2017 ATP Montpellier Preview and Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The third ATP 250 this week takes place in France, on indoor hard courts, featuring three top 20 players, and a host of European talents. Here is your preview, with predictions.
Open Sud De France
ATP World Tour 250
February 6-12, 2017
Surface: Indoor hard
Prize Money: €482,060
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP rankings parentheses)
1: Marin Cilic (7)
2: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (14)
3: Richard Gasquet (18)
4: Alexander Zverev (22)
Along with Sofia, Montpellier boasts a strong European centric field this week.
First round matches to watch:
Benoit Paire vs. Karen Khachanov
Playing at home in France should give Paire a clear advantage in this matchup, but he’s known to lose his focus, and the young Russian Khachanov needs to start winning matches like this if he’s going to cement himself at the tour level in the coming months. Khachanov has a bright future, but in the short term Paire’s firepower should be enough.
Daniel Evans (6)Mischa Zverev
After a tough weekend in the Davis Cup, Evans travels to France to take on an in-form Zverev on what should be a quick indoor hard court. Both Zverev and Evans have been playing at career bests early in 2017, but Zverev should be fresher, and his serve and volleying should be a difficult matchup for Evans.
After a miserable start to the season, top seed Marin Cilic badly needs to gain some momentum in this 250. Both Dustin Brown and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez are struggling, so Cilic should at least make the quarterfinals, most likely to face Feliciano Lopez, presuming Lopez beats a qualifier and Paire/Khachanov. Paire vs. Lopez isn’t easy to predict, but I have Lopez serve and volleying having a matchup edge. Cilic leads Lopez 4-2 in their h2h, and thus I have Cilic reaching the semifinals.
Three-time and defending Montpellier Champion Richard Gasquet comes off Davis Cup play, and jetlag may play a factor, but he should defeat Malek Jaziri or a qualifier, and then Mischa Zverev in the quarterfinals. Home favorite Quentin Halys or Illya Marchenko will face Zverev or Evans in round 2, with Zverev as the favorite, up until he faces Gasquet, who should win their match with superior groundstrokes and reach the semifinals.
An impressive 6-2 to start the season, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga should delight home fans with a victory over Pierre-Hugues Herbert or a qualifier, and then another win over most likely Fernando Verdasco, presuming Verdasco defeats a qualifier and the winner of Daniil Medvedev/Tobias Kamke. Medvedev retired in his last match over the weekend, and may not be fit, despite his talent. Tsonga is better than the fellow aggressive veteran Verdasco at this venue.
Alexander Zverev struggled in Davis Cup play, but neither Borna Coric nor Aljaz Bedene are in good form themselves, which means Zverev should be opposite either Jeremy Chardy or Chardy’s countryman Paul-Henri Mathieu, the defending finalist, in the quarterfinals. Chardy opens with dirtballer Marcel Granollers, while PHM will face a qualifier. Chardy isn’t playing great at the moment, but at home in France I still have him upsetting Zverev, who seems a bit out of sorts.
Dark Horse: Jeremy Chardy
The unseeded Frenchman Paire could also be trouble, but the young Zverev’s funk is Chardy’s gain as the unseeded Frenchman doesn’t have an overly difficult path to the semis, as long as he finds the mojo on his serve and stays in matches.
Gasquet d. Cilic
Tsonga d. Chardy
Cilic and Gasquet have split meetings, but the venue and form favors Gasquet. Tsonga has a h2h edge over Chardy and should be the better player.
Tsonga d. Gasquet
A close 5-4 h2h doesn’t provide much insight into who would win this final, but Tsonga should be fresher, and that alone gives him a slight edge.