Thursday, 21 January 2016

French anyone ? Thanks Gael

First up on Margaret Court Arena on Day 4 of Aus Open 2016 were French players Nicolas Mahut and Gael Monfils, the magician whose tricks are exciting even when they don't work which unfortunately has been too often during his chequered career which has not reached its potential.

Seeded 23 but capable of much higher, Monfils has been as far as the fourth round at Melbourne Park but that was seven years ago.  63rd ranked Mahut has reached the third round in his best performance and the smart money was with Monfils to win this clash.

Monfils served first and with forehand winners and an ace, held easily.  Mahut did likewise thanks also to a strong forehand.  1-1

Monfils was classy and his backhand this time the highlight in his race to a 2-1 lead.

Mahut levelled after a shaky start 0-30, before Monfils donated four straight errors.  Then Gael quickly made it 3-2 including three clean winners.
Mahut cruised through the sixth game and then 3-3 became 4-3 to Monfils who shot down two aces after suffering via an unlucky net cord on the first point in the seventh game.

Only one point was conceded in each of the next two service games, proof of how both players were controlling things from the service line.  Monfils led 5-4 but a tie break was beckoning.

With most points for the time being won or lost with forehands, serves continued to be held comfortably, and at 5-6 Mahut needed to hold once again or the set would go to Monfils.

A series of basic errors from Mahut gifted Monfils three break points, the first of the match, and they were also set points.  Sadly it was a net cord which converted the first of the set points, and Monfils locked away set one 7-5.

On serve in set two and at 2-3 Mahut had 40-0.  This was whittled away and he fought off two deuce road blocks before squaring the set at 3-3.  Monfils edged to 4-3, with an exciting game featuring a backhand pass from Gael, a thrilling lob in reply from Mahut and the game winning lob from Monfils.

Two more holds of serve and we were as in set one with Mahut needing to avoid a break or be two sets in arrears. 4-5.

Monfils broke a little earlier than set one and he led 7-5 6-4.

Gael survived a break point then broke Mahut again using the first of three chances to lead 2-0 and threatened to blow the match apart, as if most of that task hadn't been done already.

3-0 with the break, after a much simpler hold this time for the former top ten player who retains hopes of a return to those lofty heights.

Another break of serve against the increasingly miserable Mahut and he fell to 4-0, which changed almost as I typed that score to 5-0 with an aggressive and impatient Monfils steaming to the finishing tape.

With everything against him, and not much hope of a revival, at least Mahut had the resolve to send down some decent serves in what presumably would be his final attempts, and register a score beside his name.

Monfils blasted his way to a straight sets win 7-5 6-4 6-1.  He produced plenty from his box of tricks and more importantly played a solid brand of tennis throughout, saving the theatrics for another day.

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