Monfils vs Gasquet 19.06.17
Gerry Weber Open, Halle, Germany, Clay Courts, Mens ATP Tour
Today sees the start of the first ATP 500 grass court event of the season, the Gerry Weber Open, in Halle, Germany. This tournament has been part of the men’s Tour since 2003, and in 2015 was upgraded from a 250 event to a 500 event. Similarly to Wimbledon the centre court has a retractable roof, which can be closed in 88 seconds in case of rain. Roger Federer has won the title here on eight occasions, and he will look to put last week’s disappointing result behind him by having a good run here. Last year’s champion Florian Mayer is looking to defend his title this week, and he starts against Benoit Paire tomorrow. Mayer has a potential second Round meeting against Lucas Pouille, and probably Federer in the Quarter Finals, so if the German is to successfully defend his title, he’s going to have to do it the very hard way.
Today sees us start the week with an all French Round 1 encounter between world number 16, Gael Monfils and world number 30, Richard Gasquet.
These two are by no means strangers to one another, having met on fourteen previous occasions. Monfils leads the head to head 8-6, however this is the first time they have played on grass. Their most recent encounter was just a few weeks ago at the French Open, where having won a set each, Gasquet was forced to retire with a thigh injury. Prior to that, in February this year, Gasquet beat Monfils on the indoor hard courts of Marseille, France 6-7 6-4 6-2. These two have more often than not had good, close matches, so assuming both stay injury-free for the duration, expect a closely fought battle here.
This is both players first match on grass this year, so we will start by looking at their all-time grass court stats.
Monfils’ all time grass court serving stats look like this, he’s won 68% of his service points and held serve 84% of the time. These compare to the all time grass court mean of 65% service points won and 82% service hold.
Gasquet’s all time grass court serving stats look like this, he’s won 69% of his service points and held serve 89% of the time.
Gasquet has a very well- suited serve for grass, he hits it with a lot of slice, so it moves away from opponents quickly when bouncing off the grass. Monfils will hit his harder and flatter, and will probably serve more aces out of the two players.
Monfils’ all time grass court returning stats look like this, he’s won 35% of his return points, 35% of his break points and opponents have held 82% of the time against him. These compare to the all time grass court mean numbers of, 35% return points won, 38% break points won and 82% opponents hold.
Gasquet’s all time grass court returning stats look like this, he’s won 37% of his return points, 41% of his break points and opponents have held 78% of the time against him.
Both players return reasonably well on the grass, both will look to block the ball back into play off the return. I don’t see there being a huge number of break point chances created today, so both will need to keep their break points converted % high.
Both players will be content exchanging from the back of the court a majority of the time, however Monfils can hit aggressive winners off his forehand at any time, whilst Gasquet has the potential to do the same off his backhand side. Expect to see some longish rallies for a grass court match though, as both will look to manipulate the other along the baseline before exploiting the space they try to create. Monfils is probably the most flexible and quickest player on the Tour, so expect him to chase down plenty of balls when defending today.
I think this will be close, probably three sets. If Gasquet’s body holds up, i think he could well nick this today. I think his tricky slice serve, and slightly superior returning game may well just be the difference. That being said, if Monfils is up for it and hitting his groundstrokes aggressively he can beat anyone on his day, so most certainly don’t rule out the enigmatic Gael.