There were some real end of season performances on show on Monday in Bercy.
It was a tricky card to find any real value in and it was a poor day for the French with Jeremy Chardy, Adrian Mannarino, Julien Benneteau and Benoit Paire all departing after starting as favourites.
Benny, in fairness, came up against a Kei Nishikori in fine form and in stark contrast to his effort last week in Basel, but such is tennis at this late stage of the season.
It got even worse for the hosts late on last night when Gael Monfils withdrew from the tournament citing a left wrist injury, reportedly incurred in training and bizarrely Lamonf’s replacement may be Pablo Andujar, who himself retired during qualifying.
The first round concludes and the second begins at the Palais Omnisports on Tuesday and it looks like it may be a better day for the French today, with Michael Llodra, Nicolas Mahut, Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga all in action.
As ever in Bercy it’s worth a serious look at the underdogs and Llodra is one in with a great chance today, while others for consideration include Marcel Granollers, Edouard Roger-Vasselin, Kevin Anderson, Fernando Verdasco and Nishikori.
Novak Djokovic vs Pierre-Hugues Herbert (BET and WATCH LIVE on Unibet TV from 19.35 GMT)
The 189th ranked Herbert had a virtual bye in the first round, as Paire decided that he really couldn’t be bothered and eased into the off season with very little pretence of being competitive last night.
Herbert will obviously find things considerably different tonight when he faces world number two Djokovic and, while it will be excellent experience for the 22-year-old Frenchman, he may not enjoy it too much as Nole will surely win this in under 18.5 games at 1.57.
This will be the first time Herbert has faced anyone inside the top-20 and the Frenchman is the lowest ranked player that Novak has faced since losing to Filip Krajinovic in the Serbia Open back in 2010.
Herbert plies his trade in the Challenger scene and has done superbly well to get here, but I’d be surprised if he gets more than a few games today against Nole on a slowish indoor hard court.
Djokovic is not going to want to hang around this week and this could be a harsh experience for Herbert.
Kei Nishikori vs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (BET and WATCH LIVE on Unibet TV from 18.35 GMT)
Of all of the outsiders who have a shot today this looks the one where the underdog has the best chance to bark in what will be the fourth clash between this top-20 pair.
Kei leads the way 2-1 at the moment and he also has an exhibition win over Tsonga from Kooyong to his name, but the important factor here could be fitness and for once Nishikori was bouncing around like a spring lamb on the court last night, while Tsonga has admitted to his knee still being a problem.
In Vienna, Jo talked about qualifying for the World Tour Finals, but I’m not sure he’s convinced that even if he qualified he’d be fit enough to compete and although I’m sure he’ll give it a real go today the lack of pace in the court will aid Nishikori.
Kei took down Tsonga in four on slowish medium hard courts in Melbourne and in their last meeting in Shanghai it was fast and as usual Kei’s body let him down.
If he’s fit – and he looks to be – he’s more than a match for Jo on a court that isn’t fast and it’s worth chancing the 2.67 on the Japanese star today.
Elsewhere, I’m tempted to back against Mikhail Youzhny, who has a really poor recent record here and who will probably find it hard to get up for this evetn after winning Valencia on Sunday.
I’m not sure that Anderson is the man to take advantage though on current form, but Roger-Vasselin is in great form right now and he could take down Ivan Dodig if the Croat isn’t at his best.
Back under 18.5 games in Djokovic/Herbert at 1.57
Back Nishikori to beat Tsonga at 2.67