A tournament largely dominated by the home country Frenchmen, the Open Sud de France is in its 9th year in Montpellier, after moving from Lyon in 2010. As shown in the graphic above, the final of this tournament has featured a French representative stretching back until 2004, when Robin Soderling defeated Xavier Malisse.
The utter dominance by French players has been particularly kind to Richard Gasquet, who not only has 4 titles here, but has made the final the past 6 consecutive years. That streak will come to an end this year however, as Gasquet unfortunately had to withdraw from the tournament due to a wrist injury. (see below)
Last years winner, Lucas Pouille, is coming off an incredible Semi Final effort at the Australian Open. His career-best Grand Slam performance included impressive wins over #11 Borna Coric & #16 Milos Raonic, before ultimately getting beaten quite convincingly by Novak Djokovic, who then went on to win the championship. This resulted in a big rise in the ATP Rankings, which now sees Pouille defend his title as the #1 seed here in Montpellier and he will be looking to build on his strong start to the season under new coach, Amelie Mauresmo.
Speaking of new coaches, the #2 seed here, David Goffin, will be looking for one in the coming months. Goffin, a day after his 3rd-round defeat at the Australian Open, announced he was parting ways with long-time coach, Thierry Van Cleemput, via Facebook.
Following the end of my Australian Open, we have mutually agreed, Thierry Van Cleemput and myself, to put an end to our professional relationship. We shared together extraordinary moments on and off court and I deeply thank him for that… I wish him all the best for his futures collaborations!Facebook / David Goffin.
With 5 Frenchmen in the top half of the draw, including WC Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the streak of French players in the final here looks a strong chance to continue. Tsonga, who is making his way back from knee surgery last year, will fancy his draw. He owns an 8-3 H2H record against #4 and fellow countryman, Gilles Simon, with all 8 of his victories coming on hard courts.
The other immediate name that sticks out as a dangerous floater here is Tomas Berdych. The former world #4 also spent the past year struggling with injury and is looking to build off his 4th-Round performance at the Australian Open here, though a potential 3rd Round matchup against David Goffin presents some trouble.
The highly touted 19-year-old Canadian, Denis Shapovalov, will be a big drawcard here. The flashy left-hander made a 3rd-Round exit at the Australian Open, to eventual champion, Novak Djokovic. Shapovalov has enjoyed a steady rise throughout the last 12 months after bursting onto the scene in 2017. A potential 2nd-Round match against the big-serving Croatian, Ivo Karlovic, could pose a few issues, but expect Shapovalov to make a Semi-Final run here at least.
A few potential upsets & surprising runs, courtesy of the draw ceremony, have presented themselves. Thomas Fabbiano enjoyed some success in Melbourne & has drawn a favourable draw against the higher ranked Belarusian, Ilya Ivashka, in the first round.
Two other players who could make a surprising deep run here are Steve Darcis & Filip Krajinovic. Darcis, who is in the midst of a comeback after spending 12 months dealing with an elbow problem, has drawn a qualifier first up & albeit a while ago, owns both H2H’s against what would be his 2nd-Round opponents. Krajinovic is coming off a career-best Grand Slam performance at the Australian Open. Recording his first Grand Slam match win since 2015, the Serbian reached the 3rd-Round, defeating #17 Cecchinato in the first round. Enjoying a partnership with new coach, Thomas Johansson, I wouldn’t be surprised if he defeats Goffin in the second round.
One To Watch
The One To Watch here in my eyes is the 33-year-old Czech, Tomas Berdych. Back issues ultimately ended his 2018 campaign early, only to return at the start of this season in Doha where he made the final & followed this up with a 4th-Round run in Melbourne, a place where he has enjoyed a lot of success throughout his career. Pairing this with being drawn in the quarter of out-of-form & now coachless David Goffin, I believe Berdych will make a deep run in this tournament.
With all of this being said, it’s very tough to ignore the #1 seed here & defending champion, Lucas Pouille. Whilst a lot of players tend to fail to immediately back up their success in Melbourne, I don’t expect this to happen. His paring of new coach, Amelie Mauresmo, has made plenty of headlines. Most importantly, Pouille has stated that he has regained his love of the sport, something he struggled with in the 2018 season. Mauresmo has put the fun back into Pouille’s training & has maintained his focus on his career goals. As said above, his incredible run to the Semi-Finals in Melbourne included some huge victories & a very favourable half of the draw, I believe, will result in Pouille lifting his second consecutive title here in Montpellier.