With six players in the top-fifty of the ATP rankings system, France is certainly well represented in the upper echelon of the men’s game. The tournament in Marseille enjoys a significant French presence that starts with number two seed, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The defending champion from a year ago has had a solid start to 2010, reaching the semi-finals of the Australian Open where he lost in straight sets to Roger Federer. France enjoyed a sweep in this tournament a year ago with Arnaud Clement and Michael Llordra taking the doubles title as well.
Top seed Robin Soderling will be trying to prevent a Frenchman from hoisting the trophy and is currently experiencing a deep-run in Rotterdam where he knocked-off Nikolay Davydenko in the semi-finals. Soderling has a first-round bye in Marseilles, and could encounter Marcos Baghdatis in the quarter-finals.
Other locals to keep an eye on include Gael Monfils and Gilles Simon.
Expect a Frenchman to hoist the trophy in a week’s time.
Andy Roddick will make the move from San Jose to Memphis for back-to-back hard court tournaments. With so many top players skipping these smaller events, it is nice to see regular appearances from Andy. The only World Tour 500-level tournament this coming week, there is some serious prize money to be had and I’m surprised we are not seeing more top-ranked players in attendance.
Roddick faces fellow-American James Blake in a tough first round match. Blake has dropped to 52nd in the world and is realizing how tough it is to enter tournaments without a seeding. He faced Del Potro in the second round of the Aussie Open, and Baghdatis in the first round last week in Rotterdam. Things do not get any easier for him here in Memphis.
Roddick leads their career head-to-head meetings 6-3, however Blake has won their last three matches in a row. They have only met once in the last three years, with Blake winning by default at the Queen’s tournament in 2009 when Roddick pulled-out with injury at 4-4 in the first set. With the way he has played thus far this year, Roddick should prevail in straight sets in this one.
Fernando Verdasco is the number two seed and has a pretty good draw in the bottom half. He;ll have to keep an eye on big-servers John Isner and Ivo Karlovic as well as veteran Tommy Haas. Haas has not looked sharp thus far in 2010, and faces a stiff challenge from veteran Xavier Malisse in the first round. The German might finally be showing his age – although he has won this very tournament three times before, in 1999, 2006 and 2007.
David Ferrer takes the pole position in Buenos Aires but has lacked the consistency so far this year to lead him to the title. Ferrer has lost to lower ranked players such as Stephane Robert, Marcos Baghdatis and Arnaud Clement in his three tournament appearances up to now.
The tournament has quite the interesting mix of players including clay court specialists such as Juan Monaco, Nicolas Almagro, Albert Montanes and even wildcard entry Gaston Gaudio. Having dropped off the radar in recent years, Gaudio’s name still pops up from time to time on the challenger circuit and he is obviously benefiting from the hospitality of his local Argentinian Tennis Federation. He’ll always have his lone Grand Slam title to look back on, from Roland Garros in 2004.
Gaudio isn’t the only former French Open winner present, as Juan Carlos Ferrero and Carlos Moya are also in the draw. Richard Gasquet is also lurking, which is a surprise since you would think he would be playing in his home country’s tournament in Marseille. Perhaps he is not yet ready to face the French press over his doping suspension from a year ago.
Also showing in the draw as of right now is Argentinian David Nalbandian who has been off the tour since May 2009 due to a serious hip injury. Nalbandian was supposed to return to play a month ago at the Australian Open but had to withdraw after sustaining an abdominal injury in practice. Nalbandian will ease back into competition with a favorable first round opponent in Italian Potito Starace.