France begin their ATP Cup campaign on Saturday when they take on Chile in Brisbane.
The French are without their No. 2 player, Lucas Pouille, who will miss the entire Australian summer through injury, but they still boast a formidable line, with Gael Monfils and Benoit Paire set to take up singles responsibilities.
France have always had great strength in depth, with five Frenchmen currently stationed inside the world’s top 50. Opponents Chile can call on their big two, Cristian Garin and Nicolas Jarry, both of whom are ranked inside the top-100.
FRANCE: 1. Gael Monfils 2. Benoit Paire 3. Gilles Simon 4. Nicolas Mahut 5. Edouard Roger Vasselin. Captain: Gilles Simon
CHILE: 1. Cristian Garin 2. Nicolas Jarry 3. Alejandro Tabilo 4. Hans-Podlipnik Castillo 5. Marcelo Tomas Barrios Vera. Captain: Paul Capdeville
Rubber 1: Benoit Paire (FRA) vs Nicolas Jarry (CHI), live from Brisbane from 10:00am local time/ 12:00am GMT
Mercurial Frenchman, Benoit Paire will seek his third straight victory over Nicolas Jarry when they meet in the opening rubber of this tie.
Paire holds a 2-0 record over Jarry, with both of the previous matches coming in 2018. The Frenchman scored a three-set win in Barcelona, and followed it up with a straight-sets success on the hard courts of Tokyo later in the year.
Paire put together a solid 2019, winning titles on Marrakech and Lyon- his first titles since 2015- to take his career tally up to three. The Frenchman also reached the final at Winston-Salem, where he was beaten by Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz.
The 30-year-old also had his best Grand Slam year, reaching the fourth round at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon. It was the first time in his career that he would make the second week at more than one major in a calendar year. The former world No. 18 returned to the top 30 for the first time since 2016, peaking at No. 23 in the world.
Now ranked 24th, he will attempt to build on the good work from last season in 2020, and he starts off against Nicolas Jarry at the ATP Cup on Saturday.
World No. 77, Jarry will hope for a much better start to his season than he managed last year, when he won just two of his first ten matches. That poor start dragged him outside the top-80, but he got better as the season shifted to the clay courts.
Jarry claimed his first career title in Bastad and made a final in Geneva, while he reached quarter-finals in Barcelona and on the grass of s-Hertogenbosch. While he definitely showed flashes of his talents last year, he was far too inconsistent, as reflected in 13 opening round exits. He ended the season with five consecutive losses.
Can Jarry avoid a sixth straight tour-level defeat when he faces Paire on Saturday? Paire owns a 2-0 record over the Chilean, but both of those previous matches were quite close- a three-setter in Barcelona and a 6-4 7-6 result in Tokyo.
Jarry’s best results have come on clay, but I’ve always felt he should be doing better on hard courts, given the weapons he’s got. He serves well, has a good forehand, and comes forward quite a bit. I think he will run Paire close again, but the Frenchman should just about have the edge again.
Rubber 2: Gael Monfils (FRA) vs Cristian Garin (CHI), live from Brisbane from 11:30am local time/ 1:30am GMT
Gael Monfils and Cristian Garin meet in a battle of the No. 1s, with one man looking to keep his country in the tie, and the other aiming to win the tie for his nation- depending on the outcome of the earlier match.
Both men can look back at a relatively satisfactory 2019, with Monfils breaking back into the top-ten, and Garin getting into the top-40. Monfils amassed a 37-18 record for the season, winning a title in Rotterdam, and making semi-finals in Montreal, Dubai, Vienna and Sofia. The flamboyant Frenchman also made notable quarter finals at the US Open, Indian Wells and Paris, and reached the fourth round of the French Open.
Monfils was just a win away from qualifying for the season ending Nitto ATP Finals, but he fell just short, losing to Denis Shapovalov in the quarter finals of the Paris Masters. The 33-year-old started the year outside the top-30, but he battled his way to a year-end ranking of No. 10, and will be looking to push on this year.
Garin won the French Open junior title in 2013, beating Borna Coric and Alexander Zverev along the way, but he’s taken longer than his contemporaries to make his move on the tour. He did not break into the top-100 until October 2018, but he rose sharply in 2019, peaking at No. 32 and finishing at 33rd in the world.
The 23-year-old won his first career titles in Houston and Munich, while he also made the final in Sao Paolo and a maiden Masters 1000 quarter final at the Paris Masters.
While Monfils brings all the flash and spectacle to the court, Garin is a rock solid performer from the back of the court, making for a fascinating first meeting between the two players. You’ve still got to back Monfils in this one. The dynamic Frenchman has all the shots and the athleticism, and if he is at his best physically and mentally, he should have a bit too much for the steady Garin.
Rubber 3: Nicolas Mahut/Edouard Roger-Vasselin (FRA) vs Cristian Garin/ Nicolas Jarry (CHI), to follow singles matches (doubles selection subject to change)
The French are massive favourites for the doubles rubber, with the vastly experienced Nicolas Mahut- a former doubles No. 1 and four-time major champion set to partner former Roland Garros doubles champion, Edouard Roger Vasselin. Mahut is currently ranked No. 3 in the doubles rankings, while Roger Vasselin is 16th.
Nicolas Jarry, at No. 69, is the highest ranked doubles player in the Chilean squad. No other player is inside the top 100.