The men are back in action after a weekend of Davis Cup play that saw France and Switzerland advance to this year’s Final. As usual, this 250-level tournament is French-heavy with Frenchmen making up one quarter of the 32 player field and three more still potentially joining them as qualifiers. That includes top seed Jo-Wilifried Tsonga and 2nd seed Gael Monfils. Both have been excellent at this event with Tsonga sporting a 13-3 record with two titles and Monfils at 13-2 with a title in 2009. Third seeded Philipp Kohlschreiber has made the Final once here with a 9-8 mark. Lukas Rosol rounds out the top four seeds. A French player has won this event in each of the last five years.
This is a more interesting draw than you might think. Tsonga will have the quick turnaround from Davis Cup play on clay to the indoor hard surface. While the surface and familiar surroundings are sure to help, it could still make his first match interesting. That would be against either Roger-Vasselin or Gilles Muller. If it’s Muller, watch out. Tie breaks could decide it. David Goffin is in the bottom of this draw as the 8th seed. Goffin had perfect prep for this tournament with a pair of indoor matches in Davis Cup play. He won both easily in straight sets. Generally though this is a tougher surface for him to have success on because of his lack of power. Still, the bottom of the quarter is workable for him and I would expect him to be in the quarters with Tsonga being the likely opponent. Muller looks like the wild card to me, although his track record on this indoor surface is also relatively poor.
A smooth early draw for the German who should work through to the quarters where he may face one of two French players, Mahut or Chardy, who face off in the opening round. Struff us an intriguing guy in this quarter. He gets Lajovic first up who is coming off a deflating five set loss in Davis Cup play that forced Serbia to go to a fifth rubber against India. Struff’s biggest challenge is switching from clay to this surface on a quick turnaround. Watch for Mahut as the surprise guy here though. He’s red hot off a Challenger title last week and generally has played well at this event, including making the semis last year. Chardy is 0-2 at Metz and right at .500 on this surface which should give Mahut the edge in that opener. Mahut or Struff might have a tougher road a semifinal, but I think the early tougher matches could pay off if they face Kohlschreiber in the QFs.
Weakest seeds in this quarter. Rosol as the #4 and Sousa as the #6. This looks pretty wide open with some serviceable types like Dodig who takes on Sousa first. Seppi and Sijsling could be a decent battle in the opener, although Seppi has to work quickly from Davis Cup mode to the indoor surface. Benjamin Becker and Paul-Henri Mathieu could also be a very competitive first round match. Give Becker a slight edge as Mathieu has been in pretty poor form for a couple months. Keep an eye on Sousa as the seed who might do work here. He was sneaky good on this surface right around this time last year. Sijsling has done well on this surface before, but has played mostly on clay of-late and has not enjoyed a great season. It should not surprise for anyone in this group to be in the semis.
If Monfils wants this , it should be his. Rock solid draw with a bye to open and then a qualifier. Janowicz is the 7th seed opposite of him in this quarter. He faces Mannarino to open and might not survive that one. If you’re looking for a darkhorse, see Jarkko Nieminen. The Fin loves playing indoors. He’s won 62% of his ATP level matches on indoor hard courts and stands 33-17 in his last 50 matches on the surface. All-in-all though, this should be Monfils quarter and this bottom half of the draw looks very conducive to him being in the Final if his play stays consistent and void of clown moments.
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