Jo-Wilfried Tsonga Returns to the ATP Tour at ATP Metz 2018 Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The ATP World Tour returns with a 250 in France on indoor hard courts. The tournament in Metz attracts many home stars and a host of other talents coming off the US Open and Davis Cup duty.
US Open semifinalist Kei Nishikori is the top seed and will be favored against Jo Wilfried-Tsonga or Peter Gojowczyk in his first match. Tsonga has been out almost the entire season with knee problems and Nishikori is in good form. Talented 20 year old Ugo Humbert is on the cusp of the top 100 and has a good shot at the quarterfinals given his current form. Humbert opens with a qualifier, Nikoloz Basilashvili or a qualifier will be next. Basilashvili’s experience makes him favored to reach the quarterfinals against Nishikori, but Humbert is a dark horse. Nishikori should win the section if fit.
Home hero Lucas Pouille is in poor form, Jaume Munar is in the section as well and should be favored against a qualifier. Quentin Halys is in good form and I’ll back him to upset Benoit Paire in a battle of Frenchmen. Philipp Kohlschreiber should beat a struggling Mischa Zverev, with Kohlschreiber expected to beat Halys/Paire, and then Pouille in the quarters.
Stefanos Tsitsipas will be favored against Max Marterer or an out of form Ricardas Berankis first up. Radu Albot or Pierre-Hugues Herbert will face Adrian Mannarino or Marton Fucsovics first up. Mannarino should win his first two matches with Tsitsipas beating Mannarino in the quarters.
One of the tournament and fan favorites, Richard Gasquet, will be favored to win his section. Jurgen Zopp/qualifier stand in the way, with Jiri Vesely/Gilles Simon, and Filip Krajinovic/Corentin Moutet also in this section. I have Vesely beating a disappointing Simon, and Moutet upsetting Krajinovic on home court. Gasquet over Vesely should decide the section.
Two struggling players, Klizan is higher ranked, but has been feast or famine this year with multiple ATP 500 titles, but little else in terms of wins this year. Benneteau is a rusty veteran who appears to be a shell of his fomer self. Playing in France should boost Benneteau enough to get a win.
Paul-Henri Mathieu vs. Dustin Brown
PHM tends to play well indoors, and the French veteran always enjoys home cooking. Brown is a talented shotmaker who will also enjoy playing indoors and has shown signs of bursting out at different points this season, but still hasn’t done so. Coming off a challenger final on clay, Brown is likely to be worn out and that makes the PHM the favorite, but this should be a fun match to watch.
Marchenko lost to Seppi in the Olympics, but the Ukrainian is his nation’s #1, and has had a career year, including a week 2 showing at the US Open. Seppi has been disappointing this season, but with Marchenko dealing with jetlag, the Italian will have a good chance for a quality win.
Dominic Thiem is 18-8 on hard courts this year, and his quality play has earned him a top 10 ranking. Still the Austrian is clearly out of shape, and exhausted at this point in the season thanks to his grueling schedule. Thiem means well, but he’s scheduled poorly and he could get knocked off by resurgent veteran Nicolas Almagro in his first match. Almagro opens with a qualifier, and the winner of Thiem/Almagro will face Gilles Muller in the quarters, presuming Muller beats dirtballer Horacio Zeballos and a qualifier. Muller is a big server who enjoys playing indoors, and I have him upsetting Thiem in the quarters. Muller is 15-13 on hard courts this year.
Gilles Simon has had a poor season, but the veteran will be happy to be playing in France and either Guillermo Garcia-Lopez or Damir Dzumhur are beatable round 2 opponents. Benoit Paire should face Simon in the quarters, the erratic Frenchman opens with a qualifier, with recent challenger champ Malek Jaziri or Ivan Dodig to follow. Jaziri is in good form, while Dodig is not. Paire isn’t in great form himself, but playing on home soil he should beat Jaziri, and I also have him getting past Simon for a spot in the semis.
David Goffin found success in Davis Cup over the weekend and is 19-10 on hard courts this year. Goffin will open his efforts in Metz against either J.L. Struff, who is on a long winning streak after Davis Cup triumph for Germany and a challenger title, or veteran Tommy Robredo, who is returning from injury. Struff could shock Goffin, but the Belgian is good on this surface and he should reach the quarters.
Veteran serve and volleyer Nicolas Mahut faces younger countryman Quentin Halys in his first match. Mahut has a good season that earned him a seeding, and playing indoors on home soil he should beat Halys, and the Seppi/Marchenko winner before facing Goffin. I have Goffin winning that quarterfinal match.
