ATP Stuttgart first round preview: Feliciano Lopez - Mikhail Youzhny

Fifth seed Feliciano Lopez will make the quick transition from clay to grass courts after winning the French Open Men's Doubles title with his compatriot Marc Lopez and he will take on fellow tour veteran Mikhail Youzhny in the first round of the 2016 Mercedes Cup.

Lopez was seeded 21st at the French Open in the singles competition and he lost to his compatriot David Ferrer in the third round but Lopez will be coming into this tournament full of confidence after picking up his first Grand Slam title in the men's doubles.

Youzhny, formally ranked at number eight in the world is currently languishing at 76 in the world and he should not be taken lightly as he has reached the quarterfinals or better at every Grand Slam singles tournament.

Lopez's tricky draw

The Spaniard has been dealt with a tricky draw in Stuttgart as his projected path to the final involves facing Youzhny in the first round, Sergiy Stakhovsky a potential second round opponent, who is very good on grass and he upset Roger Federer in the second round of Wimbledon back in 2013.

Third seed Dominic Thiem who has recently made the top ten in the ATP rankings for the first time in his career following his semifinal finish at the French Open hasn't really proved himself on grass courts yet and he is Lopez's projected quarterfinal opponent and the Spaniard has a 3-1 losing record to the young Austrian.

The returning Roger Federer is the top seed in Stuttgart and Lopez could face the 17-time Grand Slam champion in the semifinals and should Lopez make the final, he could play 2nd seed Marin Cilic, Grigor Dimitrov, 7th seed Philipp Kohlschreiber or Juan Martin Del Potro in a jam-packed bottom half of the draw.

Youzhny's poor results

Youzhny in action at the BNP Paribas Open in March (Photo by Julian Finney / Source: Getty Images)
Youzhny in action at the BNP Paribas Open in March (Photo by Julian Finney / Source: Getty Images)

Youzhny dropped out of the top 100 towards the back end of 2015 for the first time since 2001 and he ended the year at a disappointing 127, his worst ranking since 2000.

The Russian began his year playing challenger events in Southeast Asia and he picked up three titles in two tournaments in Thailand and one in the Philippines. Winning those titles in those challenger events catapulted Youzhny back into the top 100.

Youzhny lost in the first round of the Dubai Duty-Free Tennis Championships to Malek Jaziri, a second round loss to Benoit Paire in Miami, another second round loss but to Fabio Fognini in Barcelona, followed by a first round loss to Ivan Dodig at the French Open.

Their history

Lopez and Youzhny have played each other eight times and it is the Spaniard who leads their head-to-head meetings 6-2.

They have met once on grass, once on carpet, once on clay and five times on hard courts including a challenger event.

Youzhny won their first match back in 2002 in Tashkent in straight sets and they played 13 years ago at Wimbledon in the second round which Lopez won in straight sets.

Their other two significant meetings have taken place in two Masters 1000s events back in 2014 at the Mutua Madrid Open and Shanghai Rolex Masters which Lopez won both times coming back from a set down.

Who wins

Lopez's tournament at Roland Garros finished on Saturday and he plays against Youzhny on Tuesday in Stuttgart, which means Lopez could be a little tired and hardly had any practice on grass.

Youzhny isn't having a good year but he is capable of picking up good wins and he will fancy his chances against the veteran Spaniard.

Lopez's serve is a dangerous weapon on grass and he serves a lot of aces on this surface, the fifth seed has reached the quarterfinals at the All England Club on three occasions. 

This match is third on the Mercedes Court, which is the second biggest show court in Stuttgart and it should gather a good crowd for the two veterans.

Prediction: Lopez in three sets.

VAVEL Logo