While the great and the good of the ATP elite opt to sit this week out, there are still some great players in the line-up for Nice.
At the top of the tree is the defending champion Thiem, coming in as top seed, with some great form behind him on the clay, reaching the Munich final and the Rome Masters quarter-final. At the heart of this was his win over a slightly crocked Roger Federer in Rome. Although the Swiss was quite clearly still hampered with the back injury that forced him out of Madrid, it showed some great mental fortitude by the young Austrian to keep his cool and serve out what still proved to be a competitive two-setter.
We might expect a different name to face him in the quarter-finals though – Seppi came back to his home tournament in Rome and was good for just one win, coming back after a hip injury ruled him out of Madrid. He obviously is looking for the matches behind him now at a Slam he would expect to get some headway.
What a quarter! Perhaps two of the most mercurial players on the tour head up this part of the bracket, with Paire perhaps the more in form, with his best result on the clay this seaon as a run to the Barcelona semi-final. This has never really been a great place for the Frenchman though – he has never made it past the first round, and will advance here by virtue of a bye.
Fognini has made the best of the clay court season to get back on track after injury side-lined him since the Australian Open, and he has been getting progressively better results at least in the lower tier events – his runs at the clay Masters have seen early exits for all of them so expect him to try and put in a spirited run here – he should at least get past the second round for the first time.
It has been a long road back for Anderson, who was out of action with injury after Delray Beach, and there is no doubt he needs some clay court action with a first and second round exit at the Madrid and Rome Masters respectively. He looks to have a difficult path with Fernando Verdasco most likely his opening match, so maybe at this stage it is more about building up fitness and points until the grass court season.
Sousa is already Portugal’s best player and achieved his pinnacle on the clay this year, acquitting him well in the end in Madrid against Rafael Nadal, having lost the first set with a bagel, he fought back to take a set off him. However he came up short against Thiem, so will be thankful he is at the other end of the draw.
Simon returns to a tournament that he has had some solid results with one quarter-final and two semi-finals to his name and this could be a chance for him to put together a good string of results. He probably would have expected some stronger results on the clay, just reaching one quarter-final in Estoril.
However, the face to look out for is eighth seed Zverev. He gave Roger Federer a bit of test, and claimed the scalp of the once relevant Grigor Dimitrov, but has put in some solid hours on the dirst so far, reaching the semi-final in Munich.
The Open de Nice Côte d’Azur take place between 14-21 May (BST +1 hour)
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