The Ocho v.4


This is my weekly look at the top eight players and/or doubles teams that you need to know about based on last week’s action. Be sure to catch the list every Monday and throw in your two cents on Twitter!

1. Mirza Basic
The 26-year old Bosnian won his first ATP title in Sofia as a qualifier. The win moves him inside the top 100 in the rankings for the first time in his career. Basic moves up 52 spots to #77. His biggest wins of the week came against Philipp Kohlschreiber and Stan Wawrinka. In 2018 in the two tournaments from which he has qualified, Basic has a title and a quarterfinal showing from the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha. So if you see Basic qualifying for the main draw this year, watch out!


2. Roberto Carballes Baena
Another first time title winner at the ATP level, this 24-year old Spaniard took home the crowd at the Quito Open in Ecuador. He beat fellow Spaniard Albert Ramos Vinolas 6-3, 4-6, 6-4. Baena also got a big boost for his ranking as a result, rising 31 spots and slotting just in front of Basic at #76 overall. RCB also came through qualifying in Ecuador to claim his title.

3. Robin Haase-Matwe Middelkoop
The Dutch duo won their second title of 2018, taking home the doubles titles in Sofia over Alexander Peya and Nikola Mektic in a super tie break 5-7, 6-4, 10-4. Haase-Middelkoop also won the doubles titles in Pune, Indian to kick off 2018. For Middelkoop, it’s his second Sofia title as he also won there with Wesley Koolhoff in 2016. The Dutch pair remain 6th in latest doubles rankings. Haase-Middelkoop took a wildcard entry into doubles this week in Rotterdam, where they open against another Dutch wildcard entry in Jesse Timmermans and Jasper Smit.

4. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Tsonga is in “The Ocho” for the wrong reasons. After missing Davis Cup play due to a knee strain, Tsonga returned to tour play at the Open Sud de France. He looked locked in for a spot in the final as he was dominating second seed Lucas Pouille in the semifinals 6-1 and 5-4. That is when Tsonga apparently tore his left hamstring. He was broken in his service game to go to 5-5 and forced to retire from the match. It’s the second tournament already where an injury has limited Tsonga with a knee issue also hindering him in his loss to Nick Kyrgios at the Australian Open.

None of this is good news for the 32-year-old who was forced to skip the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam, where he was set to defend the title. Tsonga has admitted that he is going to have to start making a schedule that will allow his body to hold together better, although over play was not the case in Montpellier.

5. The Skupski Brothers
The British brothers, Ken (34) and Neal (28) won their first ATP doubles titles together in Montpellier as they made their first appearance in an ATP level final since 2013. They beat the team of Ben McLachlan and Hugo Nys. It was Ken’s fourth ATP title overall and the first for Neal. The Skupskis are in good form right now as they came to Montpellier off of winning the Quimper Challenger doubles titles. Their title victory puts them at 14th in the doubles rankings

TENNIS : Open Sud de France 2018 - Montpellier - Finale Doube - 11/02/2018

6. Maximillian Marterer
Not a lot of people have noticed the 22 year old German and his finish in Sofia last week. He made his first ATP quarterfinal, which came on the heels of Marterer making the 3rd round at the Australian Open. He was 0-14 in ATP matches before this season, but now has four wins in six matches in 2018. Marterer is now at a career best 78th in the latest rankings. He’s sinking back to the Challenger level this week as the second seed in Cherbourg.

7. Stan Wawrinka
There wasn’t anything special about Wawrinka’s showing in Sofia, but it was a promising bounce back effort from The Stanimal after he looked not ready for action really in Melbourne. In Sofia, he scored a pair of wins before losing to the eventual champion, Mirza Basic, in the semifinals. Considering he took a late entry after Grigor Dimitrov pulled out due to injury, the Swiss was pleased with his performance.

Wawrinka said after the tournament that he’s still not near his best, but it was good to get in match play. He played back-to-back-to-back days in a tournament for the first time since undergoing knee surgery last year. He’s in Rotterdam this week and probably not expecting much again, but there are at least some positive signs for him to build on. Match toughness and fitness will be the thing that really helps boost his play and he’ll only get that from more matches played.

