With Stan Wawrinka and Rafael Nadal on the sidelines, Marin Cilic is the No. 1 seed in Rotterdam. He will kick off his campaign against Benoit Paire, while Borna Coric is facing Karen Khachanov.
(1) Marin Cilic vs. Benoit Paire
Cilic and Paire will be squaring off for the fourth time in their careers when they clash in round one of the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament on Tuesday. The head-to-head series stands at a competitive 2-1 in favor of Cilic and all three of their previous encounters have required a deciding set. After Paire won a three-setter at the 2013 Chennai tournament, Cilic prevailed twice last season; 6-2, 6-7(3), 6-3 indoors in Marseille and 6-0, 4-6, 6-3 in Tokyo.
The start of 2017 has not been good for the seventh-ranked Croat, who is saddled with a 1-3 record. He lost in the Australian Open second round to Dan Evans before dropping his Montpellier opener last week at the hands of Dustin Brown. Another tough opening match awaits Cilic because Paire is coming off a semifinal performance in Montpellier. The 42nd-ranked Frenchman already owns eight match victories this year, having also advanced to the semis in Chennai to go along with a third-round performance in Melbourne. A more confident Paire should be able to pummel backhands and throw off Cilic’s timing on the forehand side en route to what would be only a minor upset.
Pick: Paire in 3
Borna Coric vs. Karen Khachanov
Coric has been nothing short of a disaster since destroying a fatigued Rafael Nadal at last summer’s Cincinnati Masters. In fact, the 20-year-old Croat has not won a single match since that result. Cilic retired from his next two contests (the Cincinnati quarterfinals and the U.S. Open first round) before knee surgery ended his 2016 campaign far too soon. It’s safe to say Coric’s comeback has not gotten off to an ideal start, as the world No. 61 has suffered opening losses in Chennai, Melbourne, and Montpellier.
Also 20 years old, Khachanov is trending in the other direction. The 6’6” Russian is up to 48th in the rankings thanks in a part to his first-ever ATP title last fall in Chengdu. Khachanov’s 2-5 record in 2017 includes a fifth-set tiebreaker loss to Serbia’s Viktor Troicki earlier this week in Davis Cup competition. Although Khachanov is not yet up to speed in the early stages of this season, he should be able to take advantage of a struggling opponent.
Pick: Khachanov in 3