Monday, 23 January 2017

Nadal in four sets

The second match in the night session on the second Monday of Aus Open 2017 was sure to be full of colour and movement because of the presence of 6th seed Frenchman Gael Monfils.  His fourth round opponent was not so boring either.  Rafa Nadal, the ninth seed had us glued to our seats during his epic third round tussle with Alexander Zverev.
Monfils beat Philipp Kohlschreiber in straight sets in his third round match.

Nadal last played Monfils in the Monte Carlo Masters final 2016 where Nadal triumphed as he had in all but two of the 14 times they'd met - those times were in 2009 and 2012, so the signs weren't promising for Gael tonight. 

Nadal served first and lost the opening point.  A netted forehand and 0-30.  On the board thanks to a Monfils mistake.  An ace was the first point actually won.  Break point after the best exchange so far ended in the net.  Saved after a long rally was finished by a Nadal volley winner.  The long game ended in Nadal's favour.

Two break points on the Monfils serve after a series of errors.  A double fault was just the exclamation mark on an awful game and Nadal had a 2-0 lead.  3-0 following a much briefer trip to the line for the Spaniard.

Monfils opened his account with a swift service game highlighted by a forehand winner.  Rafa was really winding up on his forehand and occasionally it would pay dividends.  Mostly though it was a waste of energy - he would be better advised considering placement and timing and percentages.  
Still he led 4-1 so I guess whatever he was doing it had worked against this opponent to this point.

Monfils at 30-30 found a big serve when needed but then undid his good work with a double fault.  An ace gave him game point but deuce was attractive so he hit the net and went back there.  Nadal was given a break point through no good work that he had done, and to prove it he mishit a forehand and it was deuce again.
At long last Monfils put two points together and held serve 2-4.

A Monfils backhand crosscourt winner broke the lethargy and another down the line winner brought him to 30-30 on the Nadal serve.  Rafa held for 5-2.
Set point after a slashing return at the feet of Monfils.  Saved with a neat volley.
An ace for the game and Nadal would serve for the first set.

A drop shot/lob combo from Monfils was one of the nights highlights and it took the score to 15-15.  Rafa won his way to two set points.  Am excellent rally, ending in a wide Monfils forehand, was the last part of the first set, won by Nadal 6-3.

Monfils served first in set two and was lobbed successfully for 0-15.  A Nadal forehand pass made it 15-30 and two French mistakes handed a simple break to Nadal. 1-0
Consolidation occurred and it became 2-0.
A fine service game from Monfils - surely his quickest and best - closed the gap to 1-2.

2-3 after two more strong service holds.
Rafa was down 0-30 and Monfils put a forehand past him for three break points.  One was lost with a mishit, but a backhand from Rafa floated long and games were back on serve 3-3.

Two slashing Nadal forehand winners promoted a break of the very next Monfils serve and the ninth seed once more had a cushion, 4-3 with serve to come.
Nadal pushed the lead to 5-3 in a game where his slashing forehand winner was only the third best shot of the game, behind a forehand winner from Monfils going at just under the speed of sound, and a volley winner from Nadal, dug out from deep under Melbourne Park.

Three set points arrived smartly on the Monfils serve, two saved with sizzling French winners.  The third wasn't saved and Nadal took a two set lead 6-3 6-3.

Nadal began set three serving and he delivered a love game.
Monfils tied it up at 1-1, a backhand screamer down the line the final shot.  Nadal cruised to 2-1.

After quickly levelling at 2-2, Monfils had Nadal at deuce, before he let him off the hook and back in the lead 3-2.
A double fault and straying groundstroke wasted two Monfils game points, and a Nadal passing shot another.  The third was converted with an athletic looking forehand volley.

30-30 on the Nadal serve with brilliance from both sides of the court,  Monfils especially beginning to light it up.  Between some silly mistakes sadly.  Two in a row gifted Nadal the game and he led 4-3.

4-4 and Monfils was becoming more confident on serve.
Rafa down two break points all of a sudden and he couldnt stop the surge against him late in the set - the errors kept flowing and Monfils led 5-4.

Serving for the set, the nerves set in and three errors created three break back points.  Monfils saved three with attacking tennis. Another was also saved.  A set point was lost.  The next set point was used wisely and out of the blue Monfils had won the third set 6-4.

Nadal served first in set four.  He held and led 1-0.  Monfils followed suit 1-1.
At 1-2, Monfils was in a little bother at  0-30. An ace helped but he still faced two break points. One was saved.  And the second, with Nadal playing too safe.  The sixth seed held serve and it was 2-2.

At 0-15 the rally of the match ended with a Monfils winner and Nadal down 0-30.  A volley error and he faced three break points.  Monfils claimed the break on the second of these when the ball climbed up the net and fell over the other side.
Monfils led 3-2.

4-2 Monfils in a canter.  3-4 Nadal and maybe his running forehand down the line will have inspired him to lift his game because right now he was being clearly outplayed.

Some looseness crept back into the Monfils game and Nadal jumped all over the break point chance to level at 4-4.
Hitting winners again and not just defending the Monfils bullets, Nadal raced to a 5-4 lead and potentially just a game from victory.

30-30 and a critical serve. A volley pushed wide and match point.  Saved with a punishing forehand winner. Second match point.  Nadal won with a Monfils shot wide.

Through to the quarter final 6-3 6-3 4-6 6-4

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