Lucas Pouille comes off Davis Cup duty for France, the young Frenchman is in good form and faces Pierre-Hugues Herbert or Inigo Cervantes in round 2. Herbert is a doubles specialist, and Pouille should reach the quarters, then defeat PHM or Benneteau for a spot in the semis.
Struff is a good indoor hard court player and he’s been in tremendous form in recent weeks. The German is an undernoticed player who has all the tools, but has struggled mentally in his career. Struff could shock Goffin and keep winning from there.
Semis Muller d. Paire
Pouille d. Goffin
Paire has a 2-1 record against Muller, but I still have Muller winning as I don’t trust Paire’s consistency.
Pouille is 2-0 against Goffin, despite Davis Cup fatigue, I have the Frenchman coming up big to reach an ATP final.
Final Pouille d. Muller
This would be an entertaining final, Pouille is a rising young gun who would love to win a home title, while Muller is running out of chances to get trophies, advantage Pouille if you ask me.
2015 ATP Draw Challenge Week 35 (Metz, St. Petersburg) Staff, Tennis Atlantic
A pair of indoor hard court 250’s on European soil kicks off the 2015 ATP World Tour Fall swing and our experts are on hand to make their bracket predictions.
Steen Kirby’s picks
Round of 16 matches: Wawrinka vs. Brown, Darcis vs. Kohlschreiber, Tsonga vs. Carreno Busta, Mahut vs. Mannarino, Mathieu vs. Pospisil, Herbert vs. Garcia-Lopez, A. Zverev vs. Muller, Roger-Vasselin vs. Simon Quarterfinals: Wawrinka vs. Kohlschreiber, Tsonga vs. Mahut, Mathieu vs. Garcia-Lopez, Muller vs. Simon Semifinals: Wawrinka vs. Tsonga, Garcia-Lopez vs. Simon Final: Wawrinka vs. Simon Champion: Wawrinka
Niall Clarke’s picks
Round of 16 matches: Wawrinka vs. Brown, Darcis vs. Kohlschreiber, Tsonga vs. M. Zverev, Mahut vs. Mannarino, Klizan vs. Pospisil, Herbert vs. Garcia-Lopez, A. Zverev vs. Muller, Roger-Vasselin vs. Simon Quarterfinals: Wawrinka vs. Kohlschreiber, Tsonga vs. Mannarino, Klizan vs. Garcia-Lopez, Muller vs. Simon Semifinals: Kohlschreiber vs. Tsonga, Klizan vs. Simon Final: Tsonga vs. Simon Champion: Tsonga
Chris de Waard’s picks
Round of 16 matches: Wawrinka vs. Ram, Lorenzi vs. Millman, Tsonga vs. Carreno Busta, Mahut vs. Mannarino, Mathieu vs. Pospisil, Herbert vs. Garcia-Lopez, A. Zverev vs. Muller, Roger-Vasselin vs. Simon Quarterfinals: Ram vs. Millman, Tsonga vs. Mahut, Pospisil vs. Garcia-Lopez, Muller vs. Simon Semifinals: Millman vs. Tsonga, Garcia-Lopez vs. Simon Final: Tsonga vs. Simon Champion: Tsonga
Stan Wawrinka, Gilles Simon, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga all expected to do well in Metz this week.
