Frenchmen Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gael Monfils moved into the second round of the Monte Carlo Masters on Tuesday as a pair of compatriots lined up challenges against leading seeds.
Number 11 Tsonga beat Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4, 6-4 while number 14 Monfils had to overcome three breaks in the last four games of his contest before securing safe passage into the second round with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 defeat of Russian Andrey Kuznetsov.
The hardest work on the clay overlooking the Mediterranean looks to be awaiting an unheralded French pair at the event which kick starts the six-week run to Roland Garros.
Jeremy Chardy defeated Diego Schwartzman 7-5, 6-2 to book a spot opposite second seed Roger Federer as the Swiss begins the quest for a first career trophy at the Country Club where he finished runner-up a year ago to Stan Wawrinka.
Number 108 Lucas Pouille will also have his work cut out as he plays eight-time champion Rafael Nadal. The French wild card beat Dominic Thiem 6-4, 6-4 a week after the young Austrian went through an invitation-only private training block with Federer in Zurich.
Nadal is desperate to maintain his title as king of clay and start to turn around what for the Spaniard has been a horror showing so far in 2015.
Nadal exited early at both of the March hardcourt events in the US and has spent a fortnight on clay in his native Mallorca trying to re-discover his feel for his preferred surface.
The 28-year-old won the last of his Monte Carlo titles in 2012 and has his hopes again set on a successful road to Paris and the French Open in six weeks.
Monfils, who has never been past the second round at the tournament since first playing here a decade ago, had to battle through a tough opening encounter with Kuznetsov, whom he beat in Marseille two months ago.
“There were ups and downs, I was not monstrously confident,” said Monfils, injured last month in the US. “I had trouble finding the right timing and moving on the surface.
“I’ve never had much success here in Monte Carlo, I’m very pleased that I was able to get through this match.
“I have mixed feelings – there were good parts in the game, but also bad ones. But I was able to come back. Once I was a bit more confident, I was able to move better, too.”
French hopes suffered a defeat as Spain’s Marcel Granollers put out Adrian Mannarino 6-3, 6-0. Spanish 16th seed struggled past Italy’s Andreas Seppi 6-3, 1-6, 6-4. – Agence France-Presse