8. Amadine Hesse-Kristina Mladenovic
The French duo delivered a quarterfinal win in Fed Cup play for France over Belgian tandem of Elise Mertens and Kirsten Flipkens 6-4, 2-6, 6-2. Mladenovic is now 10-2 in Fed Cup doubles and also was responsible for both singles wins for France this weekend. France next plays the United States in the semifinals in April.


2018 Open Sud de France SF Preview: Lucas Pouille vs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga


(2) Lucas Pouille vs (3) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

Davis Cup Injury Scares in the Rear View

Perhaps it is appropriate that Lucas Pouille and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga are meeting in France in the semifinals. Both pulled out of Davis Cup play last weekend due to late injury woes. For Pouille, it was a stiff neck and for Tsonga, it was a knee strain. Neither has seemed bother much this week in winning their matches. Pouille has had the much more relaxed path, demolishing qualifier Carlos Taberner 6-1, 6-2 and dispatching of Benoit Paire 6-1, 6-4. Paire was abysmal with his second serve pounded by Pouille. The second seed won 14 of the 23 points played and broken Paire four times.

Only a late wiggle in the second set by Pouille allowed Paire to get back on serve at 4-4, but as you would expect – Paire gave Pouille another shot and he converted to close out the set at 6-4. Pouille’s level dipped just a bit after the lackluster first from Paire with his win rates on serve falling from 86 to 76 percent on first serve and 56 to 47 percent on second serve. Overall, I thought Pouille displayed great power play over Paire. He had him pushed back on the court for most of the match and took full advantage by moving in aggressively to finish points when possible.

Tsonga faced two stiff tests this week in Montpellier and passed both. In his opener, he came through three tie breaks against Nicolas Mahut. That set him up for a tight quarterfinal battle with 7th seed Andrey Rublev. Tsonga edged the young Russian 6-4, 7-6 (1). JWT won 74 percent off his first serve and 57 percent off his second . Rublev struggled, winning just 69 percent off his first and a paltry 40 percent off his second. Tsonga only dropped serve once in the second set and was able to break right back. He would dash out to a 6-0 lead in the tie break before finishing Rublev off 7-1.

Jo was at his best when he was walloping his first serve with authority. He pushed Rublev back deeper in return and gave himself the advantage on the next ball. Tsonga moved in well when he achieved this and was able to finish off points quickly against Rublev. Tsonga did some of his best work on return by mixing up his style. When he went aggressive and moved inside the baseline, he really controlled court position over the Russian. His movement north and south and east and west was very solid and made a big difference overall.

The Formula

Tsonga leads the head-to-head 2-1 with both scoring a win indoors. Pouille got the last one in Vienna last Fall 6-1, 6-4 to claim the title at the Erste Bank Open. Tsonga had beaten Pouille 6-4, 6-4 earlier in the year in Marseille for that title. Their first meeting came on clay in Monte Carlo back in 2016 with JWT winning in straights. Tsonga’s serve in Vienna was lacking, especially with his second serve taking just 32 percent of the points. Pouille was able to break JWT three times on seven chance. In Marseille, Pouille didn’t see a single break point.

Tsonga was definitely lacking in their Vienna meeting and to me, it looked like the fatigue of playing two straight finals caught up with him. JWT did not move well and seemed to bail out of points quite a bit. Pouille needs to expect an electric Tsonga on Saturday. That could mean more of the Tsonga he saw in Marseille. The Tsonga won dominated on serve with win rates at 91 and 77 percent off first and second serves. Tsonga was also good on return against Pouille in that one, aggressively returning the ball low to Pouille’s forehand. Pouille made quite a few unforced errors in those situations.

For Pouille, he’s got to find better variety on serve. Tsonga was not fooled at all in that match and it let JWT get some big returns of Pouille’s serve. That let him initiate the rallies and he controlled them with power and pace. Pouille had some success in that one going wide and stretching Tsonga out. He was very keen to serve and volley in those situations and finished well at the net. If he wants to keep Tsonga off balance, I think he needs that sort of precision serving on Saturday. For Tsonga, I think he just needs to find his rhythm early. Pouille couldn’t really keep up with him in Marseille when Jo was getting his serves where he wanted them to go.

