Veterans Tommy Haas and Jarkko Nieminen will meet on Thursday in Nice. Not too far in away in Dusseldorf, Gael Monfils and Robin Haase are also looking for a semifinal spot in the week leading up to the French Open.
(6) Jarkko Nieminen vs. (2) Tommy Haas
Nieminen and Haas will be facing each other for the fifth time in their careers and for the second time this season when they collide in the quarterfinals of the Power Horse Cup on Thursday. Haas leads the head-to-head series 3-1, including 1-0 on clay (a four-set triumph at the French Open way back in 2002). They most recently squared off in round one of the Australian Open four months ago, with Nieminen prevailing 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-3, 4-6, 8-6.
Both veterans are in stellar form this year. Haas is 21-9 for his 2013 campaign and he is back up to No. 14 in the world at 35 years old. The German, a semifinalist in Miami and the champion in Munich, opened in Dusseldorf on Wednesday with a 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 victory over Ivan Dodig. Nieminen kicked off his week with a 6-3, 6-1 drubbing of Lukas Lacko before holding off Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 5-7, 6-3 in round two. The 31-year-old Finn is 20-12 for the season, which includes a recent quarterfinal showing in Monte-Carlo.
Whereas Nieminen has always been a force at 250-point tournaments and will be intent on winning this title, Haas may be more focused on Roland Garros at the moment. The question is how bad does the local hope want it. Perhaps inspired by the German fans, Haas fought hard to survive Dodig and that may drive him to go ahead and make a run for the winner’s trophy in Dusseldorf. Based on home-court advantage and a slight edge in current form, look for Haase to get through another tough one.
Pick: Haas in 3
(WC) Gael Monfils vs. Robin Haase
Monfils and Haase will be squaring off for the second time in their careers when they do battle in the quarterfinals of the Open de Nice Cote d’Azur on Thursday. Their only previous encounter came two years ago on the clay courts of Barcelona, where Monfils prevailed 3-6, 7-6(3), 6-2. The Frenchman may finally be rounding back into form after an injury-plagued 2012 campaign and a similar start to 2013. The world No. 109 captured a Challenger title last week in Bordeaux and so far in Nice he has taken out Santiago Giraldo and Fabio Fognini.
Haase has set a record of 17 consecutive ATP-level main-draw tiebreakers lost with some dismal crunch-time play this season, but he has avoided such situations so far this week. The 69th-ranked Dutchman took care of Marinko Matosevic 6-1, 6-4 then ousted No. 4 seed John Isner 6-4, 1-6, 7-5 on Wednesday. Haase is now 11-13 for the year while Monfils is a similarly mediocre 13-10. It may only be a matter of time before Monfils’ body cracks amidst a lot of matches over the last two weeks, but for now he appears to have enough momentum to get at least one more win–especially in front of a French crowd.
Pick: Monfils in 3