Felix Auger-Aliassime, the young Canadian player, came into the spotlight around this time last year -- the youngest player ever to reach the Finals of an ATP 500 tournament at the Rio Open .
Since then, it has been a dream journey for Felix having reached finals in Lyon and Stuttgart after Rio. Despite losing all three to more experienced players, the impact his game quickly made was felt loud and clear.
At 19, he already defeated players including Stefanos Tsitsipas, Nick Kyrgios, Dustin Brown, compatriot Denis Shapovalov and more besides. While yet to make a long-lasting impact in the Grand Slam tournaments, Auger-Aliassime is likely to feature in this year's Next Gen ATP Finals after withdrawing last season with an ankle injury.
Even in the Davis Cup Finals last year, Felix was sidelined with the same injury as Team Canada were forced to play with Shapovalov and Vasek Pospisil. They delivered a spirited effort to reach the finals, as Pospisil's experience came in clutch during tricky situations.
The 19-year-old started this year in underwhelming fashion with three defeats and a solitary win at the inaugural ATP Cup, before heading to the Adelaide International.
He reached the semi-finals there before losing to talented Russian Andrey Rublev in three grinding sets, 7-6 (5), 6-7 (9), 6-4. At the Australian Open, he was a first-round loser to the experienced Ernests Gulbis in a five-set marathon.
Coming to Open Sud de France, he won his first-round match against Damir Dzhumur after losing the first set in a tie-break. Now though, he faces local favourite Pierre-Hugues Herbert with a quarter-final place up for grabs.
Herbert hungry for progression after memorable 2019
The Frenchman had a purposeful 2019 with several memorable victories, both in singles and doubles. While he won the Australian Open and the ATP Finals doubles partnering with compatriot Nicolas Mahut, he attained a career-high ranking of 36 in singles after reaching the finals in Open Sud de France before losing to fellow countryman, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Herbert's best singles match came in the first round of Roland Garros last year, recovering from two sets down to defeat in-form Russian Daniil Medvedev - 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5.
Setting the scene for their first meeting
This will be the pair's first encounter on tour and Felix's aggressive baseline play could hurt the Frenchman's defence. To counter this, Herbert might take the volley approach, putting his doubles experience to good use. However, Felix's baseline game looks solid - having dismantled Dzhumur with his power-hitting in R1.
Herbert will have to remain strong defensively and try to invite Felix towards the net more often than not. Since it's their first meeting, it'll be interesting to see both players' in-game approach. The draw at Open Sud de France is getting interesting as the tournament progresses with exciting matchups. If Felix overcomes the challenge of Herbert, he could potentially face David Goffin in the quarter-finals.
With some resistance from the Frenchman, Auger-Aliassime is likely to come out as the winner of this contest - which promises to be a loud affair - as the crowd will be keen to play its part to support their compatriot in Herbert.
Prediction: Auger-Aliassime to win in straight sets.