Rotterdam ATP 500 What The Trophy Would Mean Gasquet Cilic Simon Monfils

Rotterdam ATP

Photo courtesy of Marianne Bevis @ flickr.com (Creative commons license)

The ATP 500 Rotterdam tournament features a Federer less field, and one also lacking its defending champion Stan Wawrinka and its 2015 runner-up Tomas Berdych. That might not be so great for their loyal fans, but it is good news for the likes of Marin Cilic, Richard Gasquet, David Goffin and Gael Monfils who now find themselves with a great chance to grab a first ATP 500 title. The Tennis Review looks at each player’s chances and what it would mean for them if they won the trophy.

Marin Cilic: Runner-up 2014

Cilic’s trophy haul is an odd one- 13/14 of his titles have come at ATP 250 events, and his one other title is a Grand Slam (US Open ’14). He has made ATP 500 finals, though, including the 2014 Rotterdam one which he lost to Tomas Berdych, the Beijing ’09 and ’11 finals, and the ’09 Vienna final.

One reason for that odd title collection is his game can be quite hit or miss, and the five set format at slams gives him more time to work out the kinks. Another reason is that since Cilic’s 2014 US Open win he has been troubled by a shoulder injury, but his game looked to be getting back into shape last season after he reached the Roland Garros fourth round, the Wimbledon quarters, the US Open semis, and won Moscow.

The world No.13 has had a slow start to 2016. He was upset by Bautista-Agut in clinical fashion in the Australian Open third round, and became Alexander Zverev’s biggest scalp in the second round of Montpellier last week.

A slow start and a lack of form will not mean much to Cilic’s Rotterdam title chances- he can catch fire at any time and Rotterdam’s fast courts complement his big serve, mighty ground-strokes, and aggressive mindset.

A first ATP 500 title would start to balance out Cilic’s resume a little and help convince many he is more than a player who had a couple of spectacular weeks one September.

A first title of 2016 so early in the season would also set him up nicely for the rest of the year, and give him both the confidence and the winning feeling again which might propel him to a second slam title, perhaps at Wimbledon, a tournament he had made no secret of being keen to win.

Title chances: You cannot count out one of only seven active slam champs on the tour, and if Cilic’s game starts clicking then he is favorite for the title at a venue where he has had deep runs in the past.

It is a big if though. Cilic is is susceptible to upsets so he could go out in his first round or take the whole thing. Big servers like Denis Istomin, who he meets in round 1, and his potential second round opponent  Gilles Muller, could outhit him in a serving contest in which matters would be decided on a point here and there.

In the quarters and semis, Cilic could be vulnerable to the consistency of Simon and the variety of Monfils, and in the final he might succumb to the all round talents of Gasquet.

You never know with Cilic, and that is part of the fun. But if he is on form, you can be pretty sure he will emerge from this field as the winner.

Richard Gasquet: Quarter-finals 2012

While Cilic’s slam success seemed to some a little out of the blue, Gasquet’s lack of it has been just as surprising. The world no. 10 was expected to join Rafa Nadal in the players most likely to take slams from Federer club before the likes of Djokovic and Murray were even in the conversation.

There is still hope that Gasquet, who had such a sensational start to his career beating Federer in Monte Carlo ’05, might be a late bloomer slam wise in an age when players reach their prime later than they ever have on the ATP tour. The Frenchman has emerged from what was a worrying period of passive play and, with Sergi Bruguera and Sebastian Grosjean on his team, has adopted a style more suited to his natural all court game.

Gasquet has been putting in strong performances on the tour’s faster courts since he defeated Wawrinka on his run to the Wimbledon semis last season and since then he has made the Cincinnati and US Open quarters, and the semis of Basel and Stockholm.

The French man pulled out of the Australian Open with injury but looked in great condition in Montpellier winning the title over strong indoor opposition, and it looks like the stars are aligning to bring him his first ATP 500 title in Rotterdam in an intriguing but mostly inconsistent field of which he might be the most solid member.

The former child prodigy, like Cilic, also lacks an ATP 1000 or 500 title. He has won ATP 250 titles, 12 of them, and made big finals in Canada (06, 12), and Tokyo (07), but has not been able to breakthrough.

An ATP 500 Rotterdam title would be his biggest title yet and as a result it could be the launching pad for Gasquet to make other breakthroughs on the tour, namely winning an ATP 1000 and making a slam final. The Frenchman has tons of experience, a game to trouble the very best, and you have to think, with an extra surge of self-belief the Rotterdam title might give him, he could finally make the kind of run his talent warrants.

Title chances: Very strong. Gasquet must be feeling good after his Montpellier title win this weekend. The fast courts will play to his strengths, and his strong defense means he can ask other aggressive players plenty of questions.

Gael Monfils: Semi-finals 2009

Monfils joins Gasquet as one of the ATP’s biggest underachievers, never having won a title above 250 level, but while you could not knock Gasquet for effort, there are plenty of questions about how committed Monfils, the tour’s ultimate entertainer, has been to winning and not playing around. The Frenchman seems to enjoy the applause he gets from one of his risky shots working out for him more than he does for holding trophies on final’s day- the world No.17 has been in 22 finals and managed just five titles, a baffling statistic considering his talent.