Round of 16 matches: Berdych vs. Bolelli, Kokkinakis vs. Sousa, Thiem vs. Haider-Maurer, Golubev vs. Kukushkin, Paire vs. Berankis, Gabashvili vs. Bautista Agut, Robredo vs. Baghdatis, Donskoy vs. Raonic
Quarterfinals: Berdych vs. Kokkinakis, Thiem vs. Kukushkin, Paire vs. Bautista Agut, Robredo vs. Raonic Semifinals: Berdych vs. Kukushkin, Bautista Agut vs. Raonic Final: Berdych vs. Raonic Champion: Berdych
Niall Clarke’s picks
Round of 16 matches: Berdych vs. Rublev, Kokkinakis vs. Sousa, Thiem vs. Haider-Maurer, Becker vs. Kukushkin, Paire vs. Pouille, Gabashvili vs. Bautista Agut, Robredo vs. Gulbis, Sidorenko vs. Raonic
Quarterfinals: Berdych vs. Sousa, Thiem vs. Kukushkin, Paire vs. Bautista Agut, Robredo vs. Raonic Semifinals: Berdych vs. Thiem, Bautista Agut vs. Raonic Final: Berdych vs. Bautista Agut Champion: Berdych
Joe Craven’s picks
Round of 16 matches: Berdych vs. Rublev, Kokkinakis vs. Sousa, Thiem vs. Haider-Maurer, Becker vs. Istomin, Janowicz vs. Berankis, Gabashvili vs. Bautista Agut, Robredo vs. Gulbis, Donskoy vs. Raonic
Quarterfinals: Berdych vs. Kokkinakis, Thiem vs. Istomin, Janowicz vs. Bautista Agut, Gulbis vs. Raonic Semifinals: Berdych vs. Thiem, Janowicz vs. Raonic Final: Berdych vs. Raonic Champion: Berdych
Chris de Waard’s picks
Round of 16 matches: Berdych vs. Rublev, Granollers vs. Sousa, Thiem vs. Haider-Maurer, Golubev vs. Istomin, Paire vs. Berankis, Shyla vs. Bautista Agut, Robredo vs. Gulbis, Donskoy vs. Raonic
Quarterfinals: Berdych vs. Sousa, Thiem vs. Kukushkin, Paire vs. Bautista Agut, Robredo vs. Raonic Semifinals: Berdych vs. Kukushin, Bautista Agut vs. Raonic Final: Berdych vs. Raonic Champion: Raonic
Tomas Berdych and Milos Raonic, St. Petersburg’s #1 and #2 seeds are the clear favorites to take the title.
2015 ATP Metz and St. Petersburg Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The ATP World Tour returns with the start of the European fall indoor hard court swing. A pair of 250s are up this week, one in Metz, France, and the other in St. Petersburg, Russia, as that event returns after being absent from the tour calendar last season.
ATP World Tour 250
September 21-September 27, 2015
Prize Money: €439,405
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Stan Wawrinka (4)
2: Gilles Simon (10)
3: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (17)
4: Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (31)
Two top 10 players, and three top 20 players gives Metz a quality field for a small indoor 250 at this point in the season.
Kohlschreiber had a successful outing in Davis Cup for Germany over the weekend as he went 2-0, but the former Metz finalist has had a down season at the ATP level thsi year. Additionally, he may have to fight fatigue and jet lag as he’s coming back from the Caribbean with Davis Cup duty. Millman is a talented underachiever who won a pair of challengers over the summer and can play solid tennis at times, Peppo is still the favorite, but this match has some upset potential.
(6)Martin Klizan vs. Paul-Henri Mathieu
PHM is playing on home soil, and veteran who relies on solid ballstriking is a relatively solid player indoors. He recently reached the final in Kitzbuhel on clay over the summer, beating his opponent Klizan in the process, and qualified for the US Open. Klizan comes off a 2-0 result in Davis Cup and has an indoor h2h win over Mathieu in Rotterdam (2013, 3 sets) but he’s a streaky player who can ball bash well, or struggle mightily. Depending on what version of Klizan will show up, he’ll either advance with ease or lose in an upset in this matchup of contrasting styles.
(WC)Pierre-Hugues Herbert vs. Sergiy Stakhovsky
The US Open doubles champion Herbert recently reached his first ATP title in Winston-Salem, and on home soil with a big serve, he’s a danger to the serve and volleyer Stakhovsky. Stako reached the third round of the US Open and a recent challenger final however (in Istanbul), so his form appears good. An inspired PHH could rock the boat this tournament, and with a recent h2h win over Stako, I have him winning against him again.
(8)Fernando Verdasco vs. Alexander Zverev
Verdasco is just 2-5 since Wimbledon, and he risks dropping that number to 2-6 at the hands of the young gun Zverev. The teenager had a successful summer and qualified for the US Open among other good results. His indoor game isn’t as good as his clay court game, but the big hitting Verdasco has struggled to find rhythm and I’m going to go with an upset and pick Zverev, who is on the upswing of his career, while Verdasco is clearly heading downhill.
Stan Wawrinka was pushed to five sets in his DC singles rubber against the lower ranked Thiemo De Bakker on Friday, but the Swiss #2 is unlikely to have much trouble getting past the first couple of matches in Metz. Wawrinka is 42-13 on the season and also reached the semis of the US Open most recently. Look for him to get past a serve and volleyer in his first match, either Rajeev Ram or the big serving Dustin Brown, who also comes off of DC duty, and then past Kohlschreiber for a spot in the semifinals. Stan the Man is 2-0 in the h2h, and should not only be in better form, but also be fresher than his German counterpart. Both players have elite one handed backhands and it’ll be a fun matchup if it takes place. The Kohlschreiber/Millman winner faces either Belgium’s Davis Cup hero Steve Darcis, or dirtballer Paolo Lorenzi in round 2 with the serve and volleying Darcis likely too tired to make much of an impact this tournament.
