Thrills Await In Marrakech
If the ending of last year’s Grand Prix Hassan II is any sign of what is to come this week in Marrakech, fans will be in for an absolute treat.
Philipp Kohlschreiber, who held five championship points against Borna Coric in last year's epic final at the tournament, will get another chance to claim glory in Morocco. The third-seeded German will begin his title assault against local wild card Lamine Ouahab.
Top seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas pursues his second ATP World Tour title on his beloved red clay. According to the FedEx ATP Performance Zone, the left-handed Spaniard ranks fifth on the Tour in the past 52 weeks with 19 victories on the surface. The 30-year-old advanced to the final at the Ecuador Open in Quito earlier this year before losing to compatriot Roberto Carballes Baena.
Ramos-Vinolas will face a tricky test in Moroccan wild card Amine Ahouda. The World No. 718, who is 20 years old, won his only tour-level match earlier this year in Davis Cup against Top 100 player Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia. Kyle Edmund, the second seed who broke through with a run to the semi-finals at the Australian Open, will look to kick off his clay-court campaign on a high note against left-handed Czech Jiri Vesely.
Two unseeded 2018 ATP World Tour titlists have been drawn against seeded players in the first round of the only African tour-level event.
Frenchman Gilles Simon, who triumphed at the Tata Open Maharashtra in the first week of the season, takes on sixth-seeded compatriot Benoit Paire. And while Paire is placed 24 spots higher in the ATP Rankings, Simon leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 4-3, with their past five matches coming at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 level (Simon leads 4-1). It will be their first clash since the 2015 Rolex Paris Masters.
Past Five Champions
Simon won this tournament in 2008 when it was held at Casablanca. The only other former champion also in the draw is Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (2014).
Mirza Basic, who earned his maiden ATP World Tour title at the Diema Xtra Sofia Open in February, will face fifth seed Robin Haase in the first round. The pair’s FedEx ATP Head2Head series is knotted at 1-1.
Haase is the only player who is seeded in both the singles and doubles draws. The Dutchman is No. 5 in singles and part of the fourth-seeded team with compatriot Matwe Middelkoop — the team, like Basic, won in Sofia, and also triumphed alongside Simon in Pune to begin 2018.
Another player to look out for is fourth seed Richard Gasquet. The Frenchman, who is six tour-level wins away from No. 500, will begin his efforts in Marrakech against Italian Thomas Fabbiano. The 31-year-old, who hasn’t claimed glory since 2016 Antwerp, will attempt to win his 15th ATP World Tour title.