© Peter Staples/ATP Tour

Gael Monfils in action on Day 7 of the Australian Open.

Monfils Marches On In Melbourne

Frenchman advances in straight sets on John Cain Arena

Gael Monfils likes getting things done quickly but is not afraid to put in the hard yards when needed.

The Frenchman was given a real test by Serbia’s Miomir Kecmanovic in the fourth round of the Australian Open on Sunday evening, but the World No. 20 stayed strong to reach his 10th Grand Slam quarter-final with a 7-5, 7-6(4), 6-3 victory in two hours and 35 minutes on John Cain Arena.

The victory takes Monfils to the last eight in Melbourne for the first time since 2016 [l. to Raonic], but he has his eyes on a bigger prize in Melbourne.

“It’s been a long journey for me and I’m quite happy, but it’s not finished,” said the 17th seed in his on-court interview. “I will try to play this quarter-final not like the last time, I will try to be better. It’s an achievement but we’re not quite finished yet.”

Monfils had spent just five hours and five minutes on court in racing through his first three rounds, but World No. 77 Kecmanovic was also full of confidence having gone past the second round of a major for the first time in his career. A three-set Monfils victory in the pair’s first meeting at the Rolex Paris Masters just two months ago also suggested it would be anything but one-way traffic.

A tight start saw no break points until the 10th game but a set that had seemed destined for a tie-break then burst into life. Monfils recovered from 0/40 to hold and Kecmanovic got himself out of the same situation in the very next game. A double fault from the Serb at 5-6 down gave Monfils another opportunity, however, one he took with aplomb with a rasping backhand winner.

Kecmanovic defiantly stuck with his higher-ranked opponent but was left with a mountain to climb after 17th seed Monfils also edged the second set tie-break. The Frenchman’s explosive game finished off the Serb’s hopes in the third, Monfils ending the match with 54 winners and 81 per cent (48/59) of points won behind his first serve.

“It was very tough, he played extremely fast on both sides,” said Monfils. “I tried to be very aggressive today, tried to not let him dictate the points. I served quite well, and then it was just battling, battling, hanging in there.”

Monfils’ opponent in the last eight will be either seventh seed Matteo Berrettini or 19th seed Pablo Carreno Busta. With a 3-0 losing ATP Head2Head record against Italian Berrettini and a 3-3 record against Spaniard Carreno Busta, the Frenchman will not underestimate his opponent, no matter whom he faces.

“Both are extremely good,” said Monfils. “Matteo, I lost to him in the quarter-final of the [2019] US Open 7-6 in the fifth, and Pablo beat me in a semi-final [Metz] last year, so it’s going to be fun, a great match, but I will be ready for them.”

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