2016 ATP Montpellier Preview and Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
After the Australian Open the ATP World Tour will have two events in Europe, in France, and Bulgaria, along with a clay court Golden Swing event in Ecuador. The European events are 250s on indoor hard court, while the event in Quito, Ecuador is on high altitude clay.
Open Sud de France
ATP World Tour 250
February 1-7, 2016
Surface: Indoor hard
Prize Money: €463,520
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Richard Gasquet (9)
2: Marin Cilic (13)
3: Gilles Simon (15)
4: Benoit Paire (18)
A strong French contingent gives Montpellier a solid field for a 250.
First round matchups to watch:
Ernests Gulbis vs. (WC)Quentin Halys
Ernests Gulbis has lost three straight and continues to be in terrible form dating back to last season. The Latvian used to be a top ATP player, but he’s lost his way yet again, and is in danger of slipping down to the Challenger level once more. The French wild card Halys is a rising star who won a round in Melbourne and fell to Novak Djokovic in round 2. He lacks experience, but has plenty of skill, and has a nice shot at an upset win in this match.
John Millman vs. (WC)Julien Benneteau
Millman reached the third round in Melbourne and upset Gilles Muller in the process. He’s another underachieving talent in this draw, while Benneteau is still recovering from injury and trying to return to ATP caliber play. Given their recent form Millman should have an edge.
Richard Gasquet missed the opening month of the season due to a back injury but presuming he’s not too rusty the two-time Montpellier champion has a clear path to the semifinals. Gasquet will open with the Gulbis/Halys winner with one of Lukas Lacko/Marcos Baghdatis/Denis Istomin/Taro Daniel awaiting in the quarterfinals. Both Istomin and Daniel are 0-3 to start the season, so one of them will earn their first ATP win of 2016. Lacko recently made a challenger semi, but Baghdatis likely has an edge to slip into the quarterfinals as an aggressive striking veteran.
Baghdatis is 3-0 in the h2h against Gasquet, and he could pull an upset, but the Frenchman’s positive history at this venue makes him the favorite.
Gilles Simon has never reached the final in Montpellier, but his recent form in Melbourne makes him a threat to capture the title. Simon took two sets off Novak Djokovic and reached the fourth round. The counterpuncher will open with Steve Darcis or a qualifier, and most likely awaits Joao Sousa in the quarterfinals. Sousa is a bit of an indoor hard court specialist, and reached the third round in Melbourne. The Portugese #1 opens with Ruben Bemelmans of Belgium, with Nicolas Mahut or J.L. Struff up in round 2. Both Struff and Mahut are capable of indoor success, but Sousa should be the favorite.
Simon leads Sousa 2-1 in the h2h, and we could see an all-French semifinal vs. Gasquet.
Marin Cilic has suffered a pair of disappointing losses to start the season, including a third round defeat in Melbourne. The Croatian is looking to get back on track against Alex Zverev or Luca Vanni. Cilic should be untroubled by Zverev, and Borna Coric is his likely quarterfinal opponent. Coric opens with Michael Berrer, who he trails 0-2 in the h2h. Cilic’s countryman already has an ATP final under his belt this season, though he has lost three straight matches. Berrer opted not to retire after a career year in 2015, and his serve and volley game is a throwback.
The Coric/Berrer winner gets Niko Basilashvili or a qualifier in round 2. Cilic pummeled Coric last year in Shanghai, and matchup wise he should be able to power his way into the semis.
Benoit Paire is 3-3 with a semifinal to start the season, the former Montpellier finalist will open with either a qualifier or veteran Paul-Henri Mathieu. He’s on track to have the toughest quarterfinal against Gael Monfils, a two-time Montpellier champion. Monfils has Millman/Benneteau, after a qualifier in round 1, in his path to the quarterfinals. The Australian Open quarterfinalist lost to Paire last season, but his good form to start the year suggests he’ll avenge that loss and put his exciting tennis into the semifinals.
Dark Horse: Joao Sousa
Sousa could run the table like he did last year in Valencia, and St. Petersburg, reaching the final or perhaps capturing the title. His ball striking has a way of finding form on indoor hard courts, and Simon and Gasquet have proven themselves to be beatable.
Simon d. Gasquet
Monfils d. Cilic
Gasquet is 4-1 over Simon in the h2h, but with his injury concerns, Simon should be a slight favorite to reach the final.
Monfils has a h2h win over Cilic and his superior recent form should make him the favorite.
Monfils d. Simon
Simon is 3-1 against Monfils, but form gives Monfils the edge to capture his third Montpellier title.