The qualifying tournament for a Grand Slam is a high-stakes, intense process. The difference between a huge paycheck and huge disappointment are decided from three matches to make the main draw. Get into the Wimbledon draw, and you will be on the grounds of the All-England Club. Lose, and you could be on a flight to your next Challenger tournament.
Corentin Moutet has played his share of Major qualification tournaments before, and knows the agony of losing in one of these high stakes matches. He lost in the first round of Australian Open qualifying this year to Christopher Eubanks, spoiling his chances of making the main draw.
Moutet, currently at his career high ranking of World No. 86, is perhaps playing his last Major having to qualify for the main draw, at least for a while. He is in the qualification tournament for Wimbledon, as the number one seed, because his run into the top 100 was after the main draw cutoff. What this also shows is that Moutet is certainly in good form recently.
While Moutet lost his most recent match at the Bratislava Challenger to Vaclav Safranek, do not let this loss fool you: Moutet is playing the tennis of his life. Since the month of May began, Moutet reached the finals of the Samarkand Challenger, then later the third round of the French Open, and recently won yet another Challenger in Lyon (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4u-nw-tCvg). Moutet’s run was close to being even better, but he lost in two tiebreaks in the Samarkand final to Joao Menezes, and in five sets to Juan Ignacio Londero at the French Open.
However, all of Moutet’s recent success has been on clay. While he has had success on hard courts in the past, such as winning the Chennai Challenger in February, recently, his good results have only been on the clay.
And, Moutet’s game fits the clay very well. He uses heavy topspin on his forehand, and doesn’t have a huge serve, often spinning it in and trying to take control of the point with his forehand. While this doesn’t mean that Moutet’s couldn’t adapt his game to fit the grass courts. His backhand slice is quite nasty, and he is able to execute touch volleys at a very high level. Moutet also is well-versed in playing an all-court game, which would be especially important on grass, which emphasizes short points and getting to the net.
However, it’s hard to say for sure because Moutet has barely played on grass in his career, and never at the professional level. Moutet played the Wimbledon Juniors tournament in 2017, and he performed admirably. He didn’t drop a set until the semifinals, where he lost to Axel Geller.
But, that was only one tournament, and the fact that this one Wimbledon was the only tournament on grass that he’s played in his life shows that he either doesn’t like the surface or feel totally comfortable on it. It certainly doesn’t seem like he enjoys playing on it, given that he lists clay and hard as his two favorite surfaces on the ITF page (https://www.itftennis.com/procircuit/players/player/profile.aspx?playerid=100181684).
He could have easily played on grass court Challenger as a warmup this year, but chose to stick to the clay. So, while qualities of his game could translate to the grass courts, he might be a little unsure of how to best utilize these qualities due to unfamiliarity on grass.
On the other hand, let’s not kid ourselves, Moutet is one of the best players in this entire Wimbledon qualification draw. There’s a reason he is ranked 86 in the World, and he has shown through recent results that he is playing very well. So, Moutet’s qualification chances will be a battle between form versus comfort on grass.
Moutet’s draw in the qualification tournament is fairly straightforward to start, but could take a difficult turn. Moutet begins by playing Lucas Miedler. Miedler has had good results on hard courts, but has never played a match on grass in his life, and has lost three of his last four matches.
If Moutet wins, he would then take on the winner of Mitchell Krueger and Tim Smyczek. Krueger has only won one match on grass in his life, and while Smyczek did well in Newport last year, grass is not his best surface.
But, here’s the tricky part, and what will certainly be an examination of Moutet’s game, if he is able to win the first two matches. In the final qualification round, Moutet will more than likely take on Sergiy Stakhovsky, the 17 seed in qualifying, and a grass court specialist. Stakhovsky has a big serve, and a beautiful net game. He has had many success on grass over the years, including a win over Roger Federer at Wimbledon in 2013 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMgXktpnRvY).
Given that Stakhovsky won’t play anyone near his level on grass in the first two rounds, it’s a pretty safe assurance that he will be waiting for Moutet, if the Frenchman can win his first two qualifying matches.
And, for Moutet, this entire qualifications tournament, capped off by a potential Stakhovsky match, will be a chance to see if his form and high level of play can overcome a lack of experience and comfort. We’ve seen Federer winning on clay, and Nadal winning on grass, but Moutet is just a 20 year old ranked 86 in the World. How will he perform in his first professional tournament on grass?
Only time will tell.
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