Magic Before Heartbreak For Monfils In Montreal
Gael Monfils produced a thrilling three-set victory in the quarter-finals of the Coupe Rogers on Saturday afternoon, defeating Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(2). But the Frenchman was unable to take the court for the semi-finals against top seed Rafael Nadal, withdrawing due to an ankle sprain.
It was a disappointing turn of events for the No. 16 seed, who initially hurt himself in the second set of his match against Bautista Agut, sliding to his left.
The first thing Monfils' coach Liam Smith asked him after the victory in the last eight was, "How bad is your ankle?"
"I didn't roll it fully, but I rolled it a little bit, enough for me to be careful. He told me I had no chance. I was like, 'Yeah, but we never know'," Monfils said. "He knows I love these matches, night session, Rafa. It's because I'm playing tennis for that, for the big moments, big shows. He said, 'But not this one'. He's right, because we've been battling all year. [I was] unfortunate in March, a little bit again in July. Maybe it was the safest decision not to play tonight."
It appeared that he was slowing down against the Spaniard, potentially hampered by that moment. But Monfils gutted out the match against Bautista Agut, who needed a victory to crack the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings for the first time.
It was the first time Monfils advanced to the semi-finals of an ATP Masters 1000 event 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.
"I chose to play fully the service games where I was hitting hard, and then in the tie-break, I gave it all," Monfils said. "I tried to be aggressive. The backhand down the line helped me a lot. I was able to pull it out."
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 was Monfils' first trip to the last four since that stretch.
Did You Know?
Monfils has reached three Masters 1000 finals, with his most recent coming three years ago at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters.