The Open sud de France at Montpellier and Open 13 at Marseille are two of France’s longest running indoor hard court events. The Moselle Open of Metz might be said to be the oldest event in terms of the inaugural year of the tournament. But from 1980 till 2002, the tournament was contested only five times. Montpellier and Marseille on the other hand have been an attraction for players and spectators ever since they began. The only hiccup that either of the event ever faced was in 2011 when the Open sud de France was not scheduled in the tour. This was because the tournament was initially held at Lyon and later in 2012, found its new home in Montpellier.
Former Olympic gold medalist Marc Rosset was the first player to win both the Open sud de France and the Open 13. Even before the event at Marseille was inaugurated, Rosset had already won the Open sud de France, then held at Lyon, in 1990. Rosset was seeded sixth for the event and defeated Mats Wilander in the final. It was Rosset’s second title of the career and his only title in 1990. In 1993, the Open 13 was held for the first time on carpet courts. Only one of the Top 5 seeds made it to the semis in the tournament. The final was contested between sixth seed Rosset and eighth seed Jan Siemerink. The Swiss won the match in straight sets. It was Rosset’s fifth tour level title, third on carpet courts.
In 1994, Rosset entered the Open 13 as the defending champion. He was seeded fourth for the event. In the semis, Rosset scored a three-set win over top seed Michael Stich to progress to the finals. The Swiss was up against Arnaud Boetsch in the finals. In a thrilling final, Rosset defeated Boetsch in two tiebreak sets. The victory marked Rosset lifting his eighth tour level trophy. The same year in October, Rosset entered the Open sud de France, back then known as the Grand Prix de Tennis de Lyon as the fifth seed. Yet again, Rosset defeated the top seed in the semis. After a 6-2 6-2 win over Andrei Medvedev in the semis, Rosset was up against fourth seed Jim Courier in the final. Rosset won the match in straight sets and won his second title at the tournament after four years. In the process, he also became the first and till date the only player to win both the Open sud de France and Open 13 at least twice.
In 2000, Rosset entered the Open 13 as an unseeded player. He dropped only one set on his way to the finals. In the finals he was up against an 18-year old Roger Federer who got a wildcard into the event and was into his maiden tour level final. Federer took the first set 6-2 but Rosset staged a comeback and won the match in three sets. Rosset won the third set after winning the tiebreak 7-5.
Fabrice Santoro was unseeded at the 1997 Grand Prix de Tennis de Lyon. The French had a tough draw ahead of him and was unseeded at the event. He had previously reached three tour level finals previously and lost in each of them. At Lyon, Santoro defeated sixth seed Richard Krajicek, fourth seed Felix Mantilla and seventh seed Mark Philippoussis to advance to his fourth tour level final. In the finals he was up against fellow unseeded player Tommy Haas. Santoro won the final 6-4 6-4 to win his maiden tour level title.
Two years later, Santoro entered the main draw of Open 13, yet again as an unseeded player. In the first round he defeated seventh seed Daniel Vacek and in the semis he defeated fourth seed Marc Rosset to advance to the finals. In the finals, Santoro faced compatriot and wildcard entrant Arnaud Clement in the final. Santoro won the final in three sets and won his first tour level title on hard courts. He became the second player to win the Open 13 and Open sud de France at least once.
In 1996, defending champion and third seed Wayne Ferreira was upset in the first round at the Grand Prix de tennis de Lyon. The tournament saw Thomas Muster as the top seed whereas Yevgeny Kafelnikov was seeded second. Kafelnikov never faced a seeded player in the entire tournament. In the finals he was up against Arnaud Boetsch in the finals. The Russian defeated the French in straight sets in the final. It was Kafelnikov’s eleventh tour level title. Kafelnikov later reached the World No.1 spot in 1999. However, his reign at the top lasted for only six weeks.
In 2001, Kafelnikov was seeded second at the Open 13. He defeated seeded players like Cedric Pioline and Roger Federer to make it to the finals for the second time at the Open 13 since 1998. He was up against fourth seed Sebastien Grosjean in the final. Unlike Kafelnikov, Grosjean had not drop a set in the entire tournament. However, in the finals, Kafelnikov defeated the French in straight sets. It was the Russian’s 23rd tour level title. Thus, Kafelnikov became only the third player to win both the Open 13 and Open sud de France at least once.
Former Top 10 player Arnaud Clement was unseeded when he entered the main draw of Grand Prix de Tennis de Lyon in 2000. In the semis, he was up against second seed Andre Agassi. Clement won the first set 6-3, after which, Agassi retired due to an injury. Clement thus entered his second tour level final. In the finals he was up against eighth seed Patrick Rafter. Clement won the match in two tiebreak sets to win his maiden tour level title. Clement would return to the finals of the Grand Prix de Tennis de Lyon in 2003 but would lose to Rainer Schuttler in straight sets.
After losing his maiden tour level final against Fabrice Santoro in 1999 at Open 13, Clement would return to the finals of the event in 2006. He had got a wildcard into the main draw. Clement defeated compatriot Richard Gasquet in the first round who was the fifth seed at the event. Later, in the quarter-finals, Clement avenged his 1999 loss to Santoro by defeating him in three sets. In the semis, Clement saw himself up against top seed Rafael Nadal. Nadal took the first set 6-2, but Clement retaliated and took the match in three sets. In the finals, Clement was facing sixth seed Mario Ancic. The French dropped only six games against the Croat in the finals. Clement became the fourth player to win both the Open 13 and Open sud de France tournaments. He also became the second player after Santoro to achieve this feat unseeded.
In 2004, Robin Soderling made it to his second tour level final, his first at the Open 13. In the finals, the Swede lost to Dominik Hrbaty in three sets. The same year, Soderling entered the main draw of Grand Prix de Tennis de Lyon as an unseeded player. Soderling defeated compatriot and fourth seeded Joachim Johansson in the quarterfinals and seventh seed Vincent Spadea in the semis to make it to his third tour level final. Soderling faced fellow unseeded player Xavier Malisse in the finals. Both players had dropped only one set en route the finals. Soderling defeated the Belgian in three sets to win his first tour level title. In 2008, Soderling was seeded seventh at the same tournament. He defeated top seed Andy Roddick, fourth seed Gilles Simon, before defeating unseeded Julien Benneteau in the finals to win his second title at the event.
Ever since Soderling lost his maiden tour level final at the Open 13 against Hrbaty, the Swede had never made it to the finals in his next three attempts. However, in 2011, he entered the main draw of the tournament as the top seed. He did not drop a set en route the finals and was up against unseeded Marin Cilic in the finals. It was Cilic’s 9th tour level final and Soderling’s 19th. The Croatian took the first set in the tiebreaker but Soderling took the next two sets 6-3 6-3 to win his first title at Open 13. Soderling thus became the fifth and the final player till date to win the Open 13 and Open sud de France at least once.
Former World No.5 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga won 18 tour-level titles during his career. One of his initial titles came at Open 13 in 2009 when he defeated Michael Llodra in straight sets. The Frenchman’s biggest win in the tournament came in the semis when he defeated top seed Novak Djokovic in straight sets. In 2013, Tsonga, yet again won the Open 13 title, defeating top seed Tomas Berdych in the finals. Tsonga eventually won his third title at the tournament in 2017, defeating three seeded players (Nick Kyrgios, Loucas Pouille and Giles Simon) en route.
In 2019, Tsonga gained a wildcard entry into the main draw of Montpellier. He defeated four compatriots during the tournament to win the Montpellier title for the first time. It was also the final title win of his professional career.