The 32nd edition of the Open de Nice Cote d'Azur will see eight of the world's top 50 players seeded as they battle it out to aim to go into Roland Garros with good form. Top seed and defending champion Dominic Thiem headlines the tournament in Nice, France.
Top seed and 2015 champion Dominic Thiem headlines this section of the draw. He is aiming to head into the third Grand Slam of the year with confidence. The 22-year-old has won all his titles on clay. He receives a bye to the second round, where he will face either Jiri Vesely or last year's runner-up Leonardo Mayer. This quarter also includes Next Gen star Hyeon Chung who faces local Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu and Daniel Munoz-De La Nava who has Italian seventh seed Andreas Seppi in the first round.
With the French Open around the corner, Thiem, one of the dark horses for the tournament, has had mixed results on clay having lost in third round at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters in round one to Juan Martin Del Potro in Madrid, made the quarterfinal at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia and losing to Philipp Kohlschreiber in the final at the Munich event.
Quarterfinal: Dominic Thiem - Andreas Seppi
Semifinalist: Dominic Thiem
Benoit Paire is the highest ranked player in this part of the draw. The Frenchman has a bye into the second round of the tournament. He could go up against either Robin Haase, who has a trophy on clay from 2014, or Adrian Mannarino. The 27-year-old has yet to make a final on clay and the surface is his least favorite. Guido Pella and sixth-seeded wildcard Fabio Fognini will both go up against qualifiers in their opening round.
The Argentine has made a final on clay this season having made a run in his hometown of Buenos Aires in February, defeating Thiem along the way before losing to Pablo Cuevas. Italian Fognini's favorite surface is the red dirt having won three titles from nine, so don't be surprised if he was to go far in this tournament. Fognini should be able to take care of a nice draw while the Dutchman could find himself losing in round one, though that match could be even. Despite clay not being his preferred surface, Mannarino could make quite a run this week, with Paire being hot and cold, but on his day, the 27-year-old can trouble anyone.
Quarterfinal: Benoit Paire - Fabio Fognini
Semifinal: Fabio Fognini
This quarter includes the third seed and wildcard, Kevin Anderson. The South African has had a frustrating season to date. He lost early in Australian Open and has been dealing with a shoulder injury ever since. Also in this quarter is number five seed Joao Sousa, who like Anderson has had a poor season, struggling with confidence and match wins, though he did make a good run at the Mutua Madrid Open at the start of the month making it to the quarterfinals and losing to the "King of Clay" Rafael Nadal.
The Portuguese will face 19-year old Quentin Halys, who was recently awarded a wildcard for Roland Garros. Victor Estrella Burgos faces Denis Kudla while Fernando Verdasco is will take on a qualifier. With Anderson struggling for match time this season, Verdasco could take advantage of a favorable draw and make a run this week ahead of Roland Garros. Estrella Burgos is another player who can be dangerous on the clay having won both his titles in Quito, Colombia on this surface.
Quarterfinal: Joao Sousa - Fernando Verdasco
Semifinalist: Fernando Verdasco
The final quarter is headlined by second seed Gilles Simon. The Frenchman can be dangerous on the red dirt having won five of his 12 trophies on this surface. Also in this draw is 18-year-old Next Gen star Alexander Zverev, who has had a career high ranking of 43 this season. The German faces a qualifier while other matches include Marcel Granollers, a quarterfinalist in Monte Carlo, up against Brian Baker, who has used a protected ranking to be here this week.
Youngster Taylor Fritz faces Ukrainian Illya Marchenko. Simon should make a good run with the draw being kind to the local Frenchman. Should Zverev make it through he could be tested by Granollers who has a lot of experience on the red dirt. American Brian Baker has only played one tournament in the past three years and that was at the end of January at the Australian Open, so he has nothing to lose.
Quarterfinal: Marcel Granollers - Gilles Simon
Semifinalist: Marcel Granollers
Semifinal prediction: Fabio Fognini def. Dominic Thiem, Fernando Verdasco def. Marcel Granollers
Final: Fernando Verdasco def. Fabio Fognini