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Richard Gasquet celebrates after beating Benoit Paire during the Open Sud de France in Montpellier. Sylvain Thomas / AFP
Richard Gasquet celebrates after beating Benoit Paire during the Open Sud de France in Montpellier. Sylvain Thomas / AFP

Nice to see second-rung players such as Richard Gasquet coming first

Frenchman has the best singles record in mens tennis this season at 14-1 and Nicolas Almagro gets ready to defend a title.

Sure, most of the big guns are just getting started. Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are playing this week in Sao Paulo and Rotterdam, respectively, while Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic are still cooling their heels from the Australian Open two weeks ago.

In other words, it is a nice time for the second-tier notables in the game to make some early noise.

In Sao Paolo this week, the scrappy world No 11 Nicolas Almagro, who reached the final of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi in December, defends his title, and last weekend, the 10th-ranked Frenchman Richard Gasquet got a jump on everybody with his second win of 2013.

Gasquet has the best singles record in men's tennis this season at 14-1 after destroying countryman Benoit Paire, 6-2, 6-3, to win the Open Sud de France title in Montpellier.

As for quick starter, it took Gasquet all of 69 minutes to dismantle Paire. He is playing in Rotterdam this week as well, where the field is a bit deeper than in France.

"I realise this is my best season start ever and I just want to keep going and stay healthy," said Gasquet, 26, who won in Doha last month and has nine ATP singles titles, including three in the 2006 season.

The open auditions among players such as David Ferrer, Juan Del Potro and Almagro for the perceived second-row seats behind the Big Four might be the most competitive battle to watch as the season plays out.


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