Two-time Metz champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was excellent at the US Open, where he reached the quarterfinals, and the aggressive Frenchman tends to play well indoors, and at home. The fan favorite is placed in a weak section that will feature either a qualifier or Pablo Carreno Busta in the round of 16, and by ranking #7 seed Adrian Mannarino in the quarterfinals. Nicolas Mahut, the other half of the winning US Open doubles team, could prove to be a bit of a dark horse if the serve and volleyer can get his game together and beat a struggling Federico Delbonis (a loser of 5 straight matches) and Mannarino, who has been streaky this season. All of the French players are fan favorites at home, but Tsonga is a clear favorite to reach the semis for a likely matchup against Wawrinka. I have Mahut slipping past Mannarino, though it’s hard to tell with Adrian.
Two-time Metz champion Gilles Simon, another of the French fan favorites at this tournament, will open with a qualifier and from there should advance to face the big serving and dangerous Gilles Muller in the quarterfinals. Muller opens with Aljaz Bedene as he looks to snap a 3 match losing streak. The serve and volleyer is at his best on fast surfaces and I see him slipping past the Verdasco/Zverev winner in a potentially close match. Simon beat Muller last year in Tokyo, and I see him earning a pair of wins to snap a four match losing streak and reach the semifinals.
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez won a pair of matches at the US Open to improve his form, but of the four top seeds, he’s still the most likely to exit before the quarterfinals, as the Herbert/Stakhovsky winner could stymie him with their unique styles of play. The Spanish veteran has won a title on indoor hard courts this season though and he has more experience than Herbert in a tough section. The other quarterfinalist will be one of Aleksandr Nedovyesov/Vasek Pospisil/Klizan/Mathieu, with Mathieu my favorite out of the section. Pospisil also has talent but he’s inconsistent, so look for Mathieu past Pospisil, and then Garcia-Lopez over Mathieu in a wide open section.
Frenchmen Herbert, Mathieu, and Mahut could all serve as unseeded dark horses this week, but with the #2 seed Simon struggling, if Muller serves well he could reach the semifinals, and potentially the final out of the bottom half. After gaining some rest, he should be fresh and he plays well on these types of surfaces historically.
Semis: Wawrinka d. Tsonga
Simon d. Garcia-Lopez
Tsonga has a h2h win in Metz (2007) but the previous few meetings have gone in favor of Wawrinka, and the Swiss has clearly outperformed his French counterpart this year, and in recent memory. Wawrinka simply should be a cut above his semifinal opposition.
Simon is in a slump but he’s 5-0 in the h2h against GGL, so if he gets this far, he should reach another Metz final.
Final: Wawrinka d. Simon
Presuming Wawrinka devotes effort to this 250 tournament he should win it, he’s the best player in the field by a considerable margin, and a player like Simon won’t be in the form to match him toe to toe right now.
ATP St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg Open
ATP World Tour 250
St. Petersburg, Russia
September 21-September 27, 2015
Prize Money: $1,030,000
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Tomas Berdych (5)
2: Milos Raonic (9)
3: Dominic Thiem (20)
4: Roberto Bautista Agut (22)
Even without the strong contingent of home players that Metz sports, St. Petersburg returns to the ATP Tour after funding problems last season with a strong field that features two top 10, and three top 20 players in what should be an entertaining edition of the tournament.
Their teams faced each other in Davis Cup over the weekend, with Bolelli and Italy emerging victorious, but now the young gun Rublev would like to extract some personal revenge for that loss at home in St. Petersburg, where he is one of the stars of the tournament, and the future of Russian tennis at the moment. The teenager qualified for the US Open, snapping a summer of struggles, but his loss in Davis Cup to Fabio Fognini should dent his momentum a bit. Bolelli, a solid player indoors, is also the loser of three straight however and the Italian veteran is looking to gain momentum himself. Look for big hitting in this matchup, and as celebrated as Rublev is, I have Bolelli grinding out the win.
(6)Benoit Paire vs. Jerzy Janowicz
Janowicz beat Paire in three sets earlier this year on indoor hard, but Paire has had a much better season than Jerzy and has been in excellent form since the summer. The French all-courter and his one handed backhand reached the second week of the US Open while Janowicz is 2-3 over his last five, which includes Davis Cup duty over the weekend. Janowicz with his power game is also solid indoors, but I have Paire winning this matchup of talented but often underachieving players.