Off the ground, Tsonga will continue to run around to his forehand when at all possible. His backhand has been pretty solid this week, but Pouille likely would target the backhand more if he can. Pouille’s two handed backhand is a good weapon, but a shade inconsistent. If he can find the measure of his backhand, especially to utilize down-the-line, I think Pouille ups his chances to win. Both players move well and finish well at the net, but Pouille seems the more baseline-centric of the two. Tsonga has shown much more willingness to aggressively attack the net consistently, although both do it well especially when they control court position with their serve.

The Pig-nosticator

This is difficult to predict with both playing solid so far this week. I do like Tsonga being tested more in both matches to come through with key points in key moments. Pouille really hasn’t had that pressure yet. I think Tsonga’s power on serve can be a big difference maker again. He has the ability to push Pouille back and wide in return to get aggressively to the next ball. Pouille can do that on serve, but isn’t nearly as consistent. For Pouille, I think mixing his tactics is the biggest key. If he doesn’t vary what he does, Tsonga keys in and tees off.

I think Pouille needs the quick start in this one as he has not had any adversity to deal with yet this week. For Tsonga, he’s shown big in big moments and I think he’d be fine playing with the lead or having to rally. I do think this is a real toss up dependent on what tactics we see. I don’t expect Pouille to repeat his feat in Vienna, where JWT was obviously not 100 percent. This should see both at full power and for me, that’s Tsonga still with the advantage as long as his serve stays steady.

Prediction: Tsonga wins in three sets

2018 Open Sud de France QF Previews: David Goffin vs Karen Khachanov, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs Andrey Rublev


(1) David Goffin vs Karen Khachanov

Khachanov Looks to Push Goffin Again

Their quarterfinal meeting marks the fourth meeting between David Goffin and Karen Khachanov in the last 12 months. Goffin has won two of three meetings with this being the first one to take place indoors. Goffin won the initial clash at Indian Wells last season, taking down the Russian 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Khachanov scored a somewhat surprising win on clay the next time they met in Barcelona 6-7 (7), 6-3, 6-4. The Belgian would rebound to win in Madrid just a week later 6-2, 7-6 (8).

Khachanov’s second serve was a liability against the Belgian, winning under 50 percent in the two losses. His lone win saw Khachanov right at a 50-percent win rate on second serve. The Russian saw 24 opportunities against his serve in those matches combined with Goffin cashing in on nine breaks. The surface in Montpellier should help some with his power, but he’ll need to find better consistency to contend. Goffin sported win rates on first serve of 68, 70 and 76 in those meetings. In the two wins, his second serve as big with win rates at 59 and 67 percent. Goffin was broken eight times on 22 chances in those meetings.

The Formula

The Khachanov serve is a key if the Russian is going to spring the upset. He has been broken five times in two matches on eleven opportunities. His second serve has again been picked on, winning just 39 percent of the points in his last match against Ricardas Berankis. He won 49 percent in his opener against (7) David Ferrer. The Russian has offset that some with 24 aces. This will be tough on him though with his consistency issues a real sticking point against a solid returner in Goffin.

Khachanov has to land his first serve consistently or Goffin is going to eat him up on return. Expect the top seed to be very aggressive on the Russian’s second serve. The Russian has to put power and pace on his first serves to push Goffin back and stretch court positioning in his favor. If he doesn’t, Goffin gets good hits on the ball and he’s going to have the advantage working into rallies. For Goffin, the serve is always going to be up and down. He doesn’t have the power, but he does have precision. He needs to use that to guide Khachanov’s return game where he wants it.

For the Russian, he needs to make solid contact on return. When Gilles Simon had success in the first set in breaking down Goffin’s service games, he got a good first ball return and then turned aggressive more quickly in offense. Khachanov will employ that tactic if he wants to win. He simply won’t do well over the course of the match I think if he goes toe-to-toe, blow-for-blow with the Belgian from the baseline. I would expect Goffin to try to move Khachanov east and west as much as possible. He did that well against Simon who did run down some balls, but Khachanov doesn’t quite have that court coverage.

As such, expect the Russian to be as aggressive and short in rallies as possible. It suits his regular style to hit big and go for winners. He must find the range on his forehand and backhand early to do so. Look for Goffin to challenge Khachanov’s forehand which despite its power, has been leaky in the consistency department. His two-handed backhand is solid and a winner generator, but he needs to get his feet set to tee off on that shot. That’s where Goffin will pester him by moving him around the court. I think the number of net points in this one will be low, although both have good movement and skills at the net with an obvious edge to Goffin there.

