Murray outclasses Monfils in a non-thrilling 5 setter
TENNIS – Andy Murray was facing Gael Monfils for a place in the French Open semifinal. This is the major where Murray has most struggled to assert himself but conversely where Monfils has had his most success. Both players have made it to the semifinal round once before and very eager for a second trip. Cordell Hackshaw
Andy Murray (7) was facing Gael Monfils (23) for a place in the French Open semifinal. This is the major where Murray has most struggled to assert himself but conversely where Monfils has had his most success. Both players have made it to the semifinal round once before and very eager for a second trip. The match had all the makings of a Davis Cup tie with the French crowd clearly supporting their last player in the singles draw. However, it turned out to be a letdown not just for French fans but for tennis fans all around. The match had highs and lows, ebbs and flows and then it simply flatlined. In the near dead of darkness, Murray dispatched of Monfils 6-4 6-1 4-6 1-6 6-0.
Murray took an early lead with 3-0 lead in the first set. He denied Monfils the chance of the early break to maintain the lead. However, the Frenchman would break in the 5th game and then hold serve to get things even 3-3. They held serve until the 10th game when Murray showing his trademark defensive skills, outlasted Monfils in a 34-shot rally to break him and take the set 6-4. In the 2nd set, it seemed as though Monfils went away completely until the final moments when facing triple set points for a 0-6 set, he decided to get on the scoreboard. Monfils held serve and forced Murray to serve it out. Murray would require a further 5 more set points in order to close out the set and take a 2-0 set advantage 6-4 6-1.
The French crowd began to thin out as they felt there was no point sticking around watching this losing effort from Monfils. They had all reason to feel this way as at the beginning of the 3rd set, Monfils still seemed disinterested in the match as he was facing 2 break points. However, perhaps it was sensing the waning supporting from the crowd or perhaps his own ego, Monfils became heavily invested in the match. He saved those early break points and held serve to stay ahead 1-0. Monfils began to play to the crowd. He elicited their support to spur him on in the match and soon it was Murray who was having trouble holding serve. Monfils maintained the slight lead in front at 5-4 and forced Murray to serve to stay in the set. Murray’s self-confidence began to waver as he was the one making the unnecessary errors. In the end he would net the backhand and now Monfils had a hold in the match as he took the 3rd set 6-4. “I’m just happy I waited and I was patient, because in the beginning the conditions were very difficult. There was a lot of wind, and in these conditions Andy’s much stronger than I am.” Monfils said to explain his slow start.
It was almost like watching a role reversal as Murray began playing like Monfils did in the beginning of the match and Monfils like Murray. The Scotsman could hardly gain a foothold in the points. He was being forced to retrieve instead of dictating play as he preferred. His shots missed by miles and his shot selections were questionable and proved to be costly and he was down 1-4 in the 4th set and serving to stop the bleeding. Murray would later offer up this assessment of the match thus far, “[A]t the start of the match I was the one dictating all of the points. The third set I was still dictating a fair amount of them. But in the fourth set,…he put me on the defensive that whole set. So I was having to do most of the running. I don’t know exactly why,…he raised his level significantly in the third set. The fourth set, my level definitely dropped in the fourth a bit.” Murray went on to be broken in the 6th game and Monfils served out the set 6-1 and forced the match to be decided in a 5th set.
Now by this time, the crowds were beside themselves as it looked like Monfils could take this match. Murray appeared to be listless on court perhaps because he spent the most time on court than all the other quarterfinalists. There was also the added issue of the late hour which was making it difficult to see the ball. The tournament referee came out on court and asked players whether they wanted to play and this caused a bit of reaction from the crowd as they wanted the match to continue as the momentum was clearly with Monfils. However, they would get their wish but that momentum simply went dead. In what can be describe in no other words than a complete capitulation, Monfils lost the next six games winning a total of 7 points in the entire set. There is not much one can say about the set other than Murray simply had to put the ball in play and watch Monfils commit error after error. Murray would only need the minimum 24 points needed to win a set. Murray was at a lost as to what happened, “[T]he way that he played the last three or four games, yeah, for me it was unexpected, because his level in the third and fourth sets was extremely high.” Murray moved through to his second French Open semifinal slot to play Rafael Nadal (1) 6-4 6-1 4-6 1-6 6-0 in 3 hours and 15 minutes.
Monfils went from dropping four points of serve in the 4th set to only winning 4 points on serve in the 5th set. He himself had no real explanation for his poor performance towards the end of the match, “I think I played a good first game. I think it was 1530. Then everything happened very fast. I missed a few shots, and I don’t know. I don’t really know what happened…I start to miss a lot of balls…Very strange…[I]t was dark, but I really wanted to finish tonight, because I knew that he was not in great shape. I felt better. Maybe that’s why I was a bit rushed in attacking him. I’m very frustrated.” He would also mention his lack of maturity in these situations and the need for him to work harder to take his talent to the next level. All in all, one hopes that Monfils find this balance and really start producing the sort of tennis his immense talents suggest.