Marcos Baghdatis vs. Ernests Gulbis
Two aggressive baseliners will face off in this one, Gulbis one the 2013 edition of St. Petersburg, while Baghdatis is 0-3 since suffering an abductor injury in the ATP Atlanta final back in July. Gulbis has lost four straight and, like Baghdatis, his last match ended in a retirement, as both guys have struggled to get healthy. A poor season for Gulbis is contrasted by a good season overall for Baghdatis, and I have the Cypriot notching the victory presuming his health has sorted itself out. Baghdatis is 3-0 in the hard court h2h.
Tomas Berdych had a poor summer by his top 10 standards, but the Czech is still 45-15 on the season and should have the inside track against Bolelli/Rublev. In the quarterfinals, look for him to face Australian young gun Thanasi Kokkinakis. Kokkinakis opens with pedestrian Spanish veteran Marcel Granollers, and then he’ll face either Joao Sousa or a qualifier in round 2. Both Sousa and Kokkinakis come off of Davis Cup play but Sousa is in poor form, and although he’s had a lot of success on indoor hard, I have Kokkinakis winning that matchup. Berdych should power past Kokkinakis at that stage however.
#3 seed Dominic Thiem reached the third round of the US Open in a decent showing for the Austrian, and he’ll look to continue to improve on fast surfaces with a routine win over Daniel Gimeno-Traver or newlywed Andreas Haider-Maurer in round 2, as both players much prefer clay. In the quarterfinals, Mikhail Kukushkin could prove to be the dark horse, as he opens with a relatively struggling Denis Istomin and then will face a qualifier or the mightily slumping Benjamin Becker in round 2. Kukushkin played well at the US Open and beat Istomin at the start of the season, his game tends to peak for these smaller 250 events. Thiem and Kukushkin have never played one another, but Kukushkin’s hard court form is arguably better right now, and I have him scoring the rankings upset and reaching the semis.
Milos Raonic has struggled since Wimbledon with a pedestrian 2-3 record. The Canadian #1 hasn’t been the same with his rocket serve since foot surgery, but he’s playing an easy match to open in St. Petersburg against either Evgeny Donskoy or a qualifier. Donskoy, a wild card, has been in excellent form at the challenger tour level this summer but Raonic should still prove too much for him. In the quarters he’s likely to face another player in a slump, as the Baghdatis/Gulbis winner or Tommy Robredo/Mikhail Youzhny are options. The 33 year old Robredo has had a far superior season to Youzhny, so though Youzhny is playing on home soil, Robredo should get through, and likely get past Baghdatis/Gulbis as well, as they may be rusty in their own right. Raonic is 4-0 against Robredo in the h2h with all wins coming since 2013, so with that in mind the Canadian should make the semifinals.
Roberto Bautista Agut is 29-23 this season and comes off a second week showing in the US Open that should give him some good momentum in what has been a rather average year by his standards. Russian Davis Cup participant Teymuraz Gabashvili, presuming Gaba beats a qualifier, should await him in round 2, and Gabashvili is a player capable of crafting upsets, like he did against Andy Murray this summer in Washington. RBA is the section favorite, but Gabashvili could find form and reach the quarters, though he’s not my pick to do so. Paire/Janowicz or Ricardas Berankis/Lucas Pouille will await most likely ether RBA or Gabashvili at that stage. Presuming Paire continues his run of form, which is always in question, I look for him to make it that far before falling to RBA. Berankis has also been in good form as of late with his undersized game. RBA is 7-0 in the h2h against Paire.
If a non seed is going to reach the semifinals or better, Berankis is the player to watch, he’s just 5-8 but he’s always been talented and he’s one of the better pure baseline ball strikers on the ATP tour. He reached consecutive quarterfinals on the US Open Series this summer and he plays well on fast indoor surfaces. Paire/Janowicz are streaky, and RBA/Gabashvili are beatable, so it’s far from out of the question that the Lithuanian will do well at a tournament that is close to home for him.
Semis: Berdych d. Kukushkin
Raonic d. Bautista Agut
Berdych is simply better than Kukushkin and has a h2h win, so like Wawrinka in Metz, if the top seed puts his efforts into this tournament, he’s the favorite. Raonic has a h2h win over RBA last year in Paris, an indoor tournament, and he should be motivated to fight hard this fall on fast surfaces to gain some ranking points after a slow Summer.