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Gael Monfils aiming for third ATP Open Sud de France title

Gael Monfils will aim to match the feats of the great Pete Sampras when he competes in the ATP Open Sud de France in Montpellier.

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Defending champion Gael Monfils can make it three Open Sud de France victories in six years when he competes in this year's edition in Montpellier.

The world number 19 first tasted glory at this ATP 250 event in 2010, defeating Ivan Ljubicic in the final, having already lost out to Andy Roddick five years prior to that.

With the tournament not held in 2011, Monfils reached the final again in 2012, only to lose out to Tomas Berdych, before he lifted the trophy for a second time last year after seeing off compatriot Richard Gasquet 6-4 6-4.

Pete Sampras is the only man to have won the Open Sud de France three times, with successive titles in the early 1990s, and Monfils will have his sights trained on matching the achievements of the 14-time major champion.

Gasquet also stands a chance of recording a hat-trick of wins, having enjoyed success in 2006 and 2013.

Each of the past nine finals has featured at least one Frenchman, and there will be high hopes of another home success in Montpellier.

Monfils is seeded number one for the tournament, and enjoys a bye into the second round, where he will face either Marsel Ilhan or fellow Frenchman Kenny De Schepper.

Gasquet, meanwhile, has been promoted to fourth seed after Julien Benneteau was forced to withdraw through injury.

Benneteau was knocked out in the first round of the Australian Open by Benjamin Becker, and has been struggling with a persistent groin problem.

It is thought his absence in Montpellier should see him recover in time to make the World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam, which gets under way on February 9.

As the beneficiary of Benneteau's injury. Gasquet will now have a bye into the second round, as will second and third seeds Gilles Simon and Philipp Kohlschreiber.

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