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  • Chris Sobey

Tennis


The ATP Tour returns after a three week break due to the US Open and Davis Cup last week. There are two ATP 250 Indoor tournaments this week at Metz and St Petersburg to focus on and both tournaments have attracted decent fields.

At Metz defending champion Tsonga does not line up due to injury however, 2015 finalist and two time winner (2010 and 2013) Simon seeded four does line up this week and will attempt to make up for a disappointing 2016 season by finishing the year strongly. Top-seed Thiem plays Mets for the first time and will attempt to win an eighth ATP title this week, as well as his first indoors, and he is also still in the hunt to make the year end World Tour Finals in London along with the likes of Nadal, Berdych and Cilic who are hot on his heels in seventh place.

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The top-seed has quite a strong record at Metz winning four of the last ten titles (last Tsonga 2012) and they were also a losing finalist twice in this period (last 2013 Tsonga). The second seed has not performed as well winning only one of the last ten titles (2013 Simon) and they were a losing finalist twice in this period (last 2015 Simon), which does not bode well for 2014 winner Goffin’s chances this week. Seeded players in general have performed well at Metz over the last decade and a player seeded no higher than eighth has won the last ten titles, a player seeded no higher than six was a losing finalist eight times in this period and two seeded players have contested the last six finals.

French players, not surprisingly, have performed well at Metz in the past and they have won six of the last ten titles and six of the last seven overall. With that in mind Paire seeded seven is due a good run at an ATP tournament after a quiet summer and should relish the return to playing indoors on home soil. He reached the Montpellier final back in 2013, the semi-finals at Marseille indoors earlier this season, has a winning form against some of the dangers in the top-half of the draw like Simon and Muller and if he can produce that level of form this week he will be tough to beat.

Veteran Mahut seeded eight has to be taken seriously as a contender this week given his career record at Metz. He’s a two time semi-finalist (2007 and 2013) and his section of the draw is more than winnable with none of his potential opponents in particularly strong form. He has winning form against second seed Goffin and third seed Pouille indoors and his main threat could be fifth seed Klizan, who has a strong record indoors having won 33 of 17 matches, including two ATP titles (Rotterdam 2016 and St Petersburg 2012) and with that in mind its worth backing them both this week as they’re drawn to potentially meet in the semi-finals.

St Petersburg returns to the ATP Tour after a one year break and has attracted a very strong field with the likes of US Open champion and top-seed Stan Wawrinka, defending champion Raonic seeded two and third seed Berdych all lining up for a shot at this year’s title. The top seed has won only one of the last ten titles (last Murray 2008) and was a losing finalist once in this period (last Youzhny 2010), which does not bode well for top-seed Wawrinka’s chances this week.

The second seed has a better record winning three of the last ten titles (last Raonic 2015) and they were a losing finalist once in this period (last Cilic 2011) however, with doubts surrounding Raonic’s fitness after recent injury problems he makes little appeal this year. The same applies for third seed Berdych who missed the US Open due to injury.

Sousa seeded eight made the final here last year, won both of his ATP titles indoors at Valencia last season and Kuala Lumpur in 2013 and has made one other ATP final indoors at Metz in 2014. He usually finishes the year strongly and given his record indoors has to be taken as a serious challenger again this year. The same applies to fourth seed Bautista-Agut who won his first ATP titles indoors at Sofia this year and he’s made three ATP indoor finals during his career at Moscow 2014 and Valencia and Moscow in 2015.

With doubts surrounding Raonic and Berdych’s chances this week its worthwhile looking for an outsider who is capable of causing an upset from the bottom half of the draw. Russian Kachanov who is 6ft 6” has the game to challenge this week as his huge serve is a major weapon. His all-round game is improving all the time and it’s just a matter of time before he makes the breakthrough at this level, which could come towards the end of the season when a lot of the established professionals are more tired after a long grueling season.


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