(Photo credit: Marianne Bevis)
The veteran Frenchman Gilles Simon, once ranked as high as 6th in the world, will look to add a positive note to what has been a difficult season when he takes on surprise finalist Matthias Bachinger in Metz. Simon has won twice the title in Metz, in 2010 when he defeated another German Mischa Zverev and then again three years later when he denied Jo-Wilfried Tsonga a hat-trick of titles. Bachinger, meanwhile, has never before contested a Tour-level final. But who will claim the title?
This will be the third meeting between Simon and Bachinger and history is not on the German’s side with Simon having claimed the victory on both occasions, though their most recent meeting was in 2012. Their first came a year earlier still in 2011 in the quarterfinals in Bangkok with Simon recovering from a set down to win 3-6 6-3 6-2. When their rivalry was renewed a year later in the semifinals in Stockholm, Simon ran out a fairly comfortable 7-5 6-2 winner.
Path to the final
Simon began his Metz campaign with a solid 7-5 6-3 win over Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic. That victory set up a clash with 2017 Paris Masters finalist and seventh seed Filip Krajinovic. It was the Serbian who made the better start, claiming a hard-fought first set, but Simon turned the match around impressively to advance a 4-6 7-5 7-5 winner. He then upset his countryman Richard Gasquet, the fourth seed, 7-6 6-2 before dismissing Radu Albot 6-3 6-1 in the last four.
Bachinger’s Moselle Open began in the qualifying where he defeated Norbert Gombos and his countryman Yannick Maden to reach the main draw. He made good on his chance with a 6-4 6-4 win over Spanish young gun Jaume Munar in the first round before dismantling Frenchman Gregoire Barrere 6-0 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals. There he beat Maden a second time before winning a 2-6 6-4 7-5 thriller against US Open semifinalist and top seed Kei Nishikori despite losing the first set.
How do they match up?
Simon defensive qualities have served him well throughout his career even if they have not endeared him much to French tennis fans who have long preferred the swashbuckling Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and the unpredictable Gael Monfils. Nonetheless, Simon’s relentless running and ability to keep the ball deep ensure he is always an exceptionally difficult opponent to come up against. He will be hoping to frustrate Bachinger into reckless errors as he has so many other opponents.
Bachinger is blessed with more power than Simon, though he can hardly be accounted one of the biggest hitters on the Tour. Indeed, he generally prefers to focus on accuracy rather than power and his game is more notable for his unorthodox swing patterns than it is any major weapons. But, against Simon he will have little chance of winning the physical battle nor will accuracy alone suffice. As a result, expect Bachinger to attempt to step in and dictate more than he usually would.
Unexpected runs from qualifiers, lucky losers and wildcards are not quite as uncommon as one might expect and indeed the unpredictability of the smaller ATP tournaments forms a large part of their appeal. But, all too often the likes of Bachinger, having played superb tennis to reach a final are overawed by the occasion during the title-match itself. Simon, with 13 career titles to his name, is unlikely to experience such nerves. Expect him to claim the title in straight sets.