The Pig-nosticator

Khachanov has certainly shown that he won’t be overwhelmed by Goffin. He contended well in their first career meeting and beating Goffin on clay was a real nice scalp. This surface does help Khachanov’s power, but only if he’s able to be more consistent with his strokes overall. Goffin has been really good indoors on this surface, but power players have tended to trouble him more and tagged him with several key losses in the past two years. That means Khachanov has a real shot in this one, but can he bring his A+ game? I think he needs it to win.

Goffin has shown time and time again that he can win despite looking vulnerable at times because of his serve. His ground strokes however are impactful and precise and his defense is among the best in the business. That’s how he wears opponents down and forces them into hitting an extra ball or balls from uncomfortable positions. Khachanov has a little bit of prep for this match, having played Ferrer in round one. The Spaniard flashed some of the things he’ll see in Goffin, albeit at a less-than-elite level now.

Khachanov was able to take advantage of Ferrer’s weaker serving as the match wore on in round one because he was aggressive. He started stepping inside the baseline and wasn’t afraid to head to net to finish points more quickly. A lot of that came off of the Russian’s serve and he found the measure of his ground strokes more consistently to hit big winners. That’s the formula to beat Goffin, but I’m just not sure that he’s shown enough consistency for me to think he does it. I would not be stunned, but I think Goffin’s defense bothers him just enough in key moments.

Prediction: Goffin wins in three sets

(3) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs Andrey Rublev

Old Guard vs Next Gen

The 32-year-old Frenchman got his campaign in Montpellier off to a winning start in a tight 7-6 (3), 6-7 (3), 7-6 (4) win over Nicolas Mahut. Tsonga utilized a big serving day and plenty of forehands to squeeze out the win as he had trouble breaking down the Mahut serve. For the match, JWT smashed 17 aces and won 84 percent of the points on his first serve and a stout 68 percent off his second. He saved all three break points that he saw, but was unable to cash in on four tries against Mahut who sported nearly identical stat lines outside of the aces.

It was a good win for Tsonga to alleviate any concerns over the knee strain that took him out of Davis Cup play last weekend. His movement looked okay from the tape that I watched, although he wasn’t forced to do a ton of heavy running. It was mainly a baseline battle, which is exactly what he’ll see against Rublev in the quarterfinals. I think the pressure he faced with the three tie breaks was just what the doctor ordered with his limited match play so far this season. I think that helps him moving forward.

Andrey Rublev won his second match of the tournament as he demolished Jeremy Chardy on Tuesday 6-2, 6-1. The 20-year-old Russian again kept his double faults more in check with just four to go with nine aces in that match. His win rate on first serve was 84 percent with a 48 percent win rate on his second serve. Rublev saved all three break chances against his serve, making him eight for nine in that category so far this week. It continues a strong start to the season for Rublev who made the Doha final in early January. His only two losses this season came to Gael Monfils in Doha and Grigor Dimitrov in the third round at the Australian Open.

Much like his other “Next Gen” stars from Russia, Rublev’s main flaw at this stage has been consistency. He plays big off the ground like Karen Khachanov and Daniil Medevev and can sport a monster first serve. The first serve let him down in Doha and Melbourne, winning under 70 percent in both matches. In most of his wins this season, that number has been well above 70 percent as a key indicator of his success.

The Formula

This figures to be a serve-centric match. Tsonga needed that big serving day to take down Mahut and he’ll want to set the tone again in this one with his first serve. Rublev is lanky at 6’2″ tall and now even 150 pounds, but he’s got the big wing span. That helps him on return to get to extend to some balls he might not otherwise get. I wouldn’t rate his return as much more than average. Tsonga should be able to use his power effectively to stretch Rublev and then get to the second ball in good position to club a winner.

Rublev’s serve is sometimes too predictable and I think that is where he struggles with consistency. When he has to put a second serve in play, he doesn’t do enough with it as far as velocity and placement. That lets the returner aggressively strike the ball and Rublev is in a troubling position as a result. Expect Tsonga to be aggressive on those second serves and he’ll look to get onto the forehand side as much as possible in return. If he can take some big cracks with forehand returns, he can frustrate Rublev if he’s getting the ball back solidly.

