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Philipp Kohlschreiber meets Marton Fucsovics in Hamburg.
Philipp Kohlschreiber meets Marton Fucsovics in Hamburg.|

Tennis Monday: Abrams picks two clay matches at the Hamburg Open – Kohlschreiber vs. Fucsovics and Paire vs. Chardy

First match is 7 am EDT.

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

Hamburg European Open

Hamburg, Germany

Monday, July 22, 2019

Men’s First Round

Philipp Kohlschreiber over Marton Fucsovics

Anybody who follows my tennis picks knows that I really like Philip Kohlschreiber—both the way that he plays and the spirit he displays while he plays. He has played Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics only once, and that was last Spring (2018) on grass in Halle, Germany. Although Kohlschreiber pulled that match out by splitting sets and seeing Fucsovics retire, down 2-1 in the third, that match has no meaning here. This match, as this whole tournament, is being played on outdoor clay courts, which I find a little unusual considering the Tour has just taken the players into Great Britain for the very short grass court season, climaxing, as it always does, at Wimbledon. To go back to clay, while the hard courts of the U.S. Open await all the ATP players, seems to be a strange bit of scheduling, and I’m guessing that most of the players who play their best game on the dirt (a lot of Western Europeans and South Americans) want to grab their last chance to pick up some prize money and ranking points while the opportunity still exists. Here, this match is as close to a “pick-em” match as I could find on the slow red clay, and I’m picking Kohlschreiber, the lesser-ranked of the two players, partly because I just like the way he competes. The German is 17-16 for the year coming in, and Fucsovics is 18-18. There’s not much between them, but someone has to win.

Benoit Paire over Jeremy Chardy

How is it that two Frenchmen, two years apart in age, have never played a professional match against each other in the 12 years that they have both been pros? Paire, the 30-year-old who is 6’5”, has an unusual service motion where he keeps his back straight to the point that it looks unnatural and uncomfortable just watching it. Yet, after a miserable start to the year, Paire has strung together enough wins and stellar play in the last four months or so to reach his highest professional ranking since he was #18 back in January of 2016, -- #28 right now. He’s got a record of 22-16, YTD, has won two titles, and has already collected $966,000 in singles alone. When he won the Open Parc Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes Lyon tournament in late May he pieced together consecutive wins over Mackie McDonald, Pablo Cuevas, Denis Shapovalov, Taylor Fritz and Felix Auger-Aliassime on clay, to take home the title and the 90,390 Euros that went along with it. He showed that, when motivated, he can really play, no matter how straight his back is. Chardy will challenge him, however. The 32-year-old who now lives in London has already collected over $9 Million in prize money while recording year-to-date wins over Diego Schwartzman, Richard Gasquet, Pablo Carreno Busta, Gilles Simon, Nicolas Jarry, Ugo Humbert, Nick Kyrgios, and Jan-Lennard Struff. Not surprisingly, there are no fabulous players in that list, although they’re all very serviceable professionals. So, although Chardy can win, he probably won’t. Paire is playing good tennis, and he has way too much confidence to let this match slip away from him. Besides, when two compatriots draw each other, especially in the first round anywhere, there’s more than just money and the ranking that they play for. Ego, prestige, and local notoriety means as much to these guys as money and trophies, at this point in their careers, and Paire wants this match more than most. He’ll do what is necessary to carve up this win.

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