How hard it is for Kazakh Mikhail Kukushkin! He started his 2021 season very badly and despite a victory against Juan Ignacio Londero in his first match, there is not much left behind. He made an illusion on a set against Dominic Thiem then followed two defeats at home to the Nur Sultan Challengers against Mackenzie McDonald and Frederico Ferreira Silva, in two dry sets each time. The Kazakh is nevertheless at his ease indoors with already one title and two finals (53% of victories). However, he is far from his best level and he will be facing a player who will be aiming for his first victory on the ATP circuit. Arthur Rinderknech is in full swing and masters to perfection this type of surface where he is used to playing in Challenger. Admittedly, the Frenchman was not as strong as expected on the French Challengers after a victory in Istanbul against Bonzi. His defeat against Van de Zandschulp in Montpellier in the first qualifying round was a disappointment for him. Not getting the wildcard, awarded by Petros Tsitsipas, brother of ... had to motivate him to seek his place in the big draw. He has a type of game that can beat Kukushkin, a game all in variation preceded by a canon service because of his large size (1m96). If he manages to find good zones allowing him to shorten exchanges by going up to the net, he should be able to offer himself this first success among the big boys, well deserved! Ranked well above the 300th place in the world at the beginning of 2020, the Var region has worked hard to get close to the top 100 (138th).

Pierre-Hugues Herbert vs Kei Nishikori

Tomorrow will be the fourth opposition between Pierre-Hughes Herbert and Kei Nishikori. The Japanese won two matches: in 2016 in Miami (6-2, 7-6), in 2019 in Rotterdam (3-6, 6-1, 6-4). Herbert won once on clay in Monte Carlo in 2019 (7-5, 6-4). Tomorrow it will be two players who will arrive on the court with a very different state of confidence. The Frenchman has been looking for a good result for a long time on the circuit. Since he became a father, Herbert has had a lot of trouble with his game. He has only won two matches on the circuit since the start of the season, against Safranek in qualifying in Rotterdam (7-6, 6-2) and against Cressy in Melbourne (6-7, 7-6, 7-5), a player with the same style of play as him. Herbert had a very complicated match at the Australian Open against Fognini (6-4, 6-2, 6-3), with many unforced errors. Last week, he unfortunately inherited Fucsovics in qualifications, future unfortunate finalist (6-4, 6-3). Facing him, Kei Nishikori is confident after his good performance in Rotterdam. The slow Dutch surface helped him in his game and given his level, it is hard to imagine Herbert being able to compete. The Japanese is looking for points to move up in the standings and that will require a good result in Marseille. Although he struggled physically during the Australian tour, the victory over Felix Auger-Aliassime gave him some balm in his heart (7-6, 6-1). He then beat Alex de Minaur (6-3, 2-6, 7-5) before losing to Borna Coric, who was stronger on both tie-breaks (7-6, 7-6). The Japanese modified his service move to have more power while doing less work on his shoulder: "I did it after my elbow surgeries [in October 2019] and last December. I tried to redesign my serve, I needed more power but less use of my shoulder. I also injured my shoulder last year. I still don't feel it 100%, but I think I'm on the right track. »

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs Feliciano Lopez

In five matches between the two players, Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has won five times. Feliciano Lopez has never managed to beat Tsonga. But their last meeting took place in 2012, now 9 years ago. Both players are now close to putting the rackets away. Except in Beijing in 2012 where Lopez was injured, their meetings have often been tight and it was in Marseille in 2009 that the Spanish won his only set against the French. However, there was a tie-break in every match. This is because the players faced each other each time on fast surfaces and they both have a big serve. The Frenchman made his return to Montpellier after a 13-month absence. If he held on thanks to his serve against Korda, as soon as the American started to accelerate in his shots, Tsonga didn't hold physically with a very complicated second set for him. On the other hand, we could see that Feliciano Lopez, despite his 39 years old, is still able to hold a match in five sets and to come back two sets of handicap at the Australian Open against Sonego. At Bercy, last November, he even managed to win a set against Rafael Nadal. While the match-up is in Jo-Wilfried Tsonga's favor, the physical advantage is clearly in the hands of Spain's Feliciano Lopez. However, the Frenchman has been making his mark for several days now at the Open 13. An abrasive surface that suits him well and could hinder the Spaniard in his willingness to play forward.

Benjamin Bonzi vs Matthew Ebden

Frenchman Benjamin Bonzi arrives in Marseille with full confidence. The Frenchman is one of the best players on the Challenger circuit since the beginning of the season with a final in Istanbul in indoor, a semi-final in Quimper, a victory in Potchefstroom. In Montpellier, after logically defeating Lucas Pouille, he came very close to winning the first set of the match (4-6, 6-4, 7-5), beating David Goffin's scalp. The Frenchman is a very good counterpart, directs the game well, distils the shots with power. Facing him is the globe-trotter Matthew Ebden. The Australian, after losing in the qualifiers of the Australian Open in Doha, lost at home in the preparation tournament and lost in the final of the mixed doubles, which he played with Sam Stosur. Behind him, he has not stopped traveling: defeat in the quarterfinals in Singapore against Popyrin and then defeat in the Challenger in St. Petersburg last Thursday against Lucas Catarina. He is coming off two victories in qualifying against Ferreira Silva and Mathias Bourgue. He's a player who doesn't really have a strong shot and plays almost every point in the net. Logic would dictate that Benjamin Bonzi would win this match fairly easily. With Ebden, the Frenchman has inherited a good draw allowing him to go to the second round against Ruusuvuori and then theoretically Karen Khachanov in the quarterfinals.

Editor's note

⭐️⭐️⭐️ --- ⭐️⭐️ Victoire Bonzi / Victoire Rinderknech ⭐️ Tsonga victory / At least one tiebreak in the Tsonga vs Lopez / Nishikori victory match

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