Arthur Cazaux catches the eye in the Open Sud de France in Montpellier
After the drama of the Australian Open – where Jannik Sinner won his first Grand Slam at his 17th attempt - there is a slightly more pedestrian feel to the ATP Tour this week.
We land in Montpellier for the Open Sud de France, a 250 event played indoors. There are not many superstars involved this week, but that is perhaps not a surprise with the scheduling clashing also with Davis Cup qualifiers.
This event crowned eight French champions in its opening 10 editions, including three-time winner Gael Monfils, who did the business here in 2010, 2014 and 2020.
Monfils is 37 these days but might fancy another big week in the south of France. He will certainly have had plenty of prep time having lost to Tomas Martín Etcheverry in the second round of the Australian Open.
‘La Monf’ has a winnable first match against Italy’s Flavio Cobolli. Cobilli is no slouch - winning seven of his last 10 matches - and it will be a classic contest of youth against experience. Cobolli was actually born in 2002, just two years before Monfils turned pro. But there’s many a good tune played on an old fiddle and Monfils starts as a 4/11 favourite for that match.
Monfils has bags of experience and clearly gets the trip here, so will be popular with punters at 8/1.
Holger Rune is the only top 20 player in the draw and so it is not a surprise to see him chalked up as a 9/4 favourite to win what would be a fifth ATP Tour title. He has two wins indoors (Stockholm and the Paris Masters) but both of these came in 2022 and things seem a bit up in the air for him at the minute.
The Danish 20-year-old is coached by Boris Becker and Severin Luthi - the former long-time coach of Roger Federer. However he was dusted in the Australian Open by Arthur Cazaux, and the young Frenchman’s price catches the eye here at 16/1.
Cazaux won a Challenger event at the start of the year and looked very good in Melbourne, winning three times before running into excellent Pole Hubert Hurkacz.
The aggression, clean baseline hitting and electric athleticism has earned him the nickname of 'The Jaguar', and the 21-year-old looks like a player to keep an eye on over the next couple of years.
He was brilliant against Rune Down Under, hitting a ton of winners from both wings.
“What was the key? I think my head, my mental. I think it was the key,” Cazaux told press after the match. “It's been a few months, I'm training very hard.
“My physical condition and my head and my tennis and all these things together give me the win today.”
The youngster possesses plenty of joie de vivre on court, and the fact that Cazaux was actually born in Montpellier does not hurt this bet either.
This is a ‘250’ level event, meaning that neither the ranking points nor prize money on offer is particularly impressive so it could pay to get with a player who will have plenty of motivation to succeed.
The French crowd like to get involved and Cazaux will not be lacking when it comes to motivation on home turf, so 16/1 looks worth a small play.