From the ground stroke department, both excel when they hit their forehand as their main shot. Despite his light weight, Rublev packs quite a wallop with his forehand. Tsonga has long had one of the better power forehands, although his accuracy has slipped a bit in recent years. Still, he will run around to the forehand as much as possible and is capable of hitting winners in all ares of the court. It’s something Rublev doesn’t do quite as well on-the-run, so look for the Frenchman to keep Rublev moving. Both have good double handed backhands with Tsonga’s a better finisher when needed.

The Pig-nosticator

I think movement will wind up being big in this one. I think Tsonga is more comfortable moving north and south compared to Rublev. The Russian can be lethal, but does more damage when he is able to set his feet and fire. Tsonga has always been solid on the move and I think can take advantage of better court presence in that regard. Look for him to to force Rublev to come in when the Russian doesn’t do enough on serve. I think Tsonga’s aggressive nature there will craft some trouble for Rublev.

The biggest key usually for Rublev outside of the first serve is his head. He’s a very temperamental sort and can get off track when things don’t go his way. In the Dimitrov match in Melbourne, I think he was still right in the mix with the Bulgarian, but he let double faults and unforced errors derail his mindset. He grew frustrated and it led to more errors and bad decisions. He’s got to keep a cool head, especially with the French crowd all rooting for JWT. The best way to keep calm is to start fast. I think if the Russian wants to win here and score the upset, he needs success early.

Rublev wasn’t finding much success late last season indoors until the NextGen Finals in Milan, where he won three matches. Prior to that, he had dropped five of his last six main draw matches indoors. I touched on Tsonga’s impeccable record on indoor hard courts in yesterday’s preview and I think it’s good to note again. He’s won eleven of his 16 career ATP titles indoors. I think he has more effective power that can knock Rublev off balance, while I don’t think Rublev has the same just yet – especially consistently on serve. Tsonga will need to be better in return than he was on Wednesday, but I think that comes with more match play.

Prediction: Tsonga wins in straight sets

Other Quarterfinal Pig-nostications
Gasquet d. Dzumhur in three sets
Paire d. Pouille in three sets


2018 Open Sud de France R2 Preview: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs Nicolas Mahut


(3) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs Nicolas Mahut

JWT Knee Strain Makes This Worth Watching

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was a late scratch from Davis Cup duty this past weekend due to a reported knee strain. That Tsonga also experienced knee issues at the Australian Open in his loss to Nick Kyrgios is definitely a bit concerning. He only has three matches under his belt for the season, all coming in Melbourne. He looked alternately electric and sloppy in his five set win over Denis Shapovalov in round two and then couldn’t match the electricity of Kyrgios in the big moments in the next round. Mahut is also well short on match play in 2018, having played three qualifying matches in Sydney and Melbourne combined with a 1-2 mark. Not exactly prime prep for this event.

Still, Mahut has made it habit to play Tsonga tough in their four previous meetings. Tsonga has won all four, but Mahut has taken a set off Tsonga in three of four. That includes the last time they met in 2015 indoors at Metz. The 36-year-old Mahut has been competitive on this surface, going 4-4 in 2017. Three of his four losses came in three sets. Tsonga has always been a beast in pristine indoor conditions. JWT won titles indoors in Rotterdam, Marseille and Antwerp last season. He was 21-3 on the surface in 2017.

The 32-year-old has only played Montpellier twice, making the semifinals in both 2010 and 2017. He’s certainly the more talented of the two with consistently better results on this surface, but the knee issues scale your expectations back just a shade for him this week. He will need to prove he is fit and if not, a veteran player like Mahut can take advantage of any weaknesses.

The Formula

Serve will be a big deal indoors in this match-up. Tsonga has a power-packed first serve that can be nearly impossible to penetrate, when he’s on his game. Through his three matches this season, he’s got a superb 84-percent win rate on his first serve. His second has been less effective at 49 percent. Mahut will have problems matching that if Tsonga is healthy, especially the first serve numbers. In watching a little of the tape from their 2015 meeting, you can see how Tsonga’s power on serve troubles Mahut. Tsonga is able to knock Mahut back or stretch him wider than he wants in return. That led to a lot of easy 1-2 punches from JWT and quick points on serve. I think whenever Mahut does get good returns on Tsonga, he’ll look to move forward and shorten the court to make Tsonga have to make passing shots.

