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Monfils Sets Gasquet Clash; Nieminen, Paire Make Strong Starts

Montpellier, France

Nieminen© Open Sud de FranceJarkko Nieminen beat Florent Serra to open his Montpellier campaign.

Former World No. 7 Gael Monfils won his first-round match at the Open Sud de France on Tuesday in Montpellier, ousting Belgian Ruben Bemelmans 7-5, 6-4 in 88 minutes. 

The 26-year-old Frenchman, who is currently No. 108 in the Emirates ATP Rankings after suffering injury problems in 2012, served 10 aces and saved all three break points against Bemelmans in the pair's first meeting. He has a 12-2 event record, having lifted the trophy in 2010 (d. Ljubicic) and finished runner-up in 2005 (l. to Roddick) and 2012 (l. to Berdych).

With the victory, Monfils earned himself a clash against countryman and third seed Richard Gasquet, over whom he holds a 4-3 FedEX ATP Head2Head advantage.

Jarkko Nieminen cruised into the second round by dismissing French qualifier Florent Serra 6-3, 6-2 in 62 minutes. The Finn converted four of his nine break points and won 72 per cent of points behind his first serve.

The 31-year-old Nieminen, a quarter-finalist at the Apia International Sydney in January (l. to Tomic), goes onto face fifth-seeded Russian Nikolay Davydenko. He is bidding to reach the quarter-finals at this ATP World Tour 250 indoor tournament for the third time in as many visits.

Eighth seed Benoit Paire of France made a strong start, beating Spanish qualifier Adrian Menendez-Maceiras 6-0, 6-2 in just 44 minutes, dropping only seven points on serve. Paire next faces Belgium’s Steve Darcis, who beat French wild card Adrian Mannarino 6-4, 7-6(0) in one hour and 31 minutes.

Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky upset Paul-Henri Mathieu, the ninth seed from France, 6-4, 6-4. World No. 105 Stakhovsky, who is making his debut in Montpellier, converted four of his 12 break points to claim victory in 77 minutes.

World No. 59 Victor Hanescu recorded his first tour-level win of the season as he defeated Spanish qualifier Guillermo Olaso 6-1, 7-6(6) in 71 minutes. Czech Jan Hajek also scored his first win of the year, rallying from a set down to beat Dudi Sela 2-6, 7-5, 6-1.

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Open Sud de France, Montpellier

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