Gael Monfils must end the brilliant run of Vasek Pospisil if he is to claim a third Open Sud de France title in Montpellier on Sunday.
Monfils vs Pospisil is live from Montpellier on Sunday 9 February at 2.30pm local/1.30pm GMT
This will be Monfils’s fifth time in the Open Sud de France final, and it comes 15 years since the Frenchman first played a title match in Montpellier, finishing runner-up to Andy Roddick in 2005.
Monfils went on to win the title in 2010 (d. Ivan Ljubicic) and 2014 (d. Richard Gasquet), and finished runner-up to Tomas Berdych in 2012, but fell in the semifinals in 2015, lost early in 2016 and has not played the last three editions of the Open Sud de France.
This time last year, Monfils was playing in Sofia (and making the semifinals) before going on to win the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam, the 500-level title the eighth of his career and the fifth on indoor hard courts. Monfils went on to make the semifinals in Vienna, the quarterfinals of the US Open and the semifinals of the Canada Masters, beginning 2020 back inside the top 10 at world no. 9 – not bad for a player who a couple of years ago looked like his career might be winding down.
Now 33, Monfils is continuing a tradition of French excellence at the Open Sud de France, which has featured at least one French player in its final for the past 14 editions of the tournament. The last final which did not include a French player was in 2004, when Sweden’s Robin Soderling beat Belgium’s Xavier Malisse.
Defeated in the fourth round of the Australian Open by eventual runner-up Dominic Thiem, Monfils has bounced back in fine fashion in Montpellier. He lost his first set of the tournament to compatriot Adrian Mannarino, but has won the next six to beat Mannarino, Norbert Gombos and Filip Krajinovic in the semifinals. The first set of the Krajinovic clash was extremely hard-fought; Monfils had to save two break points in the opening service game of the match, was unable to reach a break point on Krajinovic’s serve and had to come back from mini-breaks down twice in the first-set tie-break. In the end, it was Monfils’s ability to take some power off the ball and instead utilize exquisite touch, dinking cross-court slices left and right, which saw him take the lead.
With the first set in his pocket, Monfils settled while Krajinovic crumbled and the world no. 8 was able to run out a 7-6(4), 6-2 winner.
‘It was a great win today. I was very solid. I think Filip played great in the first set and then I changed my game a little bit to be more aggressive and it worked.
‘I was pleased with my performance. So far [it has been] a great week. Hopefully tomorrow is going to be the same.’
Things were considerably more dramatic for Vasek Pospisil, whose opponent David Goffin served for the match at 5-4 in the third set before Pospisil came back to win 6-3, 1-6, 7-5.
It looked for a minute midway through the third set like Pospisil had hit a wall, which with the Canadian’s history of injury would not be too surprising, despite the retirement from Richard Gasquet he benefited from in the previous round and the straightforward, straight-sets victories he recorded over Aljaz Bedene and compatriot Denis Shapovalov earlier in the week.
But Pospisil has been a man on a mission since returning from the back surgery he underwent in January 2019 to repair a herniated disc. Pospisil came back to competition last July ranked world no. 187, and found his ranking dropping as low as world no. 248 in October – a far cry from his career-high ranking of world no. 25 in 2014.
The former Wimbledon quarterfinalist began to turn things around when he qualified for the Shanghai Masters main draw and went on to make the third round. He then won 12 straight matches as he claimed back-to-back Challenger titles in Las Vegas and Charlottesville and went 3-1 in Davis Cup Finals singles for Canada, including victories over John Isner and Vasek Pospisil, to end the year on an extremely positive note.
‘Vashy’ has continued that momentum in 2020 with this run in Montpellier, following a successful qualifying run at the ASB Classic in Auckland and a first-round Australian Open defeat to Ivo Karlovic. Now up to world no. 132, this is only the second ATP Tour final of Pospisil’s career, the first having come in Washington, D.C. in 2014 when he finished runner-up to Milos Raonic.
His chances of claiming his maiden title don’t look too good, however. Monfils has won all four of their previous matches in straight sets, including their most recent meeting on indoor hard courts in autumn 2018, and it’s not hard to see why; Pospisil has a big serve, but his baseline game won’t be up to the challenge of trading blows with Monfils, who will happily soak up pressure from the Canadian and let him make errors, or punish him with passing shots and his enviable turn of speed off the ground should Pospisil attack the net. Pospisil looked physically quite spent at the end of his match against Goffin, while Monfils looks to be nicely rounding into form; expect the French player to pick up his third Open Sud de France title on Sunday.