Mahut will need to use precision on his serve to test Tsonga fully. Mahut has some power to his serve, but it’s not consistent and normally not going to keep a good returner from getting strikes on the ball consistently. If Mahut can force Tsonga to stretch wide on the backhand side, he may have some chances for success. As a seasoned doubles player, Mahut is skilled at the net and can glide in for some easy put-aways if he can get JWT off balance. I think given the questionable status of Tsonga’s knee, Mahut would be wise to mix in some serve and volley early to test Tsonga’s movement also.

Once they get into the ground battles, there really isn’t a ton that Mahut is going to do that Tsonga doesn’t do better. Mahut has a solid two handed backhand and a serviceable forehand, but Tsonga’s forehand is a huge weapon and his double handed backhand can be lethal as well. Tsonga will also throw in a sliced one handed approach off the backhand to help him flip back around to hitting the forehand. I think it’s on Mahut to try and avoid the forehand the best he can. That’s easier said than done as Tsonga has done a very good job running around to the forehand as much as possible against Mahut and plenty of others in his career.

The Pig-nosticator

Let’s not mince words. If Tsonga is healthy and not hindered in his movement, this is really his match to win and he should. However, neither man has played in several weeks, so there is a certain element of rust that can reside in their games. I think for Mahut, he’s got to mix his tactics up with an eye on heading to net aggressively more often than not. He’s done that in the past against Tsonga and I think it’s his best weapon. Tsonga may prove too tough with a bevy of blistering passing shots, but it’s a better option that trying to outslug him from the baseline.

Tsonga really launched his 2017 season into orbit during this indoor swing last year and he’s generally done very well in these “home” tournaments in France that are indoors. Six of his 16 career titles have come on indoor hard courts in France with eleven of his titles overall coming on this surface. The only thing that held me back from having Tsonga as a legit contender this week was his knee. If he can prove it to be healthy, then he’s got as good a chance as any to win in Gasquet-land this week. Look for JWT to be aggressive and keep the points short to keep the wear and tear down as well. If his serve is working well, he should have ample opportunity to do so.

Given that Tsonga could have some rust and trust to work through, Mahut may have a chance to swipe another set, but it’s tough seeing him winning here unless Tsonga is hindered by his knee.

Prediction: Tsonga wins in three sets


2018 Open Sud de France Preview


Montpellier aka Gasquet-land

Alexander Zverev ended the French dominance of this event in recent years by taking the 2017 title. He won’t be back to defend it this year. The French have still managed to put a player in the final of the Open Sud de France each year since its inception in 2010. This year’s field is led by David Goffin. The top seed was busy playing in Belgium this weekend in Davis Cup play, so there might be a chance that he passes on the tournament altogether. Lucas Pouille leads the French contingent and is seeded second. He reported a neck issue that kept him from Davis Cup action, but I am guessing it was more precautionary so that he could play Montpellier. Rounding out the top four seeds are Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Damir Dzumhur. Tsonga reportedly has been carrying a knee injury since the Australian Open, so his status could be a little iffy this week as well.

Richard Gasquet is the only other Frenchman among the seeds. At number five, Gasquet comes in as a three-time champion in Montpellier with a 20-4 mark overall. The final three seeds will all be making their Open Sud de France debuts with Andrey Rublev, David Ferrer and Yuichi Sugita seeded six, seven and eight. Sugita was also involved in Davis Cup play this weekend. He will be aided by those matches taking place on a similar indoor surface to Montpellier, but hampered by the quick travel turnaround from Japan to France. Between injuries and Davis Cup play, there are quite a few question marks in this field that could yield some upsets. That’s been pretty routine in Montpellier with at least three seeds going down in their openers in three of the last four years.


That segues right into the weekly look at players who could spring upsets over seeded players in their first matches of the tournament.

Gilles Simon
Simon opens against a German qualifier Yannick Maden and then could get a shot at top seed David Goffin in round two. Simon is 2-1 in his career against the Belgian with one of those wins coming last Fall in Shanghai. This hasn’t been the best of tournaments for Simon with a career mark of 6-6, but if there is someone you don’t want to play after having played in Davis Cup plus travel, Simon is on of those guys. His backboard playing style will make Goffin work and has obviously paid dividends against him in the past. Don’t forget Goffin has never played a main draw match in Montpellier. He did play indoors on the weekend with Belgium, so that will help – but this is still a dangerous spot.

