Charismatic Gael Monfils ready for Roger Federer
French man enjoying his time in Flushing Meadows
Gael Monfils of France returns a shot against Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria in their men’s singles fourth round match at the US Open.
As Gael Monfils played in the fourth round on Tuesday, it was impossible to tell that he was winning his match in straight sets or that he had not dropped a set in the tournament. He spent most of his time between points muttering to himself in French, often while gesturing to no one in particular with his racket. He argued with the umpire. On one or two points, he simply stopped playing.
He returned one of Grigor Dimitrov’s serves straight into the stands, seemingly on purpose. The scoreboard, however, told the real story. Monfils beat the number seven seed Dimitrov, 7-5, 7-6 (6), 7-5, lifting himself into the quarter-finals for only the second time in his eight US Open appearances. In the brutal heat of the afternoon on the Arthur Ashe Stadium court, another straight-sets victory seemed like a gift from above, even if Monfils didn’t appear to enjoy it much.
Afterward, though, he was all smiles. “It is because I love to play here,” Monfils said of his victory. “I have such a good feeling here. I just feel good. I am happy, so I deliver a good game.” Monfils’ upset, coupled with a later victory by second-seeded Roger Federer, sets up an entertaining quarterfinal showdown between Federer, the 17-time major champion, and the charismatic Monfils just a few weeks after the two faced off in a Masters series event near Cincinnati. (Federer won.) Federer dispatched number 17 Roberto Bautista Agut, 6-4, 6-3, 6-2, using an impressive service game and a heavy reliance on net approaches.
Looking to his quarter-final match, Federer said Monfils has “top-10 potential”. “I think I can speak on behalf of so many players: We love watching him play,” he said.
Monfils, the number 20 seed, plays to the crowd with a showman’s flair. His results have not matched that affinity, and he said that up until Tuesday, he had never won a match in Ashe Stadium. “I would say this time I am maybe a little bit lucky,” Monfils said. “I think I played good. But I haven’t changed a lot. I played maybe more solid today, but I stay the same.”
Against Dimitrov, Monfils showed off his refurbished game, less reliant on long, grueling points and more on quick-strike efficiency. He served well, with 14 aces, and lost his serve only once. He continued his trademark of running around many balls to get to his forehand, but his backhand was effective, too. He sometimes unravelled in between points, but he stayed composed while the ball was in play, which could not be said of his opponent.
Dimitrov, despite his high seed, has not done spectacularly well in big matches.