The first day of the men’s quarterfinals at the US Open turned out to be an absolute dud. But the end result – a Novak Djokovic vs. Gael Monfils semifinals – could be a classic.
Up first on windy, dreary day was Monfils against his countryman Lucas Pouille. And you knew that after three straight 5-set matches including a stunning, emotional win Sunday over 2-time champion Rafael Nadal, that the 22-year-old would have little left today. And that turned out to be true.
They traded some early tweeners but after that it was a straightforward win for Monfils who dominated Pouille 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.
“I’m happy with my performance. I think it is never easy to play quarterfinal against a French guy, you know. I think I handled it pretty good mentally and tennistically,” said Monfils.
“Serve was a bit better. I have been saying I think to the French press that I could serve faster. I think I did it great today. Still moving good. I’m very happy.”
Happy he should be but “Tennistically”? Is that a new word?
Again, expectations though were low anyway for Pouille, it’s too bad we couldn’t get much of a match out of it.
“Of course I was a bit tired today,” Pouille said. “I played four matches, one in four sets, and then all three in five. So, yeah, it would have been better if I played a bit less time on court. It’s okay. I did my best today.
“Gaël was playing very good. He’s physically very fit. He’s moving so well. And I think, as I said after Nadal’s match, he’s in very good form. Yeah, I think he was better than me today.”
And he was, it just wasn’t much of a match. In fact, it was so humdrum ESPN even cut away from a singles quarterfinals to show doubles between Feliciano Lopez/Marc Lopez against the Bryans brothers on what was the last match on Armstrong. The Spaniards won that one just like they did in the French Open final.
But back to the singles. Pouille is just 22 so he’s got a decent game and down and will be a factor again. He just didn’t have it today.
Let’s be honest, Monfils hasn’t played anyone worth a lick, but credit to him, he hasn’t dropped a set and has more than taken care of business, something he wasn’t known for doing before this recent refocus.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to know where his level is at. Clearly, he’s playing with confidence, but is he really ready to take the next step and beat Djokovic?
His countryman Jo-Wilfred Tsonga wasn’t. Tsonga had been playing well and figured to finally test the Serb who himself has had an easy run to this point.
But Djokovic broke early in the first and again in the second. And once Tsonga took a medical to get his knee looked at it was just a matter of time. And time was up a few minutes later with Tsonga retired with that left knee down 6-3, 6-2 putting the Serb into his 10th straight US Open semifinal.
“I put myself in a position again to be one match away from the final. As the tournament progresses, I feel like I’m getting better,” Djokovic said. “I’m reaching my peak in terms of my form.”
And that wrapped up maybe the worst night session ever at the US Open. A session which began with Sevastova rolling her ankle in the second game of a 6-0, 6-2 blowout loss to Caroline Wozniacki.
For once, maybe the US Open wished they didn’t have the roof so these matches would not have been played!
Moving on…It’s Monfils-Djokovic Thursday and it’s Novak who leads 12-0!
“I have a second opportunity to get to my first slam final, and the opportunity to maybe beat him for the first time in the main tour, to beat the world No. 1. That’s it,” Monfils said.
If Monfils ever wanted to break the duck, this would be it. But that’s for another day.
“I love watching Gael,” Djokovic said. “He’s one of the players that I will definitely pay a ticket to watch. He’s very charismatic. He plays with a smile. He enjoys tennis and enjoys life. In my eyes, this is what everybody is supposed to be like, whether you’re a sportsman or not. Bring that smile; bring that good energy. That’s why people like him.
“But also, he seems more focused at this time of his career. Especially on the hard court this year, he’s playing the best tennis he’s ever played. He’s very consistent. He hasn’t dropped a set before the semis. That says a lot about the level he’s at. Definitely expecting a tough battle.”
And for Djokovic, what an incredible first five rounds at the US Open. Two retirements, one walkover, he’s played just one full match in 11 days. I’ve never seen anything like it.
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