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Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas rests at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)
Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas rests at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)|Associated Press
Tennis

Tennis: Four picks for the Open 13 Provence from Marseille

The Frenchman Tsonga is a tsentimental favorite

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

Open 13 Provence
Marseille, France
Second Round

Stephanos Tsitsipas over Hubert Hurkacz
After a great run to the 2019 Australian Open semis (he lost to Nadal), and the quarters of the Sofia Open (where he lost to Gael Monfils) Tsitsipas, seemingly tired mentally and physically, last week lost in the first round in Rotterdam in three sets to Damir Dzumhur, of Bosnia-Herzegovina. After a full week of rest, his hope is that he has regained his desire and his hunger in order to come back and take out Hubert Hurkacz here in Marseille. He better be hungry because Hurkacz took out Filip Krajinovic in two straight sets to set up this second round match. Tsitsipas currently holds a 1-0 lifetime record against Hurkacz, but that win came in a Quick 4 Match, first one to four games in a set wins the set . More indicative of their play, however, is that Tsitsipas is ranked No. 12 and Hurkacz, from Poland, is ranked just No. 78. As long as Tsitsipas is rested, he’ll come through here. If he’s tired, the 20-year-old could suffer another ill-timed loss. But don’t count on it.

First Round

Gael Monfils over Jiri Vesely
Monfils soared to a tournament victory last week in Rotterdam, taking out Goffin, Seppi, Dzumhur, Medvedev, and Wawrinka consecutively to win his 8th Tour title. That week of exceptional tennis showed the immense potential Monfils has, and the frustration he must overcome every week that he leaves a tournament as anything but the winner. When he puts five or six matches together, he is simply one of the best tennis players today, and that information is never far from anyone who is close to the Tour. By contrast, Vesely, from the Czech Republic, is ranked 94th in the world, and has just 103 career wins, compared to Monfils’ 449 victories. As stated before, Monfils will either raise the trophy this week, or suffer the frustration involved for not winning every match he plays. Either way, he’ll get by Jiri Vesely.

Fernando Verdasco over Egor Gerasimov
Verdasco has the experience and the more solid game of the two first round combatants. He’s had a good first two months of 2019, beating Lorenzi before losing to Berdych in Qatar, topping Miomir Kecmanovic and Radu Albot in Melbourne before going down to Marin Cilic, and trouncing Marius Copil and Matteo Berrettini in Sofia before going down narrowly to Matteo Berrettini. Gerasimov, the 6’5” righthander from Belarus, however, presents a puzzle to Verdasco. First, Gerasimov will be playing his first main draw match of 2019 here against the favored Spaniard, so it’s hard to know just how he’s competing and how well he’s been playing. But with his height, he is one of many younger players who can serve well and ride it out to a win over a favored opponent. And although at 26 he doesn’t have many Tour matches under his belt, everyone must respect his serve. With that said, my money’s on Verdasco, and I’d be surprised if it was particularly close.

Jo-Willie Tsonga over Andrey Rublev
Tsonga just hoisted the trophy in Montpellier, having won his 17th Tour title after a 15 month hiatus from the winners’ circle. Now after having overcome knee surgery, Tsonga has gotten his “A” game back, and is playing and competing with a hunger and enjoyment not seen for at least half a decade. If he carries this momentum into this tournament, he should be able to take out the tough 21-year- old Russian on the indoor courts here in France. It presents the perfect conditions for Jo-Willie: no wind or sun so his serve should be a dominant force, perfect footing so his speed can be showcased, and fellow Frenchmen as spectators, who will almost unanimously root hard for their countryman. With all of these variables in his favor, it doesn’t hurt that Tsonga’s game is more dominant that Rublev’s. I see Jo-Willie moving on here.