• Berdych battles Mahut, Monfils takes on Nieminen

    2/3/12 4:13 AM | Ricky Dimon
    Berdych battles Mahut, Monfils takes on Nieminen Tomas Berdych and Gael Monfils will be bidding for spots in the Montpellier semifinals on Friday. They are set for respective meetings with Nicolas Mahut and Jarkko Nieminen.

    (1) Tomas Berdych vs. Nicolas Mahut

    Berdych and Mahut will be going head-to-head for the third time in their careers when they clash during quarterfinal action at the Open Sud de France on Friday. Both of their previous encounters have gone in Berdych's favor; in four sets at the 2004 Australian Open and in straight sets at the 2008 Bangkok event. Mahut, however, is playing at home in France and is especially dangerous on indoor hard courts. The world No. 78, who advanced two rounds in Melbourne before falling to eventual champion Novak Djokovic, has taken out Albert Ramos and Florian Mayer so far this week.

    While those two victories were impressive, Mahut is in for a different proposition against Berdych. The seventh-ranked Czech enjoyed stellar campaigns in 2010 and 2011 and he is off to a fine start in 2012. Berdych helped his country win the Hopman Cup then he reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open before losing to eventual runner-up Rafael Nadal in four tight sets. Montpellier's No. 1 seed opened on Thursday with a 6-0, 6-2 blowout of Florent Serra. Mahut should be able to keep this competitive with his serve, but Berdych in straight sets is the pick.

    (8) Jarkko Nieminen vs. (3) Gael Monfils

    It took a while for Nieminen and Monfils to run into each other on the court, but now the head-to-head matchups are coming in bunches. They faced each other for the first time last fall in Bangkok, where Monfils prevailed 7-5, 7-6(4). Three weeks later in the Stockholm final, Monfils again got the best of Nieminen with a 7-5, 3-6, 6-2 victory. They will square off one more time on Friday in the Montpellier quarterfinals.

    Both players are in fine form to start the season. Nieminen captured the Sydney title prior to the Australian Open and he has wins this week over Maxime Teixeira and Paul-Henri Mathieu. The Finn will have the French crowd against him for a third straight match. Monfils finished runner-up last month in Doha and bounced back from an early loss in Melbourne by easing past Michael Russell 6-3, 6-3 on Thursday. Look for the No. 3 seed to score another hard-fought fin over his familiar foe.

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