2016 ATP Marseille Preview and Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Two ATP 250 tournaments, and a 500 on clay are on the calendar this week as the ATP World Tour careens towards the spring season.
ATP World Tour 250
February 15-21, 2016
Surface: Indoor hard
Prize Money: €596,790
top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Stan Wawrinka (4)
2: Tomas Berdych (8)
3: Richard Gasquet (10)
4: Marin Cilic (13)
Seven top 20 players in Marseille, as this tournament has one of the strongest 250 fields of the year and is stocked full of talent from top to bottom.
First round matchups to watch:
(8)Benoit Paire vs. Simone Bolelli
Paire is still ranked in the top 25, but he’s been struggling early on this season. The Frenchman has lost four straight matches to lower ranked opponents and must turn his game around quickly or his season could be heading south. Bolelli hasn’t played since the Australian Open, and it will be his forehand against Paire’s backhand. Paire is a slight favorite, but anything could happen.
Lucas Pouille vs. Andrey Kuznetsov
Andrey Kuznetsov is 6-3 to start the season, Pouille has an ATP quarterfinal on his own record, and home court advantage. Both are under the age of 25 and have promising futures ahead. Kuznetsov’s recent form makes him the favorite, though Pouille is a shotmaker in his own right.
Stan Wawrinka headlines the Marseille field, he’s 7-1 to start the season, and has a relatively clear path to the semifinals. Wawrinka will face off with Feliciano Lopez or Sergiy Stakhovsky. Stakhovsky hasn’t won a match in 2016, while Lopez has also been disappointing this year. Wawrinka has a 4-2 h2h against Lopez and should advance into the quarters.
Paire/Bolelli will face either Nicolas Mahut or a qualifier in round 2. Mahut had a busy week as a qualifier in Rotterdam, reaching the semifinals, and his serve and volley game suits him well indoors. Fatigue will likely doom him though, as I expect Wawrinka to beat him, or his best friend Paire in the quarters.
Marin Cilic could have a difficult match against Joao Sousa in his first match. Sousa has to defeat Robin Haase first, and Cilic is just 5-4 to start the season, a poor record given his stature. Haase has lost four straight, Sousa has lost three straight, and thus Cilic is most likely to reach the quarters.
Gael Monfils looms in the quarters, the Rotterdam finalist is 8-3 to start the year, and he’s been staying healthy and flying high. He opens with French wild card Quentin Halys, and then faces Pouille/Kuznetsov in round 2. Pouille and Monfils played a great Australian Open match last year, and either play could dispatch Monfils if he’s fatigued. Cilic vs. Monfils should be a great quarterfinal, Monfils has one h2h win over Cilic, but given the fatigue factor I have Cilic reaching the semis.
Tomas Berdych will open with Alex Zverev or a qualifier in round 2. Berdych is 7-2 to start the season, while Zverev has a quarterfinal and a semifinal already. The young German has been on the rise this season and he has tremendous potential. Berdych has a h2h win though, and is most likely to reach the quarterfinals.
David Goffin opens with young gun Hyeon Chung. Goffin is just 4-3 to start the season, but Chung is unlikely to rise to the level to defeat him, and his round 2 opponent will be Ramkumar Ramanathan, or a qualifier. Goffin can garner some momentum and reach the quarters, but Tomas Berdych will be a tough out at that stage. Berdych has a h2h win over Goffin.
Richard Gasquet opens with 2014 champion Ernests Gulbis or a qualifier, Gasquet beat Gulbis en route to capturing the title in Montpellier, and home soil should suit him well once again. Gasquet vs. Gilles Simon is the most likely quarterfinal match. Simon, a two-time champion, who is just 1-2 in his last three matches, opens with Teymuraz Gabashvili, who has an ATP semifinal this season, with Nick Kyrgios or Vasek Pospisil to follow. Pospisil is 1-4 to start the season, while Kyrgios is always a bit of a wild card in terms of his performance and focus. Kyrgios has never played Simon, and his attacking tennis will clash with Simon’s pushing. Gasquet dominates the h2h against Simon (6-1), and has won his last three matches against Kyrgios as well, making him the semifinal favorite.
Dark Horse: Nick Kyrgios
Kyrgios has the ability to run the table and win this tournament, but his focus and effort has been questionable as of late. Pospisil and Simon are beatable early on, given their recent struggles, and he’d need to rise up against Gasquet to get to the semis.
Wawrinka d. Cilic
Berdych d. Gasquet
Wawrinka is 9-2 against Cilic, and he’s a clear favorite to reach the final. Gasquet leads the h2h against Berdych 7-6, and won the last meeting at the 2015 US Open. Berdych should have a slight edge though in terms of long term form, and thus I have him reaching the final.
Wawrinka d. Berdych
Wawrinka has won six straight meetings against Berdych, including their indoor final last year in Rotterdam. Presuming Stan finds his form, he should capture the Marseille title.