Karen Khachanov
A no-brainer as he takes on David Ferrer in the opening round. The Russian did play here in 2017, losing to Benoit Paire in straights. For Ferrer, this is his first trip to Montpellier. Ferrer has a good career winning clip slightly about 60 percent indoors, but he’s lost his first match on an indoor hard court in four of the last five tournaments he has played on the surface over the last two years. Khachanov’s power could be a major factor in this one and has the Spaniard on definite upset watch in round one.

Daniil Medvedev
Despite being matched up against the most prolific player in this tournament’s history in Richard Gasquet, I think the Russian has a shot to pull off the upset early. Gasquet was fortunate to only have played one match in France’s win over The Netherlands this weekend, so he probably won’t be a burnout victim. Still, it’s a quick turnaround from an emotional weekend against a dangerous opponent. Medvedev is another young Russian with plenty of power to spare. Indoors if he can find a rhythm, you have to rate him a shot.

John Millman
The Aussie made the quarterfinals in his only trip to Montpellier back in 2016. He’ll get a shot at Sugita who played a lengthy five setter against Fabio Fognini on Sunday in Japan. If Sugita does make the trip to France, there’s every chance that he’s going to have a difficult time acclimating on short rest. Even if Millman hasn’t had a ton of experience on this surface, having had a good result here in the past with a nice set-up could yield a positive result for the Aussie.

Draw Preview

Quarter #1 Seeds
(1) David Goffin: 0-0
(7) David Ferrer: 0-0

This is a very tricky section. You’ve got Goffin as the lead seed, but on the quick turnaround from playing a pair of Davis Cup matches this weekend. Goffin has played several times in the week following Davis Cup play during Belgium’s rise to prominence over the last two years. He has not lost his first match, but this is also perhaps his most difficult first match opponent potentially. I mentioned his opener should be a tough one likely against Gilles Simon. Simon starts with qualifier Yannick Maden. The German is playing just his fourth main draw match at an ATP event. Should Simon pass, he’ll be a tough out for Goffin with a 2-1 mark against him lifetime. Ferrer is in the bottom half, but draws a tough one against Karen Khachanov in round one. That could be an upset as well, so this part of the draw likely will be without at least one seed in the quarterfinals.

The other match to watch is Ricardas Berankis vs Julien Benneteau in round one. Benneteau had a resurgent start to the season with an unexpected run to the third round at the Australian Open. That included an upset over Goffin in round two. Berankis helped lead Lithuania to a win over Estonia in Davis Cup play on an indoor surface. He also made the Rennes Challenger final prior to that, so he is in good form. The winner of that match will be a tough test for either Ferrer or Khachanov.

There is a lot of wiggle room here with Goffin playing the tournament for the first time and coming in off a heavier workload over the weekend. You can make a case for three or four different guys coming out of this quarter. The potential match-ups here for Goffin against Simon and either Ferrer or Khachanov steer me away from him. He may well prove me wrong, but all three have wins over him and have pushed him in losses. Most of me leans to the Ferrer-Khachanov winner as moving along in this quarter.

Quarter #2 Seeds
(4) Damir Dzumhur: 0-0
(5) Richard Gasquet: 20-4 (2013,2015,2016 – W)

Gasquet is royalty at this tournament, having been involved in the final five straight years with three titles. He was done no favors though with the draw against Daniil Medvedev in round one. The Russian made the quarters here last year before losing to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in straights. Gasquet is going to earn it if he makes it six straight years getting to the final. Getting match play in Davis Cup may benefit him in this case. Should he advance, he’d face a fellow Frenchman with qualifier Kenny De Schepper or Pierre-Hugues Herbert waiting. Both would be favorable match-ups for the #5 seed.

Up top, Dzumhur gets the bye and waits for either French wild card Calvin Hemery or Ruben Bemelmans. The Belgian Bemelmans was heavily involved in his country’s Davis Cup win over the weekend, playing singles and doubles. He’s had some good moments indoors albeit more so on the Challenger circuit with four finals in the last two years. Hemery is 23 and short on experience at this level with this being just his fifth main draw match. He’s 1-3 in his first four. A win would be surprising.

