I said a week ago when the draw was released that the Paris event set up nicely for Gael Monfils. And so far it has and Mr. Showman is living up to the expectations. Today, Monfils won his third straight three set match with a great win over Andy Murray 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 to put himself into the Paris Tennis Masters semifinals.
The match was trademark Monfils. Lots of bad errors mixed in with some jaw-dropping ability and hold-you-breath moments. In fact, on the very first point of the match Monfils inexplicably dove to the mat in an attempt to return a Murray groundstroke.
Murray, who had also come off a three-setter, looked sluggish at times.
“I just tried to keep the points shortish,” said Murray. “It worked middle set but didn’t really work in the third set as well. Obviously the atmosphere is great and you can lift your game a little bit. I wasn’t feeling perfect going into the match and it can lift you. We had some good points. They support their home player very, very well here.”
Murray of course still has London in 10 days or so, but for Monfils this is it. And it showed.
Now just four sets from his biggest career title, Monfils must navigate past top seed Roger Federer tomorrow. Federer has been sharp and and all business this fall. The Swiss sailed passed Jurgen Melzer in the quarterfinals 6-1, 7-6 to reach his first ever semifinal at the Paris Indoor.
“I served well the whole match,” said Federer who smashed 18 aces, a personal-best for him in a two-set match. “In the second he was able play a bit more solid overall and he served a bit better. Obviously as the match goes on, he’s a good player, and you get a feel for the match and start playing better. Top guys rarely just go through two sets not having a sniff at all. His sniff was in the breaker when he hit two good returns to go 2‑1 in a mini-break. That was his chance there. But I played a wonderful first set, being aggressive on the returns, serving really good – it was a perfect set. After that, I always knew it was going to be much closer because the first set wasn’t really reality, was it?”
The win improves Federer to 16-1 in his last 17 matches and extends his consecutive tournament semifinals streak to seven. You have to tip your cap to the man.
Federer leads 5-0 over Monfils but I give Gael and really good chance on Saturday. He’ll have the crowd and the emotion on his side, and Fed’s never played well at the event so an upset would not surprise me. But Gael has to keep his poise. He can’t let the moment and the energy overtake him otherwise he’s liable to go berserk out there.
In the bottom half, Robin Soderling basically overpowered Andy Roddick 7-5, 6-4. Roddick doesn’t get overpowered often, especially on a fast indoor court, but Robin was stronger off the baseline and was stronger in the serve department.
The Swede outaced Roddick 18-13 and cracked far more winners off the forehand side. And of Roddick’s once-vaunted second serve, he won just 8 points (of 22) off that delivery today. Eight!
“We’ve played five times now, and we always had really tough matches,” Soderling said of his 3-2 edge against the American. “Against Andy, the margin is always going to be very small. I lost to him in three sets in Indian Wells and 7‑6 in the third in Cincinnati – both matches, with a little bit of luck, I could have won. Against Andy, it’s always just a matter of taking the chances you get, and today I think I did really well. I served pretty well today. Maybe I could have put some more first serves in, but my second serve was good, and overall it was a good match.”
Soderling is a two-time French Open finalist and now he’s making his mark indoors in Paris. He’ll try to extend his run tomorrow against the hot-handed Michael Llodra.
The Frechman continued on his torrid form this week by crushing Nikolay Davydenko 7-5, 6-1 and likely sending the Russian outside the Top 20 by year-end. Davydenko had led 4-2 in the first set before Llodra ripped 11 of the last 13 games to reach his first career Masters semifinal.
“It’s just a follow up to what I did all year round,” said Llodra who 2-0 career against Soderling. “I’ve improved on many little things, but the main thing is my mental progression. I am now able to be better than the Top 30. I’m not saying I can do that every week, but on this type of surface, this week here in Paris, I was able to have three victories in a row against Top 20 players. It’s good for the future.”
And I think that attitude and the crowd will propel him past Robin tomorrow. So an all-French final? Allez!
PARIS SATURDAY SCHEDULE
CENTRAL COURT start 11:30 am
 F Cermak (CZE) / M Mertinak (SVK) vs  M Bhupathi (IND) / M Mirnyi (BLR)
Not Before 2:00 PM
 R Soderling (SWE) vs M Llodra (FRA)
 R Federer (SUI) vs  G Monfils (FRA)
 B Bryan (USA) / M Bryan (USA) vs M Knowles (BAH) / A Ram (ISR)
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