The Grand Prix Hassan II in Marrakech marks the beginning of the clay season for many of the top players in men’s tennis following a sensational hardcourt season that concluded at the Miami Open last week. This tournament in Morocco, which recently relocated to Marrakech from Casablanca, is the only stop in the African continent on the ATP tour.
The Marrakech Open is right before the Monte Carlo Masters and is an ideal rehearsal not only for the lesser known players to rise on the big stage but also for emerging and established players who are struggling to find their form and feet.
Some of the top seeds who will take centrestage are the No. 1 seed and 21-year-old German star Alexander Zverev, Italy’s Fabio Fognini, Britain's Kyle Edmund, veteran Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, defending champion Pablo Andujar and German Phillip Kohlschreiber, to name a few.
Zverev has had a disappointing 2019 so far, and especially after the debacle at the ‘Sunshine Double’, he would want to make amends - not only to his game, but also to his results. He would be desperate to win his first tournament of the year to kick-start the clay season in the best possible fashion.
However, he may face stern opposition from players like Benoit Paire, Edmund and No. 2 seed Fognini in potential quarter-final, semi-final and final clashes en route to his possible moment of glory.
Zverev finds himself in the top half of the draw alongside the likes of Edmund, Frenchmen Paire and old warhorse Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The bottom half of the draw looks more dramatic and enthralling as it comprises of many contenders who have the potential to conquer the trophy.
The No. 2 seed Fognini who has traditionally been a good player on clay, Spaniard Verdasco, 2018 champion Andujar, French Gilles Simon and the ever so unpredictable Kohlschreiber make a formidable bottom half, and it won't be surprising if we see a lot of upsets in this section of the draw.
Not just Zverev, but even the likes of Fognini and Edmund would be looking to make an impression and get their 2019 campaign back on track in Morocco. Fognini in particular has been going through a lean patch for a while now, and would be motivated to raise his game to another level on a surface that suites him the best.
It remains to be seen if the defending champion Andujar can keep up his intensity and continue his merry ways heading into the tournament in Morocco following his twin wins in ATP Challenger Alicante and ATP Challenger Marbella on his home soil in past two weeks.
In what promises to be a precursor for the Monte Carlo Masters, the Grand Prix Hassan II could throw up many interesting stories to ponder as we slowly but surely transcend into the clay-court swing of the year. The tournament is very important for the top seeds like Zverev, Fognini and Edmund as they look to cover all their bases and get some crucial match practice under their belt before they face the likes of Nadal and Djokovic next week at the principality of Monaco.
Zverev starts as the firm favourite to win the Grand Prix Hassan II at Morocco in what is his inaugural appearance at the tournament, but it remains to be seen whether he can live up to that billing.