2014 ATP Metz Preview
Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast
Because the ATP event in St. Petersburg that is normally played this week was moved to Tel Aviv, and then the new ATP Tel Aviv event got cancelled this year, there is only one ATP event this week, a 250 indoors in Metz.
ATP World Tour 250
September 15-September 21, 2014
Prize Money: € 410,200
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (12)
2: Gael Monfils (18)
3: Philipp Kohlschreiber (24)
4: Lukas Rosol (27)
It is a French-heavy field in Metz, with two top 20 players, and the action should be interesting enough.
First Round matchups to watch:
Gilles Muller vs. Edouard Roger-Vasselin
The big serving Muller has had a strong season, primarily at the challenger level, and he has already posted an 11-5 record on indoor hard courts this year. Roger-Vasselin, by contrast, has been struggling for a while and has not won back-to-back matches since the grass court season. The indoor h2h favors ERV 2-1, but I would not read a lot into the head-to-head matchups since they occurred years ago. I am going with Muller in a slight upset to win this matchup.
Paolo Lorenzi vs. (WC) Laurent Lokoli
The young Frenchman Lokoli gets a wild card here and has a great chance to get some experience off of clay against ATP level competition. He has shown promise at the challenger level, and he also qualified for the French Open.
Lorenzi, meanwhile, is known for mailing it in on hardcourts, and he is a beatable opponent for Lokoli, who is actually favored going in. This one could go either way depending on how good Lokoli plays.
(6)Joao Sousa vs. Ivan Dodig
Joao Sousa comes off a pair of losses, the first in the second round of the US Open, and the second in Davis Cup action. He will face the tough task of rebounding against Ivan Dodig, who is still finding his way back into form from injury. Dodig has three straight losses, but he should still be the favorite to snap that losing streak and reach the second round. Style and matchup wise, he has the advantage.
Two time Metz champion, and last year’s runner-up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga opens with the Muller/ERV winner. Tsonga would want to face ERV as he has beaten him four times this season and seven times since 2012, meanwhile he is 0-1 against Muller, though that match took place years ago. Regardless of who he faces, Tsonga, who is in-form after a fourth round showing at the US Open and a win in Davis Cup action on clay, should get through to the quarterfinals to face the red-hot David Goffin. Goffin won a pair of Davis Cup rubbers to propel Belgium to victory in their tie without dropping a set and he has won at minimum consecutive matches at every tournament he has participated in since Wimbledon.
The path for Goffin is a qualifier and Tobias Kamke/qualifier. He should get through that without dropping a set if he still has stamina left after Davis Cup action.
A former Metz finalist, Philipp Kohlschreiber played admirably at the US Open and reached the second week. He has not had the strongest of seasons by his standards but he should be looking to continue his positive momentum against the Lokoli/Lorenzi winner. After that, a quarterfinal duel with one of Dusan Lajovic/JL Struff/Nicolas Mahut/Jeremy Chardy awaits. This is a toss-up section as Lajovic played Davis Cup in India, for Serbia, and is probably exhausted, though he is a rising young player. Struff is competent indoors, but he is coming off losing a clay challenger final in Poland. Mahut won a challenger in France while the US Open was going on, suddenly finding form, while fellow Frenchman Chardy is a streaky player. Indoors, I favor Mahut to survive this section, especially since he is a home player with his previous indoor talents.
A former winner in Metz, Gael Monfils remains a fan favorite, and he played some tremendous tennis this summer that he hopes to continue into the fall season. Le Monf opens with a qualifier, then is likely to face Jerzy Janowicz in the quarterfinals. Janowicz must get through Adrian Mannarino, who had a good week on the challenger circuit before having to retire in the final of Istanbul. Janowicz/Mannarino are slated to face the Jarkko Nieminen/Sergiy Stakhovsky winner in round 2. Stakhovsky was competent in Davis Cup for Ukraine, splitting singles rubbers, and Nieminen has dominated the h2h in that one, though he’s been struggling. Given fatigue should be a factor, I have Nieminen into round 2 and Janowicz into the quarters before falling to Monfils.
Lukas Rosol struggled for the Czech Republic in Davis Cup against France. He has lost two straight matches and will open with the winner of Benjamin Becker/Paul-Henri Mathieu. Both players are steady, but declining veterans who could pose trouble for the Czech ball-basher. Neither Becker nor Mathieu are in great form though, and Rosol should be the superior player to reach the quarterfinals. The Sousa/Dodig winner will be the favored quarterfinalist from the section above Rosol. The winner of that round 1 battle will face Andreas Seppi/Igor Sijsling in round 2. Seppi and Sijsling both saw their teams lose Davis Cup ties this weekend and Sijsling suffered an upset loss in his singles rubber. I’d favor Dodig or Sousa over Seppi, and Dodig just beat Seppi in Toronto this summer, so he should make the quarterfinals in what could be a great week for the Croat.
Dark Horse: Ivan Dodig
Dodig is well above .500 on indoor hard courts over the past four seasons and he has a draw he can take advantage of as an unseeded player if he has moved past the rust of coming back from injury. His big serving should conquer Sousa and propel him past Seppi/Sijsling and Rosol if the Czech is in poor form. I have him in the semifinals this week before falling to Monfils.
Tsonga d. Kohlschreiber
Monfils d. Dodig
Tsonga has been playing great tennis overall as of late, and he has two career wins over Goffin. He has also dominated the h2h with Kohlschreiber. He has a win over the German this year on clay and has won six meetings since 2009 on a variety of surfaces, and he also beat him in Metz in 2007. Tsonga has been the better player this year and should make the final.
Monfils and Janowicz have never met, but I favor Gael given the form factor. JJ just seems too inconsistent to be reliable against a player who can reach his power shots. Monfils is 2-0 against Dodig and in better form, so we should be on a collision course for an all French final between the two in-form French players.
Monfils d. Tsonga
A case can be made for both players to win the title this week: Tsonga leads the h2h 4-1 and the indoor h2h is split 1-1. Tsonga would likely be favored, but I feel like Monfils is underrated at the moment and I’m going with him to take the title.