Scouting Report: 20 Things To Watch In Metz & St. Petersburg
Ten Frenchmen are scheduled to compete in Metz, including three-time champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Back from left knee surgery, Tsonga will be joined in France by US Open semi-finalist Kei Nishikori and #NextGenATP Greek sensation Stefanos Tsitsipas.
St. Petersburg offers the second-largest purse of the 40 ATP World Tour 250-level events. The Top 5 Russians will compete for $1,175,190 in prize money alongside World No. 8 Dominic Thiem, wild card Stan Wawrinka and 2017 champion Damir Dzumhur.
10 THINGS TO WATCH IN METZ
1) Much-Anticipated Return: Tsonga has not played since the Open Sud de France semi-finals in Montpellier on 10 February. Nine days later, the former World No. 5 dropped outside the Top 25 of the ATP Rankings, due to injury, for the first time since he reached the 2008 Australian Open final. Tsonga is 18-3 at the Moselle Open and making his first appearance since defeating two-time champion Gilles Simon in the 2015 final.
2) All These Years: Simon, a fellow 33-year-old Frenchman, was a teenager when he made his ATP World Tour debut at the 2004 Moselle Open. Also in the draw was Richard Gasquet, who reached the final as an 18-year-old wild card ranked 151st. Gasquet and Simon return this week with 15 and 13 tour-level titles, respectively, though Gasquet has yet to triumph in Metz.
3) No. 1 Frenchman: Lucas Pouille upset David Goffin and Dominic Thiem en route to earning the first of his five ATP World Tour titles at the 2016 Moselle Open. Pouille claimed victory in France for the second time earlier this year in Montpellier
4) Young Musketeers: Other Frenchmen in the field include Quentin Halys, Ugo Humbert and Corentin Moutet. All three wild cards are between the ages of 19 and 21 with career-high ATP Rankings between No. 102 and No. 109. Humbert qualified and won his tour-level debut at the US Open.
5) Kei Rising: Nishikori may have struggled with a wrist injury at the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018. But the Japanese star is back near top form, fresh off his run to the last four at Flushing Meadows. The World No. 12 reached the final at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters and also debuted in the quarter-finals at Wimbledon quarter-finals.
6) New Sensation: What Nishikori has done for tennis in Japan, Tsitsipas is doing in Greece. His breakout season has featured one first after another for Greeks, including four Top 10 wins to reach the Rogers Cup final, entry into the Top 15 and a fourth-round run at Wimbledon.
7) Pride of Georgia: Nikoloz Basilashvili also set several records for his nation recently. Basilashvili won the Hamburg title on 29 July to become the first tour-level champion and highest-ranked player ever from Georgia. He’s up to No. 31 after becoming the first Georgian to reach the fourth round at the US Open.
8) Unlikely Champion: Peter Gojowczyk had never reached an ATP World Tour final entering the 2017 Moselle Open. Ranked 95th at the time, Gojowczyk of Germany became the second qualifier and second-lowest ranked player to claim the Metz title after No. 185 Jerome Haehnel in 2004.
9) Title Town: Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin, the 2012 Metz doubles champions, will reunite this week. Mahut also won the title with Julien Benneteau in 2003 and Arnaud Clement in 2004, while Roger-Vasselin also lifted the trophy with Lukasz Kubot in 2015 and Benneteau in 2017.
10) Kohli’s Push: German Philipp Kohlschreiber showed his good form in New York by ousting compatriot Alexander Zverev. And now, he will look to lift the trophy in Metz for the first time. Kohlschreiber advanced to the final in 2009, and made the last four on two more occasions.
10 THINGS TO WATCH IN ST. PETERSBURG
1) Last Hurrah: Mikhail Youzhny is playing the final event of his career in St. Petersburg. Youzhny, 36, is the winningest player in St. Petersburg Open history with a 34-14 record. The 2004 champion and three-time finalist has not missed the event since 2000. Youzhny is two wins shy of 500 for his career and he can join Yevgeny Kafelnikov as the only Russians to reach the milestone.
2) Top 10 Thiem: Only Rafael Nadal has spent more consecutive weeks in the Top 10 than Thiem. The Austrian has been a mainstay in the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings since reaching the Roland Garros semi-finals in 2016. Thiem pushed Nadal to a fifth-set tie-break earlier this month in the US Open quarter-finals.
3) Getting Closer: After losing in the first round at Roland Garros, Wawrinka fell from No. 30 to No. 263 in the ATP Rankings. Three months later, the three-time Grand Slam champion is back in the Top 100, winning at least two matches at each of his past three tournaments. Wawrinka finished runner-up to Alexander Zverev at the 2016 St. Petersburg Open.
4) Career Year: Top Italian Fabio Fognini returned to a career-high No. 13 in the ATP Rankings on 10 September. Fognini seeks his fourth ATP World Tour 250-level title of 2018 following triumphs in Sao Paulo, Bastad and Los Cabos. His three titles this season are the most won by an Italian since 1977.
5) No. 1 Russian: Also enjoying a career-high ranking this week is World No. 25 Karen Khachanov, who like Thiem, extended Nadal past four hours at the US Open. Prior to reaching the US Open third round, Khachanov advanced to the fourth round at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon.
6) Medvedev’s Move: Fellow 22-year-old Russian Daniil Medvedev rose to a career-high No. 35 on 10 September. Medvedev swept 17 straight sets en route to the Winston-Salem title and US Open third round in August. Earlier this season, he captured the Sydney championship as a qualifier.
7) First Time for Everything: Dzumhur made history in 2017 as the first player to sweep both Russian tournaments in a single season. The St. Petersburg and Moscow champion ended 2017 on a 24-7 run. Although he is 20-24 in 2018, Dzumhur added his third ATP World Tour title at Antalya in June.
8) Shapo Soaring: Born in Israel to parents from the former Soviet Union, Denis Shapovalov moved to Toronto as an infant and represents Canada on tour. The 19-year-old, who speaks Russian, has played once before in Russia as a wild card at the 2016 Moscow Challenger. This time last year, he was on the verge of the world’s Top 50. And Shapovalov has continued his ascent in 2018, climbing as high as No. 23 in June. The teenager seeks his first tour-level crown.
9) Living Legend: Leander Paes bids to become the second-oldest doubles champion since the ATP World Tour was established in 1990 when he teams with Miguel Angel Reyes-Varela. Paes, 45, owns 54 tour-level doubles titles. But he’s lost his past five finals, including the 2016 St. Petersburg Open. John McEnroe is the oldest doubles champion in the ATP World Tour-era, winning San Jose 12 years ago at age 47.
10) Defending Champs: One year ago, Roman Jebavy and Matwe Middelkoop claimed their maiden tour-level title together in St. Petersburg. This will be their sixth tournament as a pair since. They reached the final earlier this year in Lyon.