2016 ATP Nice Preview and Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The other ATP 250 tune up before the French Open is Nice, which is one of the more beautiful venues on the ATP tour. Here is a look at this year’s ATP Green Week.
Open De Nice Cote D’Azur
ATP World Tour 250
May 15-21, 2016
Prize Money: €463,520
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes)
1: Dominic Thiem (15)
2: Gilles Simon (18)
3: Kevin Anderson (19)
4: Benoit Paire (21)
A lack of elite players means Nice has a nice amount of parity between seeds and non-seeds, which could lead to some upsets this week.
First round matchups to watch:
Jiri Vesely vs. Leonardo Mayer
Vesely and Mayer have split h2h meetings on clay and the Czech comes off a quarterfinal in Istanbul, and a semifinal in the Rome challenger. Mayer has lost three straight matches himself, and though he’s the bookmakers favorite, I have Vesely notching this upset win. Mayer has been poor this year, and Vesely famously beat Novak Djokovic in Monte Carlo.
(5)Joao Sousa vs. (WC)Quentin Halys
Sousa reached the quarterfinals in Madrid before going out round 2 in Rome. The Portugese #1 has shaken off a run of poor form it seems and the young Frenchman Halys is going to have a tough task ahead if he’s going to excite the home fans and win this match. Halys has earned a main draw wild card for the French Open, and he won a challenger in the USA on clay a few weeks ago. He has a bright future ahead, and he’s a talent on clay, but Sousa should be the favorite.
The defending champion Dominic Thiem is 16-5 on clay this season, and comes off the quarterfinals in Rome. Thiem should beat Vesely/Mayer with either Paul-Henri Mathieu or Andreas Seppi likely to be his quarterfinal opponent. The French veteran PHM opens with a struggling Hyeon Chung, though he’s done little himself since reaching the quarterfinals in Casablanca. Seppi should be able to hand Daniel Munoz De La Nava his seventh straight loss. The Italian veteran hasn’t been great this season either, but on clay I favor Seppi over PHM, and then Thiem over Seppi. PHM is 4-1 over Seppi in the h2h.
Frenchman Benoit Paire has a couple of clay semis this year, he’s not elite on clay, but he should be more than good enough to defeat Robin Haase/Adrian Mannarino and setup a quarterfinal against either Fabio Fognini or Guido Pella. Mannarino is on a long losing streak, that Haase should add to. Fognini and Pella both open with qualifiers, they should be favored in those matches. Pella is 6-7 on clay this year, with a recent quarterfinal, Fognini is 7-7 and has both a quarterfinal and a semifinal as of late on clay. Fognini should beat Pella, and I also have him slipping past Paire for another semifinal result in a 250. Paire is 2-1 in the clay h2h, but I have a feeling he’ll lose his focus.
Gilles Simon‘s 6-3 record on clay should improve to 7-3 with a win over Taylor Fritz or Illya Marchenko, as the French veteran will be a home favorite in Nice. In the quarterfinals, Alexander Zverev is his likely opponent. Monte Carlo and Istanbul quarterfinalist Marcel Granollers will take on former finalist Brian Baker, the American veteran is coming back yet again from injuries and bidding to recapture ATP form, though he’s unlikely to beat an accomplished clay courter like Granollers. Zverev was a semifinalist in Munich, and won a match in Rome, he should beat Granollers, and I also have him beating Simon, as Simon is likely looking ahead to Paris, an even bigger stage. Zverev has previously beaten Simon this year.
Fernando Verdasco should benefit from the seeded Kevin Anderson being poor on clay. The Bucharest champion opens with a qualifier, presuming he wins that, Anderson should fall to him on this surface, even though he did win a match in Rome, for just his second win of the season. Sousa/Halys will face Victor Estrella or Denis Kudla in round 2. Kudla isn’t great on clay, but with Estrella struggling, he should prevail, he’s had some success qualifying on clay this year. Sousa over Kudla to setup a Verdasco vs. Sousa quarterfinal is the way I have my bracket setting up. Verdasco and Sousa have never played each other, and that should be a great match for fans of quality ball striking. The veteran Verdasco is my pick to advance as he’s eager to earn ranking points, even in 250s.
Dark Horse: Fernando Verdasco
Outside of the favorite Dominic Thiem, a lot of the lower ranked players in this draw could rise up and have solid weeks. An experienced veteran like Verdasco, who has both talent, and skill, on clay, and can rise to the occasion and make deep runs in ATP tournaments should be set to have a good week. Verdasco will have a shot to win the tournament, and he can at least make the quarterfinals, and the semifinals.
Thiem d. Fognini
Zverev d. Verdasco
If Thiem wants to win this tournament, it should be his, he’s been far and above the rest of this field in terms of recent play, and overall talent. I have the young gun Zverev also reaching the final, as he should be hungry for success.
Thiem d. Zverev
At this point in their careers, Thiem, who beat Zverev in Munich, should be the better player on this surface. If he wins the final, he’ll repeat as champion.