Dzumhur should set up well here as a sleeper. He won back-to-back indoor titles last Fall and went 13-3 on indoor hard courts in 2017. This looks like it could come down to Dzumhur or Gasquet with Dzumhur having a better early draw and the bye.

Quarter #3 Seeds
(3) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: 4-2
(6) Andrey Rublev: 1-0

Rublev opened with a straight forward win over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez on Monday. The sixth seed certainly has the tools to do well indoors with his big forehand and serve. Consistency as always is the biggest issue with the Russian with double faults becoming a big detriment to his game early this season. That problem did not crop up in his opener yesterday. It’s going to be a tricky round two regardless with Jeremy Chardy or Stefano Tsitsipas coming up next. Chardy hasn’t been great on this surface, but he made the quarters last year here and lost in three to eventual champion Alexander Zverev. Tsitsipas is a hard hitter who turned the tables on Chardy last year in their second straight meeting at the Brest Challenger, which is indoors. The Greek played on this surface last week at the Challenger level, making a semifinal run in Quimper. That might give him a leg up on Chardy, plus the confidence of beating him last year.

Tsonga will need to prove he’s healthy as he’s been struggling with a knee issue since losing to Nick Kyrgios in Australia. He gets a bit of extra rest with the bye and then Dustin Brown or Nicolas Mahut. JWT is 4-0 vs Mahut and 1-0 vs Brown. Mahut has given him some tough matches indoors however, where he’s had better singles results than outdoors. Tsonga has made the semis in his two previous trips to Montpellier and has a workable draw to make it three, if he’s fit. Neither Mahut or Brown has been especially inspiring so far this year, so the route is there for Tsonga if he’s git. Rublev certainly could be the biggest beneficiary of any lingering health problems for Tsonga, but I think you also have to watch out for an unseeded player in this section like Tsitsipas or maybe even some home cooking for Mahut.

Quarter #4 Seeds
(2) Lucas Pouille: 1-2
(8) Yuichi Sugita: 0-0

Pouille has the question mark surrounding him after being pulled before a Davis Cup match last Friday due to a neck problem. He’ll have had some rest, so he likely will be okay. Pouille gets a bye before facing Norbert Gambos or Carlos Taberner, both of whom made the field through qualifying. You’d think that sets up well for Pouille who is just 1-2 in Montpellier, but is playing here for the first time since 2015. The 23-year-old has won a title indoors each of the last two seasons, so he’s got the game. The bad thing is he only has one match played in 2018, so he may still have some rust to shake off.

Sugita is in a tough spot. He played twice in Japan’s loss to Italy in Davis Cup action, including a five set loss to Fabio Fognini on Sunday. Throw in the quick travel and he’s a prime candidate for an upset. He faces John Millman to start. Millman has won consistently indoors at the Challenger level, but will need to prove himself here. He did make the quarters last year in Montpellier and is savvy enough at 28 to take advantage of a fatigued opponent. The survivor of that match takes on Benoit Paire. The Frenchman opened the tournament with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Mischa Zverev Monday. He’s as sketchy as ever as far as trusting him to take advantage of a draw, but this might be a sneaky spot for him with Pouille’s lack of match play.

For me, I think that’s where this quarter goes – to the French. Pouille, if he can find his game and Paire if he can find someone else’s brain to use for the week.

The Pig-nosticator

Each tournament previewed, the Pig-nosticator will list out @tennispig‘s picks to sizzle and fizzle for the week. Don’t forget that if something you peruse through in the preview provides you with something helpful – a visit to the Tip Jar would be kindly appreciated.

Damir Dzumhur
Karen Khachanov

David Goffin
Yuichi Sugita


Gasquet’s record of success here makes him the odds-on favorite to challenge for a fourth Open Sud de France title. This is a tough field though depending on how certain players bounce back from Davis Cup and injury. I think whomever makes it through Gasquet’s quarter could be in position to make the final. In the bottom half, the French contingent has more questions because of injuries and rust with Pouille and Tsonga looking shakier shots to reach the final. I do think Pouille rates the better shot of the two. On the unseeded front, Khachanov and Paire are the two I am looking at who could surprise with deep runs.