Monfils, Tsonga Win Openers
French No. 14 seed Gael Monfils was made to work hard for his first-round win on Tuesday at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, battling past Andrey Kuznetsov 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
In the 1hr., 52min., contest, Monfils converted five of his 11 break points and won just two points more than his opponent to claim his 13th win of the season. “I had trouble finding the right timing and how to move on the surface.” said Monfils.
“I never had much success here in Monte-Carlo, so I’m very pleased that I was able to get through this match. Right now I have mixed feelings. There were good parts in the game, but also bad ones, certainly due partly to Kuznetsov, who was playing well. But I was able to come back. Once I was a bit more confident, I was able to move better, too.”
The 28-year-old Monfils has enjoyed his best results this season on home soil, finishing runner-up in Marseille (l. to Simon) and reaching the semi-finals in Montpellier (l. to Gasquet). In a bid to reach the third round at this ATP World Tour Masters 1000 clay-court tournament for the third time, Monfils will face Alexandr Dolgopolov, whom he has beaten twice before.
Monfils was joined in the second round by 11th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who dismissed lucky loser Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4, 6-4. The Frenchman advanced in 72 minutes, saving all seven break points he faced.
The 29-year-old Tsonga recently returned from injury in Miami, losing to Monfils in the third round as he played his first tournament of the year. The right-hander has reached at least the quarter-finals in his past three appearances in Monte-Carlo, including a run to the semi-finals in 2013 (l. to Nadal).
French wild card Lucas Pouille enjoyed a memorable debut at the Monte-Carlo Country Club, beating fellow young gun Dominic Thiem 6-4, 6-4 in a match featuring 10 breaks of serve. The 21-year-old Pouille was a semi-finalist in Auckland at the start of the season and is on the verge of breaking into the Top 100 of the Emirates ATP Rankings.
Pouille will next have the opportunity to test himself against eight-time Monte-Carlo champion Rafael Nadal. Meanwhile, second seed Roger Federer will open his bid for a first title in 12 appearances against Jeremy Chardy, who beat Diego Schwartzman 7-5, 6-2.
“I will need to have a good start and not let him play,” said Chardy, who scored his lone victory over Federer in Rome last year. “He likes to dictate the points, but I do too. So I’ll try to start off the match well. For him, it’s going to be his first match on clay, and it’s going to be my fourth match. It might be an advantage for me.”
Seventh seed Stan Wawrinka will open his title defence against Juan Monaco after the Argentine dismissed Jiri Vesely 6-4, 6-2 in one hour and 33 minutes. Wawrinka has beaten Monaco twice before, but this will be their first meeting since 2011.
Tommy Robredo set an all-Spanish second-round clash with Marcel Granollers as he beat Andreas Seppi 6-3, 1-6, 6-4. Earlier, Marcel Granollers had cruised past Adrian Mannarino, 6-3, 6-0.