2017 ATP Marseille Preview and Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The second of five ATP Tour stops in France is the 250 in Marseille, where a host of Frenchmen, and a crop of talented young guns will take to the indoor hard courts looking to make their mark on a still young season.
Open 13 Marseille
ATP World Tour 250
February 20-26, 2017
Surface: Indoor Hard
Prize Money: €620,660
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Gael Monfils (10)
2: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (14)
3: Nick Kyrgios (15)
4: Lucas Pouille (17)
Despite being a 250, Marseille boasts the strongest and most intriguing field on the ATP Tour this week.
First round matches to watch:
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Mikhail Youzhny vs. (WC)Stefanos Tsitsipas
Having lost four straight, Greek teen Tsitsipas could be suffering from a crisis of confidence in his still young career. That said, Youzhny doesn’t seem fit, and this is a tremendous opportunity for the Greek to get his first ever ATP win. Tsitispas is a solid young gun, he had his chances against Tsonga in Rotterdam but failed to take them due to a lack of aggression. Youzhny may still win this unless Tsitsipas plays with confidence.
Daniil Medvedev vs. (8)Benoit Paire
Medvedev has a quarterfinal and an ATP final already this year, Paire has reached two semis and almost scored a big win against Marin Cilic in Rotterdam. Medvedev when healthy is a threat to Paire, but in addition to playing at home, Paire should be fitter and in better form, giving him an edge.
(7)Gilles Simon vs. Karen Khachanov
Twice a former champion, the 32 year old Simon badly needs to find some form in Marseille. Khachanov is a talented young gun but has struggled under the weight of expectations thus far in 2017, and is also looking to get back on track. Simon is likely to grind his way to a round 1 win.
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(WC)Julien Benneteau vs. (WC)Denis Shapovalov
Playing at home, the veteran Benneteau is a clear favorite. Benneteau has flirted with returning to the ATP level after injuries, and has mostly played on the challenger tour. Shapovalov is still lacking in ATP experience, and became infamous after sending a chair umpire to the hospital due to an errant ball he hit in frustration during the Davis Cup. Shapovalov is talented, and it will be interesting to see where his head is against a crafty veteran in Benneteau.
Gael Monfils has played just one tournament in 2017, and it’s hard to predict what form the French flyer will show up in. He should defeat a pedestrian Jiri Vesely or a qualifier in round 2 though, to setup a match with his countryman Richard Gasquet. Gasquet will look to stave off an upset bid by Robin Haase, then teach the young Tsitsipas a lesson, presuming the Greek defeats Youzhny. Monfils leads the h2h with Gasquet 7-5, but Gasquet won their last meeting. Gasquet has been playing more this season and reached the final in Montpellier, I have him finding continued success in France and defeating Monfils in the quarters.
Lucas Pouille has been struggling mightily, and thus I have him falling to his experienced countryman Paul-Henri Mathieu in round 2, after PHM puts away Aljaz Bedene. Paire will face Jeremy Chardy (or J.L. Struff) in round 2 meanwhile, look for Paire over Mathieu in the quarterfinals to break a 1-1 h2h, as long as Paire is focused.
I have a third all French quarterfinal in my bracket, as Rotterdam champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, twice a champion in Marseille, should ease past Illya Marchenko/Qualifier, while Gilles Simon should defeat Khachanov and Benneteau/Shapovalov to reach the quarterfinals. Tsonga leads Simon 8-3 in the h2h, and with the bye giving him some rest, Tsonga should make the semifinals this week.
Defending champion Nick Kyrgios will serve it up against Andrey Kuznetsov or Malek Jaziri, with a matchup against fellow young gun Alexander Zverev looming in the quarterfinals. Kyrgios hasn’t played much in 2017, but neither Kuznetsov or more Jaziri are a threat to his serve. Zverev opens with home favorite Nicolas Mahut, with a qualifier to follow. The extra match should be enough to boost Zverev’s form enough to defeat Kyrgios and reach the semifinals. He’d love a second ATP title in France already in 2017. The pair have never met at the pro level before but are players full of promise.
Dark Horse: Paul-Henri Mathieu
A four-time ATP champion, PHM reached a tour final as recently as last year. The veteran is a shell of the player he once was, but he’s still a solid enough ballstriker to make a run at least once or twice a year in a tour level event. His focus has always failed him in tight moments though, and he’ll need to defeat Pouille and Paire to reach the semifinals, two opponents with more weapons than he possesses.
Gasquet d. Paire
Zverev d. Tsonga
Gasquet leads Paire 4-0 in the h2h, Zverev just beat Tsonga in Montpellier and should be fresher. If these are the semis, it will be a complete repeat of 2017 Montpellier a couple of weeks ago.
Zverev d. Gasquet
It would be a reprisal of the other French ATP final this year, Zverev won that one, and I don’t see any particular reason why he can’t win himself another title in this 250.