Magic From La Monf: Monfils Sets Nadal SF Showdown In Monteal
Throughout the second and third sets of his Coupe Rogers quarter-final, Gael Monfils appeared to be slowing down, potentially hampered by a slide to his left early in the second set. It appeared to be a matter of time before Roberto Bautista Agut — who needed a victory to crack the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings for the first time — would seize control of the match.
But Monfils battled hard and saved his best tennis for last, playing a sensational final-set tie-break to beat Bautista Agut 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(2) on Saturday, advancing to the semi-finals in Montreal after two hours and 25 minutes. The Frenchman will return to Court Central later Saturday evening to face top seed and defending champion Rafael Nadal in the last four.
This is Monfils’ first ATP Masters 1000 semi-final since 2016, when he made the last four in Toronto, succumbing against Novak Djokovic. The 32-year-old won five fewer points compared to Bautista Agut, but he finished off his victory with a massive forehand winner off a short ball, lifting his arms in celebration with a smile across his face.
As the match wore on, the rally patterns became increasingly similar, with Bautista Agut attacking with his forehand from the backhand side of the court as Monfils hung in there defensively and tried to make things uncomfortable for the Spaniard.
But when it mattered most, Monfils significantly upped his aggression, blasting away from the baseline to win his first two return points in the deciding-set tie-break. He sprinted to a 5/0 lead, which he did not relinquish. Monfils saved eight of the 10 break points he faced in the match.
The World No. 20 advanced to at least the semi-finals in three of his first four tournaments this year, highlighted by a triumph at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam. This is Monfils’ first trip to the last four since that stretch.
Nadal leads his FedEx ATP Head2Head series against Monfils 14-2, with the Frenchman’s most recent victory against the legendary lefty coming at 2012 Doha. Ten of Nadal’s wins in this rivalry have come in straight sets.
Did You Know?
Monfils has reached three Masters 1000 finals, with his most recent coming three years ago at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters.