2021 ATP Cup preview: France

FRANCE is arguably the strangest nation at the ATP Cup because they could be considered both overrated and underrated depending on the point of view. On paper, the team on pure rankings is quite a good one, but they have more question marks than just about any other side which makes them a wildcard and unknown heading into the tournament.


Gael Monfils
Benoit Paire
Nicolas Mahut
Edouard Roger-Vasselin

They have brought together their best possible side on paper, and it is easy to tick off the doubles combination first. Nicolas Mahut (ranked seventh in the world) and Edouard Roger-Vasselin (14th) should not lose too many ties. In fact, they might not lose any given the are clearly the top overall combination at the tournament, which makes them a danger side to watch if they can scrap together a singles win.

The issue with France comes in exactly that – the singles. The 34-year-old Gael Monfils and 31-year-old Benoit Paire are fine, but if 2020 is anything to go by, the rankings on paper cannot be trusted. Understandably France had to lock in its top two singles players, but it would have been nice to see Ugo Humbert – clearly the most inform Frenchman – given a go, or if they wanted experience, Adrian Mannarino who is only a few places lower. Both reached finals, and Humbert won two tournaments in 2020, the first of his career.

Humbert even beat Paire in the Auckland final 12 months ago, and from there the pair – pardon the pun – went in different directions. Humbert went 24-12 for the season, and just kept getting better, knocking off Alex de Minaur in the final of Antwerp, then made a quarter final in Paris having defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas in three tiebreaks there. Mannarino reached a final in Nur-Saltan before going down to John Millman, then fell to Jannik Sinner in the semis at Sofia, but was having some great late season form.

So why those two over Monfils and Paire? Put simply, injuries and form. Monfils went 16-7 in 2020, playing just 23 matches and lost his last four matches. Despite winning two titles on paper – both pre-COVID postponement – at Montpellier and Rotterdam, Monfils did not defeat a Top 20 player at those tournaments, and since his Dubai semi-finals loss to Novak Djokovic – where he had a chance to win from a set up and tiebreaker – Monfils has not won a match. In 12 months, albeit with a huge break in between and then injury issues, Monfils has not won a match.

On the other hand, Paire went 10-13 from the season, again playing minimal matches and most of his success came pre-COVID postponement. In fact, Paire went 1-7 post-COVID following a 9-6 start to the year where he made the Auckland final. Even then though, that finals appearance was the only tournament of note, not making it past the second round anywhere else.

France are giving their two top ranked players a great chance to play against the best with guaranteed singles matches. It will help them build up to the Australian Open, but with so much time out, injuries and form included, it is hard to see France putting it all together. On paper they should be a huge threat, but in practice they just have a few too many question marks.

Picture credit: UBITENNIS

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