© Corinne Dubreuil/Moselle Open

Court Central in Metz, the 4,500-seater arena of the Moselle Open, the ATP World Tour 250 tournament.

Magnifique In Metz: Tsonga, Simon & Co

Frenchmen have lifted the trophy at the ATP World Tour event nine times in the past 15 years

Ever since the Moselle Open first appeared on the ATP World Tour calendar in 2003, the city of Metz has been a happy hunting ground for French players.

Arnaud Clement delighted home fans by winning the inaugural tournament at the Palais Omnisports Les Arènes, with a capacity of 4,500 seats. And while there was a three-year relocation to the Parc des Expositions between 2011 to 2013, five other Frenchmen have lifted the trophy in Metz.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who returned to competitive tennis this week after a seven-month absence, has won a tournament-high three titles (2011-12, 2015); Gilles Simon triumphed on two occasions (2010, 2013) and Jerome Haehnel (2004), Gael Monfils (2009) and Lucas Pouille (2016) once each.

Pouille, who won his first ATP World Tour title at Metz in September 2016, told ATPWorldTour.com, “It’s never an easy [ATP World Tour] 250-level tournament because it’s one of the first indoor tournaments at the end of the season. The field is always loaded, meaning the competition is high and every French player wishes to do well in front of their home crowd.”

Overall, there have been nine homegrown Metz titlists at the ATP World Tour 250 tournament in the past 15 years – including six other finalists. There have been three all-French finals (2004 – Haehnel d. Richard Gasquet; 2013 – Simon d. Tsonga; and 2015 – Tsonga d. Simon).

Tsonga

FRENCH PERFORMANCES IN METZ (SINCE 2003)

Year     Frenchmen/Draw Size Best Result
2003     8/32 Champion: Arnaud Clement (d. Gonzalez)
2004     15/32 Champion: Jerome Haehnel (d. Gasquet)
2005     8/32 Final: Gael Monfils (l. to Ljubicic)
2006     12/32 Semi-finals: Marc Gicquel (l. to Melzer); Sebastien Grosjean (l. to Djokovic)
2007     13/32 Semi-finals: Nicolas Mahut (l. to Robredo)
2008     12/28 Final: Paul-Henri Mathieu (l. to Tursunov)
2009     12/28 Champion: Gael Monfils (d. Kohlschreiber)
2010     9/28 Champion: Gilles Simon (d. M. Zverev)
2011     11/28 Champion: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (d. Ljubicic)
2012     10/28 Champion: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (d. Seppi)
2013     11/28 Champion: Gilles Simon (d. Tsonga)
2014     11/28 Semi-finals: Gael Monfils (l. to Sousa)
2015     9/28 Champion: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (d. Simon)
2016     10/28 Champion: Lucas Pouille (d. Thiem)
2017     10/28 Final: Benoit Paire (l. to Gojowzyk)
2018     11/28 ?

The success rate compares favourably to other tour-level events in France. The Open Sud de France in Montpellier, held in February, has witnessed six French champions since 2010, while the Open 13 Provence in Marseille, also in February, has had nine French titlists since 1993. Yannick Noah remains the last homegrown champion at Roland Garros in Paris in 1983 and the Rolex Paris Masters, the final tournament of the regular ATP World Tour season, has seen three French winners since 1986.

Richard Gasquet, the runner-up in 2004 with a 7-4 record in indoor finals, told ATPWorldTour.com, “It’s always special to play in front of friends and family, particularly in Metz where there is an excellent, intimate atmosphere within the arena. French players like playing indoors and it’s important to do well in the controlled conditions.

“Hitting the ball cleanly is essential to playing well indoors. Of course, it’s faster than outdoors and not windy, so everybody can play better indoors. It’s important to serve well. The serve is the main key on indoor courts.”

Metz was the venue to a tournament-high 15 Frenchmen in the 32-player draw in 2004 and since the field dropped to 28-player draws in 2008, there have been 12 home competitors on two occasions (2008-09). In 2018, 11 of the 28-player field represent France.

TOP 10 METZ MATCH-WINS LEADERS (SINCE 2003)

Player Win-Loss Record Titles/Finals
1) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) 18-3 3/1
2) Nicolas Mahut (FRA) 16-14 0/0
3) Paul-Henri Mathieu (FRA) 15-13 0/1
4) Gael Monfils (FRA) 15-4 1/1
5) Gilles Simon (FRA) 15-7 2/1
6) Richard Gasquet (FRA) 13-7 0/1
7) Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) 12-10 0/1
8) Arnaud Clement (FRA) 11-8 1/0
9) Ivan Ljubicic (CRO) 11-5 1/1
10) Gilles Muller (LUX) 9-7 0/0