[Another annoying note from the editor: below please revel in the insanely popular previewing stylings of Noumea Bureau Chief and New Caledonia Tennis Aficionado Mr. Jonathan Artman. Upon completion of this year’s event, his daily Noumea previews will be collected into a compendium and released as a lovely coffee table book]
Thursday sees the quarter-finals take place in New Caledonia, and we begin to progress to the nitty-gritty stages of the Championships.

Augustin Gensse and Pavol Cervenak (the latter you may know from his doubles exploits) will face-off in the low-key quarter-final (hey, they can’t all be big games).

2nd seed Jesse Huta Galung will be the opposition for local boy Gregoire Burquier, who is a surprise name in the draw. Currently ranked at 233, his highest in his career thus far, the 26-year-old was not expected to do much this week in all honesty but has strung up a good few wins already. Galung will represent by far his toughest test yet, however. The young Dutchman ought to end the Frenchman’s glory hopes today, in straight sets. Infact, with Igor Sijsling departing early in somewhat shocking fashion, Jesse is arguably the favourite to win the 2011 Noumea title.

The all-French clash sees Josselin Ouanna pit his skills against Vincent Millot who has really earned his quarter-final spot with wins over Marc Gicquel and a confident Amir Weintraub. Ouanna has not had things easy playing the likes of Rik de Voest, who can be a challenging opponent on his day.  But the Frenchman, not renowned for having a great deal of hair at the best of times [editor’s note: LOL], has performed admirably thus far in 2011. I expect Ouanna to end his compatriot’s impressive run but Millot oughtn’t bow down easily.

Arguably the most interesting clash on Thursday will see Gilles Muller play the Italian and former Champion here in Noumea, Flavio Cipolla. Muller was expected to get at least this far but he has not progressed in the fashion that was likely of him – he dropped a set to both Danai Udomchoke and little known Clement Reix from France. Conversely, Flavio has seen off his opponents in straight sets thus far and destroyed his experienced opponent, David Guez; it must be said, however, that the Frenchman is known for his off-days now and then. Or perhaps, a bit more often than “now and then”.

I am going for an Italian victory as he seems to be blessed in this place. Muller has not convinced this week and he will have to improve markedly to defeat Cipolla. If he plays in the same manner as he has done already, Cipolla will beat him quicker than he can polish off a home-made stone-baked ciabatta.

Stone-Baked Ciabatta