Lopez vs Simon 12.06.17
Mercedes Cup, Stuttgart, Germany, Grass Courts, Mens ATP Tour
Monday sees the start of the first ATP 250 Main Tour grass court event of the year, the Mercedes Cup, played on the greens of Stuttgart in Germany. The event was first played on the Tour in 1949 as a clay court tournament, with it only changing to grass in 2016. Ironically, Rafa Nadal won it that year, with Dominic Thiem taking the title here last year, defeating the German Philipp Kohlschreiber in three sets, 6-7 6-4 6-4. Neither Thiem nor Nadal are playing here this week, so we are going to see a new champion. Two players bidding for said title are the Spanish world number 36, Feliciano Lopez and the French world number 32, Gilles Simon.
This is the sixth time these two have met, with Lopez leading the head to head 4-2. Lopez has won their two previous meetings today, including a tight three-setter just last month in Rome on the clay. The Spaniard has also won their only two previous meetings today on grass, both were in 2013, in the Final at Eastbourne and then just three days later in the second Round at Wimbledon
This will be both players first matches on grass this year, so we are going to be analysing both players all-time grass court mean numbers to try and give us some clues as to where this match might be won and lost.
Lopez’ all time grass court serving stats look like this; the Spaniard has won 71% of his service points and held serve 90% of the time. The Spaniard has always had one of the best serves on Tour, and it is even more of a weapon on the grass. Lopez hits a fantastic slider out to the right-handers backhand, which will most certainly cause Simon some problems. Look for Lopez easily hitting 15-20+ aces per match over the coming weeks.
Simon’s all time grass court serving stats look like this; the Spaniard has won 64% of his service points and held serve 81% of the time. These numbers are below the all-time grass court mean of 65% service points won and 81% service hold. Simon has never had the biggest of serves, and it is certainly exploitable, especially against Lopez deep, skidding backhand slice returns. I expect Simon to get broken in every set in this match, unless he ups these numbers significantly.
Lopez’ all time grass court returning stats look like this; he wins 32% of his return points, 35% of his break points and his opponents have held serve 86% of the time. If Lopez can improve on these numbers today I really do think he can get some traction on Simon’s tentative serve.
Simon’s all time grass court returning stats look like this; he wins 36% of his return points, 42% of his break points and his opponents have held serve 80% of the time. Simon is the marginally better returner of the two players on this surface, however against Lopez big serve I see this slight advantage being negated.
Expect some uncharacteristically long rallies for a grass court match, neither player possesses much firepower off the ground, and both will look to move the ball around the court in an attempt to create space with which to exploit. Lopez has a strong slice backhand, so look out for this causing Simon plenty of problems as it skids fast and low off the grass. The Frenchman will hit with plenty of depth and consistency throughout, off both wings.
This should be an intriguing match, which could well come down to who is the most consistent off the ground and whether Simon can break the Spaniard’s serve. Personally i feel like Lopez serve and volley game will be too strong for Simon. I just can’t see the Frenchman being able to hit enough winners off the ground, or hold serve sufficiently to compensate.
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