Monfils Outlasts Shapovalov In Epic Five-Set Thriller
Experience prevailed over youth in an epic third-round battle on Saturday between No. 13 seed Gael Monfils and Denis Shapovalov. The Frenchman weathered numerous inspired comebacks from the #NextGenATP Canadian to advance 6-7(5), 7-6(4), 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-3, with a visibly emotional Monfils accepting the roars of the crowd after three hours and 35 minutes of play.
“I think people love me because I play with my heart. I fight. It’s always something special with me,” Monfils said. “You never know how and what I can do on the court. I think that’s why the people like that, a little bit [of] mystery part of me.
“I like the way I am now. I like the way the crowd is behind me. I love the energy here. I’m happy.”
Monfils and Shapovalov arrived in top form for their showdown in Louis Armstrong Stadium, having not dropped a set in their first two rounds. They both came out swinging and produced more winners than errors in the opening set, but it was Shapovalov who dictated most of the exchanges with aggressive all-court flair. In what would become a trend throughout the night, the 20-year-old twice fought back from down a break before storming through the first-set tie-break.
The Frenchman produced his own Houdini act in the second set, though. Shapovalov served for a two-set lead at 5-4, but Monfils crawled back by mixing up electric winners with off-pace shots. The No. 13 seed held the lead throughout the tie-break and levelled the match.
Monfils continued to ride his momentum, grabbing the third set with a single break of serve at 2-2 and sprinting out to a two-break, 4-1 advantage in the third set. But with his new coach, former Top 10 player Mikhail Youzhny, urging him on, the Canadian began to resurface. Sensing he had no choice but to gamble, Shapovalov went for broke from the baseline and continued to find the corners. When Monfils failed to serve out the match at 5-4 and sent a forehand wide, the 20-year-old threw his arms up and motioned for the crowd to get out of their seats.
But his biggest comeback was still to come. Monfils rallied from 2/5 in the fourth-set tie-break and earned a match point at 6/5, but Shapovalov bravely erased with it a huge forehand. Two points later, the crowd gasped as Monfils double faulted to send the match to a decider.
The Frenchman showed incredible mental toughness and rebounded immediately, pushing Shapovalov around the baseline to break at 2-1 in the fifth set. Shapovalov saved another match point on his serve at 2-5 with a blistering backhand, but Monfils made good on his third chance and both men embraced at the net after their hard-fought battle.
Next up for Monfils is Spaniard Pablo Andujar, a winner earlier in the day over Kazakh Alexander Bublik. Andujar is through to the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the first time at age 33.