© Peter Staples/ATP Tour

Gael Monfils reaches the second week at Melbourne Park without dropping a set.

Monfils' Gael-Force AO Continues Unabated

Frenchman has won five sets 6-1 or better this week

Gael Monfils’s flying start to 2022 continued on Friday at the Australian Open, where he won his seventh straight-set match of the season, 7-6(4), 6-1, 6-3, over Cristian Garin.

The 35-year-old Frenchman romped to the Adelaide International 1 title to start the new year, and has found an even higher gear on his way to the fourth round in Melbourne. He’s now recorded five sets of 6-1 or better this fortnight, including two apiece against Federico Coria and Alexander Bublik in the early rounds.

Garin made the 17th seed work hard for the opening set, erasing an early break deficit and edging out to a 4-1 lead in the tie-break. Two Monfils aces started a run of five straight points as he claimed a crucial advantage.

“It was a tough one, different conditions today,” Monfils said in his post-match press conference. “It was hot. It was quicker. I felt that I needed to adapt the game plan a little bit. He was playing well. I had to battle and was very lucky and fortunate to win this breaker [in the first set], and I just think I was solid enough to win in straight sets.”

In stark contrast to Monfils, the Chilean spent over nine hours on court in the first two rounds against Facundo Bagnis and Pedro Martinez. After those hard miles, the chances of a comeback against the in-form Frenchman were slim.

Monfils pressed home the advantage with two immediate breaks in set two, and had one foot in the locker room when three Garin unforced errors surrendered another break for 3-2 in the third.

The 16th seed made his last stand in the ensuing game as he willed his way to a break point in an 18-point game. Monfils eventually sealed the hold with an ace—one of 17 in the contest—then finished the two-hour, one-minute match with his 30th winner on an easy forehand volley.

Monfils has not lost a completed match in 2022. His lone defeat came when he retired with a neck problem against Thiago Monteiro after the pair split sets at the Adelaide International 2. Back at full fitness, he’s through to his first Slam fourth round since the 2020 Australian Open. He’ll bid for his 10th major quarter-final on Sunday against the unseeded Serb Miomir Kecmanovic.

Kecmanovic’s chances of a deep Australian Open run looked slim when he drew compatriot Novak Djokovic in the opening round. But the 22-year-old is now flying the flag for Serbia into the middle weekend following a 6-4, 6-7(8), 6-2, 7-5 win over Lorenzo Sonego.

The direct beneficiary of the World No. 1’s withdrawal, Kecmanovic backed up a pair of straight-set wins with a gutsy performance to knock off the 25th seed.

“It is unbelievable,” Kecmanovic said in his post-match press conference. “A week ago I was supposed to play the World No. 1 and didn't have much of a chance, but now I'm in the fourth round, so I'm happy that I was able to use this chance and that I've been playing some really good tennis.”

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After a strong start in 1573 Arena, the Serb gave up a break advantage in set two before seeing a trio of set points go begging from 6-3 in the tie-break. Sonego’s momentum stalled midway through the third, however, as his typically dependable forehand deserted him.

The match looked destined for a fifth as Sonego found his range for a 4-2 fourth-set lead, but Kecmanovic’s plucky retrieving caught up with the Italian late. Sonego’s big forehands started to come back with increasing regularity, and five of the match’s last six games went the way of the winner.

Despite making just 54 per cent of his first serves, Kecmanovic owned the rallies over the course of the three-hour, 22-minute match. While both men created 13 break points, Kecmanovic converted six to his opponent’s two.

On facing Monfils, the Serb said: “[It] will definitely be tough. I played him last tournament in Paris. It was a tough three-set match. For sure it's going to be difficult. He's been playing well. But I've also played really well and have this momentum going, so hopefully it will be enough to take me through.”