to indoor hard courts. Mahut is a bit of a threat, and PHM has to have something left in the tank, along with playing well indoors, but I expect it to be Gasquet vs. most likely another Frenchman, the 8 seed Julien Benneteau, who opens with the aging Nikolay Davydenko in round 1 and Kenny De Schepper/Qualifier in round 2. There are some solid indoor players in this section, but none in great form.
Jerzy Janowicz, who was in atrocious form in January, but seems to be playing his way slowly back into form, helping Poland beat Russia in the Davis Cup over the weekend, opens with RBA/Mannarino in round 2.
A match with Bautista Agut would be a tough test. The quarterfinalist from that section should face a steadily improving Edouard Roger-Vasselin, the 7 seed, in the quarters, if the Frenchman beats Michal Przysiezny, who was Janowicz’s Davis Cup teammate, and Gabashvili/Brown in round 2.
Dmitry Tursunov is the highest seed in this section, and opens with the steady Denis Istomin or a qualifier.
But Gael Monfils has to be the section fave, as he helped France in the Davis Cup over the weekend, and his form has looked quite good all season. He’s just the 5 seed, but he’s a former champion at this event, and he opens with Lukasz Kubot with Tobias Kamke/Joao Sousa on deck. Monfils has to be the favorite for the semis.
Ironman Gilles Simon, who has played well historically at this event, opens with a qualifier or Michael Llodra with Jarkko Nieminen/Aleksandr Nedovyesov or Pierre-Hugues Herbert/Qualifier awaiting in the quarterfinals.
Nieminen helped out Finland in the DC over the weekend, and Herbert is a dangerous young player who plays well indoors. Perhaps it’s his time to make a surprise run and burst onto the scene? Nonetheless, this section is interesting, and Simon is up in the air in terms of form. Nieminen also plays well indoors and is a threat.
Dark Horse: Pierre-Hugues Herbert
The 22 year old Herbert is at a career high ranking of 151, playing at home indoors in France, where he plays some of his best tennis. This year, his results keep improving as he qualified in Brisbane and lost in the final round qualifying of the AO. With a qualifier up first, and then Nieminen/Nedovyesov in round 2, which would be a quality test, PHH has a shot at the quarters, and then a look at Simon most likely, who is beatable. He could end up in the semis.
Gasquet d. Janowicz
Monfils d. Nieminen
JJ and Gasquet have split head to heads, as they met twice last year, but they have never met indoors and Gasquet is in better form, along with a great record at this event, giving him the edge.
Monfils has beaten Nieminen 3 times, all indoors on hard courts and he has to be favored to do so again should this matchup come to fruition.
Monfils d. Gasquet
Monfils just beat Gasquet in Doha at the start of the year and this would be rematch of the Montpellier final last year which Gasquet won in 3 sets. Overall, they have a 2-2 h2h on indoor hard, but I’m going to go with Gael here to win the title regardless.