It’s Semi Finals day at the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart, and we are going to be previewing the second match on court between the two Frenchman, world number 16, Lucas Pouille and world number 49, Benoit Paire.
These two have met twice before, and both have won a match each. Both encounters were back in 2015, Pouille won in straight sets on the clay courts of Hamburg, Germany, before Paire won on a hard court in the Final of the Internationaux de Tennis de Vendée, France 6-4 1-6 7-6.
Mercedes Cup Results So Far…
Pouille had a bye into Round 2 where he faced Jan-Lennard Struff, and it looked on a number of occasions like the big-hitting German was going to get the better of him. Struff took the opening set 4-6, before Pouille managed to wrestle the second 7-6. Pouille then served for the match at 6-5, relinquished two match points and was subsequently broken. Pouille then blew a further two match points in the tiebreak, before Struff wasted one of his own, Pouille did eventually put Struff away at the fifth time of asking though to take the the tiebreak 10-8 and with it a place in the Quarter Final. The Frenchman took on another home favourite in the Quarters, Philipp Kohlschreiber. Pouille took the opening set 6-4, before losing his opening two service games in the second to lose it 2-6. A single break of serve in the fourth game of the final set ended up being the decisive action of the match, and Pouille held his nerve to take it 6-3.
Paire is yet to drop a set this week and has been looking in great form. He beat Viktor Troicki in Round 1, 6-4 6-4, before dispatching Peter Gojowczyk in Round 2, 6-2 6-4. Yesterday’s Quarter Final looked a potential banana skin on paper, with the Frenchman up against Grigor Dimitrov’s conqueror, the huge serving, Jerzy Janowicz. Paire made relatively easy work of the Pole though, breaking him twice in the first set, and then taking the second on a tiebreak, to win in just over an hour.
Pouille so far this week has won 64% of his service points and held serve 87% of the time. These compare to his all time grass court mean numbers of 64% service points won and 82% service hold.
Paire so far this week has won 73% of his service points and held serve 90% of the time. These compare to his all time grass court mean numbers of 63% service points won and 80% service hold.
Paire’s stats for the week are fairly heavily inflated, as he has played players who are notoriously poor returners, so don’t read too much into these. What we do know is that both players possess very strong serves and will win plenty of free points off it, especially on grass. I would be surprised if either player was broken more than twice today.
Pouille so far this week has won 31% of his return points, 30% of his break point chances and his opponent held serve 90% of the time. These compare to his all time grass court mean numbers of 33% return points won, 36% break points won and 85% opponent hold. Pouille does tend to struggle on the return of serve on grass, as he prefers a bit more time on the ball. He will certainly need to increase these numbers today if he is going to gain any traction in Paire’s service games.
Paire so far this week has won 42% of his return points, 71% of his break point chances and his opponent held serve 64% of the time. These compare to his all time grass court mean numbers of 36% return points won, 42% break points won and 78% opponent hold. These are impressive numbers from Paire, and if he can keep these up today I think out of the two players he will have far more opportunities to break serve.
Both players will look to attack off both wings, and both can crush winners from anywhere. Neither player plays with much margin for error though, so consistency is always an issue. Both players will look to win points from the back of the court, but will venture into the net when the opportunity arises, Paire is the more competent net player of the two, and also possesses a fantastic topspin lob, so look out for that. This match may well come down to who is the more patient and consistent off the ground, not necessarily who will hit the most winners.
Given his form this week, his grass court serve and return (especially) stats and the fact that i think his game his slightly better suited to grass than Pouille’s, i’m going to side with Benoit Paire to win this today. I think it will be close though, and i’d be surprised if this didn’t go the distance. Pouille can most certainly win today, but he will need to drastically improve his return of serve and be patient off the ground, something we currently have little evidence that he can do consistently.