The Open 13 has reached its quarterfinal stage and four very intriguing matches are set to unfold.
Five of the original eight seeded players remain as Janko Tipsarevic, Richard Gasquet, and Martin Klizan bowed out in their opening matches.
Dmitry Tursunov and Gilles Muller are both surprise quarterfinalists and will square off for a spot in the semifinals.
The tournament's top two seeds Juan Martin Del Potro and Tomas Berdych were both stretched to three tight sets by Michael Llodra and Ernests Gulbis respectively before narrowly escaping.
Tomas Berdych v. Jerzy Janowicz- In a match that ensures to display crushing collisions between racket and ball and an overdose of perilous shot selection, both Janowicz and Berdych will be looking to embrace first strike tennis in what will be their first head to head meeting. On an indoor hard court, expect a fair share of high caliber winners and head shake worthy unforced errors. If either guy is able to get on a roll, watch out because it could be lights out in a hurry. With that said, rallies will be short and breaks of serve will li be precious on a speedy surface enhanced by the pace Janowicz and Berdych possess on their serves and ground strokes. I should warn that if you are looking to watch high percentage tennis characterized by heavy topspin and high net clearance, it would be best if you switched away from this match.
Keys for Berdych: Berdych needs to make sure his second serve doesn't become a liability because as Janowicz showed in Paris Bercy, he is dauntless in terms of stepping in and taking the initiative off weak second serves. In addition, Berdych would be wise to spread the Polish sensation out to his backhand forcing him to hit his beloved cross court forehand on the run. Finally, Berdych needs control the middle of the court and focus on keeping Janowicz deep in the court which makes it increasingly harder for Janowicz to stay consistent on his forehand which is flat and low.
Keys for Janowicz: Janowicz is facing a player in Berdych who cannot only rip the cover off the ball but can also beat you with consistency and point construction. If Janowicz recklessly fires away from undesirable positions on the court, he's playing right into Berdych's hands. Janowicz needs to pick his spots, stay patient, do the exact opposite of what Berdych would expect him to do on such a swift court.
Prediction: This is a tough one to pick but I think Janowicz is going to be firing on all cylinders and rekindle the spirit he put forth in Paris to take out Berdych in three sets.
Gilles Muller v. Dmitry Tursunov: Well, I can honestly say I didn't expect to be previewing this match. In the opening round, Gilles Muller upset number five seed Richard Gasquet in a third set tiebreaker and then went on to take out Marcel Granollers in the second round again thriving in tiebreakers winning 7-6(2) 7-6(1). Tursunov, ranked 119th in the world coming into this tournament, took out Edouard Roger-Vasselin and followed it up by scoring an impressive victory over world No. 9, Janko Tipsarevic. This is the first tour level meeting between Muller and Tursunov.
Keys for Muller: As has and will always be the case for Muller, it will be key for the the man from Luxemborg to serve at a high percentage and abridge the points as frequently as possible through the use of the serve and volley. Muller is far inferior from the baseline once a rally is extended among a few shots so he would be wise to not only serve and volley as much as possible, but to use the chip and charge as a mechanism by which he can shorten up the rallies.
Keys for Tursunov: Off Muller's serve Tursunov needs to keep Muller low and stretching forcing him to volley upwards from uncomfortable positions. Tursunov needs to avoid using the slice backhand and prevent Muller from attacking the net best done by hitting with depth. Normally I would say it would be smart for the Russian to play high to Muller's backhand but since this surface yields such low bounces, it would provide Muller with the opportunity to take Muller's balls on early and flat.
Prediction: I'll take Muller and his booming serve to end Dmitry Tursunov's week in Marseille.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga v. Bernard Tomic- Bernard Tomic barley scathed by his opening round match against Slovakian Martin Klizan taking the match in a third set tiebreaker after rallying from a set down. Tsonga took out feisty veteran Nikolay Davydenko in his second round match after receiving a bye in the first round. Tsonga won the only previous meeting between these two in Montreal in 2011 in straight sets. Tomic and Tsonga both have the ability to play high octane tennis but both can as easily lose the plot of the match. Whereas Tomic tends to become listless and passive, Tsonga turns into an unsteady, chaotic, and hyperaggressive version of his ideal self.
Keys for Tsonga- Tsonga needs to execute his all court game, take advantage of Tomic's passive tendencies and close the net as much as possible. A steady diet of high reaching kick serves should suit the Frenchman well against a player who relies on the slice backhand and flattening his shots out as driving straight across your body is made very difficult with balls above chest level. Tomic's slice backhand will certainly test the Frenchman but will also provide him an opportunity to implement low, forceful approach shots that penetrate the court and move away from the young Aussie.
Keys for Tomic- Although the Tsonga backhand has seen gradual improvement since even the end of last season, it is still his biggest liability. As is such, Tomic should seek to maximize the amount of backhand to backhand rallies. The passiveness seen in Tomic's game needs to be flipped on its head as Tsonga will just hit Tomic right off the court if he is given a constant supply of soft balls in his direction. Most crucially, Tomic needs to do is stay away from the slapstick, wristy forehand he often hits as it will be highly susceptible to breaking down under Tsonga's forceful groundstrokes.
Prediction: The power and versatility of Tsonga will be too much for the Aussie to handle. Tsonga to the semifinals in a straight sets affair.
Juan Martin Del Potro v. Gilles Simon: Although Del Potro leads this head to head series 3-2, Gilles Simon is in prime position to take out the Argentinean. On the back of a two and half hour, three set dogfight with Simon's compatriot, Michael Llodra, Del Potro will be mitigated in the fitness department. Simon won his second round over Spain's Bautista-Agut in just over an hour and will definitely be feeling catalyzed and ready to go. Simon and Del Potro present the ultimate contrasting of styles. The pure power and authority Del Potro imposes upon his opponents will work against the guile, counterpunching tennis of the highly defensive Simon—a beautiful contraposition to say the least.
Keys for Del Potro: Simon defintiely can cause problems for Del Potro very similar to the way Djokovic causes problems for Del Potro. Simon is able to cover the court remarkably quickly, absorb the pace of Del Potro's shots and make the world No. 7 play that extra shot. Del Potro should be sticking to his normal gameplan with the caveat being that he displays a heightened level of patience and resolve when trying to overcome the defensive barriers of Simon. Simon is an excellent returner and while he is not normally an offensive risk to opponents, he certainly has the potential to feast on short second serves so Del Potro needs to make sure he is giving his second serve enough juice to prevent it from being attacked.
Keys for Simon: Simon will definitely win no shortage of points as a direct result of his outstanding defensive prowess. But in the same breath, he will definitely not win the entire match as a direct result of defensive prowess. Simon needs to be a lot more aggressive than he is typically and really give Del Potro a taste of his own medicine. The most critical thing for Simon in this match is going to be his second serve. The Frenchman has an extremely liable second serve and if he wants to have any chance in this match he is going to have go for much more on his second serve to prevent Del Potro from entering batting practice and teeing off on his second serves.
Prediction: Del Potro's offensive weapons should be far too strong for Simon so I'll give Del Po the nod to the quarterfinals in straight sets.