France’s Gael Monfils recorded the biggest win of his season Wednesday afternoon at the Rogers Cup in Montreal defeating Japan’s Kei Nishikori 6-7(4) 7-5 7-6(6). Nishikori served for the match in both the second and third set, and also had four match points in the final set tiebreaker.
Coming in to the match Monfils was 0-3 against Nishikori including a heartbreaking loss in the quarterfinals of the Rio Olympics last year where Monfils held three match points. It was a step in the right direction for the Frenchman who has struggled mightily this season to say the least. After reaching his career high (#6) in November 2016, and reaching the ATP World Tour Finals, 2017 hasn’t gone to plan. Injuries have forced him to miss big tournaments such as the Miami Open and the Internazionali BNL d’Italia. Last week as the defending champion at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. he fell to qualifier Yuki Bhambri in the round of 32.
As Monfils was down 7-6 5-2 today it seemed as if the nightmare of a season would continue. Nishikori was in total control with a chance to serve out the match in the second set at 5-3, he then dropped the next four games with a fury of unforced errors evening the match at one set a piece. Nishikori isn’t a stranger to three set matches either. Coming in to today’s match he had an 11-3 record in the final set of matches on the season. The two were neck and neck most of the way in the third set before Nishikori broke to go up 5-3. Then yet again, Nishikori failed to serve out the match. In the tiebreaker as Nishikori led 6-2, it seemed like he would finally get through until Monfils eventfully saved four match points before finally winning 8-6 in the third set tiebreaker, two hours and forty-one minutes later.
It’s tough to tell whether or not this was the match that will get Monfils on track to get back to last year’s form, but the way he competed today was certainly a good sign. With semifinal points to defend from last years US Open, these next couple weeks will be crucial for Gael Monfils. Beating a player of Kei Nishikori’s caliber and getting his first top 10 win on the season has to give him a ton of confidence and hopefully for his sake it carries over throughout the US hardcourt swing.
Next up for Monfils is the Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut. He’s had success against him previously winning all three matches without dropping a set. It’s hard to imagine Monfils has much left in the tank after a physically grueling match like today’s, but it’s a great opportunity for him to reach the quarterfinals of a Masters 1000 event for the first time this season.
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