The semifinals at the 2013 ATP Open Sud de France in Montpellier will nearly be an all-French affair, as three of the final four men's players represent the tournament's host nation.
Richard Gasquet, Benoit Paire, Michael Llodra and Jarkko Nieminen will all take center stage on the hard courts inside Montpellier Arena this weekend. But of the four competitors left standing, only Gasquet has won this tournament before.
Here, we'll break down this weekend's two semifinal matchups in Montpellier
Jarkko Nieminen vs. Richard Gasquet (3)
Frenchman Richard Gasquet hasn't won the Open Sud de France since 2006, but he looks to be the front-runner at the moment since top-seeded Tomas Berdych pulled out and second-seeded Janko Tipsarevic went out in the second round.
Gasquet will put his precise shot-making ability to the test on Saturday against Finland's Jarkko Nieminen, who took down fifth-seeded Nikolay Davydenko in the second round earlier this week. Despite Nieminen's impressive run, Gasquet should come out on top in this matchup. He's the better player and will have tons of support from the French crowd.
It won't be a walk in the park, however, as both men needed three sets to survive their quarterfinal opponents.
The 26-year-old Gasquet will need to be aggressive from start to finish against the 31-year-old Nieminen, making sure he doesn't find himself drifting way back behind the baseline too often. If he does that, his superior precision should send him through to the final.
Michael Llodra vs. Benoit Paire (8)
The biggest threat to Richard Gasquet in Montpellier this weekend is fellow Frenchman Benoit Paire, who only needed two sets to dispose of fourth-seeded Gilles Simon in the quarterfinals.
But before the two seeded players can meet in a potential men's final matchup, the 23-year-old Paire will first have to defeat countryman Michael Llodra in Saturday's semifinal. Llodra, who is nine years older than Paire, came closest to winning this tournament back in 2009, when he finished as runner-up.
But that was four years ago. And unfortunately for Llodra fans, the veteran has always been a much more talented doubles player than singles player. He's won three career doubles Grand Slams, but has never been beyond the fourth round at major as a singles competitor.
The youth factor will be huge for Paire (who's looking to break into the ATP Top 40 rankings) in this match, and that's why I like him to advance to Sunday's final.
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