Gael Monfils returns to the court for the first time since the U.S. Open. He faces Thomaz Bellucci for the third time in their careers. Monfils is 2-0.
(6)Gael Monfils vs. Thomaz Bellucci
It has been nearly seven weeks since we last saw Monfils on a tennis court. The Frenchman retired during the third set of his opening round match against Ilya Marchenko. Monfils had fallen hard on his hip and right arm earlier in the match. Since that time, Monfils has taken up camp with a new coach. Former Grigor Dimitrov coach Mikael Tillstrom takes over the spot that Jan De Witt previously occupied. La Monf had been without a coach since mid-summer. This will be their first tournament together.
Bellucci played the post-U.S. Open swing in Asia to a pair of losses in Beijing and Shanghai. He wasn’t overpowered in either one; losing 6-4, 6-3 to David Ferrer at the China Open and 7-6, 7-6 to Milos Raonic in Shanghai. Last year at this point, the Brazilian scored some surprising results on the late indoor swing. He made the quarterfinals at this tournament in Vienna and then followed up with a quarterfinal result in Valencia one week later.
This is a tricky match-up for Monfils coming in off the long layoff and with a new coach to boot. Bellucci has actually been a pretty solid performer on the indoor circuit when he has chosen to play the surface. He has been especially effective in these smaller tournaments with a finals appearance in Moscow in 2012 and a semifinal back in 2009 at the Stockholm event. He is normally associated more with being a guy whose best results come on clay, but he does have some pop to his serve that will allow him to stay in these indoor matches.
For Monfils, this is a comfortable surface, but like a lot of the French players on tour, his best results at indoor events have come in France. Since 2013, he has won 20 matches on this surface. Only three of those have come outside of France. He is just 5-7 at indoor events outside of France over the last three seasons.
Coming into a tournament with little in the way of match play for seven weeks is not optimal, but Monfils is used to this position. He has come back from injuries so many times the last few years that it probably seems abnormal not to have spots like these in a season. Still, this is a tough opponent to have to start against. Monfils is 2-2 against lefties this season. The bigger problem though could be finding his game and trying to assimilate any new coaching tactics all in one spot. For The Pig, that leaves this one to look at for a possible upset.
Bellucci wins in three sets