Monfils’ 2016 has been pretty representative of his career. He made the quarters of the Australian Open for the first time and then lost in his opening match in Montpelier, a tournament he has won twice, to 136th ranked Edouard Roger-Vasselin. On the positive side, that early loss will have given him some time to recover from his Melbourne run, and work on a few things.

If Monfils won the title, it would be a stellar start to the season, a breakthrough title wise, and, if he enjoys the cheers and platitudes a more prestigious title would bring him, he might think twice before choosing the showier shots on big points, go for the percentages, and play for even bigger titles more often.

Title chances: Mixed. Monfils loves indoor court with four of his titles won in those conditions, and he has been runner up twice at Paris-Bercy. But he will have to be at his best- he has a tricky opening round versus Gulbis and he has his nemesis Gilles Simon in his quarter. Simon has beaten him 6 times and lost once, and his last two wins came at last season’s Wimbledon and in the Marseilles ’15 indoor hard final.

Gilles Simon: Semis 2008, 2013, 2015

Simon must be feeling good after his strategy to hit down the middle and be more consistent than Mr consistency himself Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open helped him take the six time champion to five sets in the fourth round.

Simon’s game has taken him to 12 titles, five indoor, an ATP 500 trophy in Hamburg, and six finals including the 2014 ATP 1000 Shanghai final which he lost to Roger Federer in two tiebreaks. He is also a three time semi-finalist in Rotterdam so he will be feeling very comfortable.

Unfortunately for Simon, while he may be a nightmare match up for his projected quarter-final opponent Gael Monfils, he has his own nemesis Richard Gasquet, the top seed who is in tournament winning form, as a possible opponent in the semis.

Gasquet has defeated Simon 6 times and lost once, and those wins have all come on the tour’s quicker surfaces (Wimbledon, Dubai, Bangkok, Nottingham, US Open). However, the two have not met since 2012, match-ups can be turned round, and both are playing great tennis so if they met, it could be one of the season’s most thrilling contests.

The title would be Simon’s most prestigious, and after his Australian Open performance, would send out a clear message to the rest of the tour that he was one of the players to beat in 2016.

Title chances: Very good. Simon is a consistent player and will give himself chances to make the final. If he gets there, he has the indoor game, counter-punching skills and strategic smarts to get a 13th title.

David Goffin: Never gone past the opening round in two visits

Goffin is a huge talent- he made the last sixteen of Roland Garros as a lucky loser in 2012 where he took a set from Roger Federer- and has some ATP 500 success behind him, making the finals of Basel ’14, so he is not shy of the tour’s bigger stages.

The world No 16 and fourth seed is ticking along nicely, doing what he should be such as reaching the last 16 of slams- he beat Dominic Thiem on his way to the Australian Open fourth round where he lost to Federer- and making the Davis Cup final.

There is certainly potential for greater things, and last year in Cincinnati he hinted at them when he led Novak Djokovic 3-0 in the third set, but that match slipped from his grasp, as have others over the years, and that struggle to close out winnable matches will be tough to overcome if he does not get some big wins soon. Right now it is not overly concerning because he is still relatively new to the top tier of the sport, but if it becomes a habit, it will be a bad one.

While a run to the title in Rotterdam would not see him getting wins over the Big Four or Wawrinka or Berdych, he would likely have to beat some very successful and talented players which, along with a prestigious trophy, would make that next lead over an elite player that much easier to hold.

Title Chances: Goffin has a nice draw and should do well here. He has the all court game, aggression and athleticism to make the final, and it does feel like it is his time to make a leap forward in his career. An ATP 500 title would be the next logical step.

Other contenders:

Roberto Bautista Agut

Bautista Agut upset Cilic in Melbourne and nearly did the same to Berdych, and he is the recent Sofia winner, beating Troicki in the final, so this consistent and steely competitor will be one to beat.

Alexander Zverev

Coming off a big win over Cilic last week in Montpellier, Zverev has the depth and pace of shot to do well indoors, and it feels like he has momentum right now. He has a tough prospective second round against Simon though who will make him run, and on the indoor courts that won’t be that comfortable for the 198 cm tall wild card.

Viktor Troicki

Troicki started off the season beating an in form Grigor Dimitrov for the Sydney title, made the Australian open third round, and was the recent runner up in Sofia. Match tough, a great match player, and in solid indoor form, Troicki could take the title if he gets his game going.

Ernests Gulbis

Gulbis may be having to get through qualifying to get into ATP 500 main draws, but he is getting through them, and it will only take a big win to get him on one of his streaks. If he does it here, the title could very well be his.

Who do you think will lift the ATP 500 Rotterdam trophy? Share your views with us in the comments below. 

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Christian Deverille

Christian Deverille is a tennis writer with a diploma in Freelance Sports Writing from the London School of Journalism. He loves all things tennis, most of all the Federer and del Potro forehands.
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