Ahead of the 2019 French Open, the clay court season’s marquee event, a number of ATP players are participating in their final tune ups in Lyon and Geneva. These small 250 level stops represent the last opportunities to earn ATP points and get into form before Roland Garros, and a number of players are looking to turn their clay court season around by winning matches this week. Here is a look at those players including Alexander Zverev and Grigor Dimitrov.
Alexander Zverev Among Players With Something to Prove
In Lyon two French players who were once at the top of the game, Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, are among the fan favorites hoping to find form before playing in Paris. Gasquet had to save match points against countryman qualifier Maxime Janvier to reach Round 2, and now faces Taylor Fritz at that stage. Both Gasquet and Fritz have struggled on clay. Gasquet is now 2-2 since returning from injury while Fritz is an even .500 since starting his clay season in Houston. The winner of that match will undoubtedly gain some confidence. Gasquet/Fritz are likely to meet Roberto Bautista Agut in the quarters. RBA is another player off the pace ahead of RG. Fritz countryman Steve Johnson is also struggling on clay, his worst surface and he’s unlikely to make a deep run here.
Tsonga has a credible chance of lifting the Lyon title. He did reach the semis in Marrakech on clay this yea,r but it’s been an up and down year overall for him as he plays under a protected ranking at this tournament. Shock losses to Fritz in Monte Carlo, Filip Horansky in a Challenger, and also a routine defeat to Fabio Fognini in Rome suggest Tsonga is way off his former Top 20 pace and he really needs to step it up.
Canadian young guns Felix Auger Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov also have muted expectations for RG after poor clay court seasons thus far. FAA reached the semis in Miami and the final in Rio (on clay), but he’s cooled off since those results, losing to tough top 20 competition in Barcelona, Madrid, Monte Carlo, and Rome. Given the caliber of the players that he’s lost to (such as Rafael Nadal) it’s quite possible that he blitzes through this weaker field and reaches the final.
Shapovalov also has a shot at the title. He’s just 2-3 since Miami but one of those losses is to Novak Djokovic, again suggesting that his form may not be that far off an elite level.
Alexander Zverev is the marquee player in Geneva. The top seed has slipped to World #5 after he suffered early defeats in Indian Wells, Miami, Monte Carlo, Barcelona, and Rome, plus quarterfinal losses in Munich at home and in Madrid. Zverev has lost a number of matches to players ranked well below him including Jaume Munar, Christian Garin, and Nicolas Jarry. He has all the talent for clay but at this point he’s on upset alert for an early defeat in Paris. He should be favored to go as far as the final in Geneva but every match is set to be stressful.
Stan Wawrinka has had a credible comeback season, already back in the top 30 he’s the favorite at home in Geneva. His losses on clay have come against credible dirtballers David Goffin, Rafael Nadal, and Marco Cecchinato this year, but he’d still love to win a title before Paris, where he’s a former champion.
Speaking of comebacks, Ernests Gulbis, a former semifinalist and quarterfinalist at Roland Garros (by far his best Slam), is in the field and faces Zverev in Round 2. Gulbis hasn’t made a significant result all season.
Grigor Dimitrov’s career has hit the skids. The former top 5 player is down to World #47 and opted to come through qualifying in Geneva where he now faces fellow struggler Federico Delbonis. Other than a quarterfinal in Brisbane to start the year, Dimitrov has not reached the later stage of any tournament this season.