Gael Monfils: The Artist Of The Court, But Not Of His Mind - UBITENNIS
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Gael Monfils: The Artist Of The Court, But Not Of His Mind

A generous Gael Monfils provides a good show to the London crowds in his match with Dominc Thiem, but falters on the final straight as he (almost) ends his ATP Finals run

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The Day 3 match between a recovering Gael Monfils and a Dominic Thiem running on fumes after his 28-tournament freshmen season in the Top 10 was supposed to be one of the least attractive in the schedule of the 2016 Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. So much so that on the previous day it was possible to scoop a lower bowl ticket for less than 20 pounds on the secondary online market. However both players put on a decent display for the predictably not-numerous crowd showing up at the O2 Arena in Greenwich for the workday afternoon event, even if, as games went by, it became increasingly apparent that Monfils could not find within himself the stamina to face his opponent with his usual running game, therefore being forced to go for the winner much earlier than expected: his first serves pushing 140 mph, repeated serve-and-volley openly challenging Thiem’s deadly backhand and explosive winners attempted from far behind the baseline certainly made the eager crowd’s day, but exemplified Monfils lack of physical condition due to the chest muscle tear that kept him out of last month’s BNP Paribas Masters in Paris. Nonetheless, the Parisian honored the match and pushed the match to the wire, when he totally crumbled under pressure gifting his opponent of the victory with three double faults in the final game.

 

The first set was decided by a single break of serve on the sixth game, when a single winning return was enough for Thiem to gain the decisive advantage thanks to three unforced errors by Monfils, who could not do much on his opponent’s serve, almost untouchable with his 76% of first serves and 89% of first serve conversion. Twenty-six minutes were enough for the Austrian to secure a one set lead but certainly not enough to dismantle Monfils’ resistance. The Frenchman intensified the frequency of his attacks and his serve-and-volleys, forcing Thiem to rush his shots and increase his error count. The 23-year old conceded his first break of the match on his opening service game of the second set, wasting a 30-0 lead and after Monfils had the crowd on their feet for a winning forehand down-the-line returning from a lob. Clearly rattled by his opponent’s intention to shorten the rallies and take the initiative from his own hands, the Austrian produced three horrible mishits also in his following service game, conceding a commanding 4-0 lead to his opponent, who went on to bring the match to the decider after only 51 minutes of play.

With their chances to advance to the semifinals on the line, the two players started the third set taking care of business on their own respective serves, with the only partial hiccup coming from an easy backhand volley missed by Thiem in the third game forcing him to handle a deuce situation. Even if there was no shortage of errors, Monfils and Thiem kept trying to take control of the game by increasing their number of net approaches, displaying some very entertaining shot-making: from a short half-volley by the Austrian to a one-handed backhand passing shot by Monfils. The Frenchman survived three break points at 3-4 with some good serves, but two games later three double faults sealed his fate and left his chances of continuing his adventure here in London in the hands of his group mates and arithmetic.

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Svetlana Kuznetsova upsets Ashleigh Barty in Cincinnati to reach the 42nd final of her career

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Russian wild card Svetlana Kuznetsova edged top seed this year’s Roland Garros champion Ashleigh Barty 6-2 6-4 in the semifinal of the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati to reach the 42nd final of her career.

 

Two-time Grand Slam champion Kuznetsova, who is now ranked world number 153, scored her third win against top 10 players this week  after beating former US Open champion Sloane Stephens and Karolina Pliskova.

Barty missed her chance to regain world number 1 spot from Naomi Osaka, who was forced to retire from her quarter final.

Barty earned the first break of the match in the second game of the opening set, when Kuznetsova netted a backhand. Kuznetsova broke back in the third game with a smash winner and earned another break at 2-2 when Barty netted a backhand. Kuznetsova hit a return winner to build up a 5-2 lead. Barty asked a medical time-out to treat he right leg. Kuznetsova held serve at 15 to close out the opening set after 30 minutes.

Kuznetsova went up a break in the first game of the second set. Barty won just three points on return in the second set. Kuznetsova closed out the second set with three winners in the 10th game.

“I am really happy. I am not really an analyzing person, but on my intuition, I am doing so much better, not repeating so many of my mistakes, just playing smarter and wiser now. It’s been so many different things when I was off, so I just enjoyed time off. Honestly, I was not missing at all the travelling and all the stress when you play tournaments, but now I have missed it and I feel good. I feel joy staying here and being here. It definitely helped me to have some time off to see other things outside tennis”, said Kuznetsova.

 

Kuznetsova set up a final against Madison Keys, who beat Sofia Kenin in straight sets. The Russian 34-year-old veteran player has qualified for her first final since last year, when she beat Donna Vekic in Washington.

 

“Madison is extremely tough. When she is on fire, it is really hard to play against her. It’s going to be a difficult match-up”, said Kuznetsova.  

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David Goffin reaches his first Masters 1000 in Cincinnati

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David Goffin beat Richard Gasquet 6-3 6-4 on an overcast afternoon to reach the first Masters 1000 final of his career and his 13th title match at ATP Tour level at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati. Goffin has dropped just one set en route to the final.

 

Goffin is returning to his best form this summer under the guidance of former Swedish player Thomas Johansson. He reached the final in Halle and his first quarter final at Wimbledon. He received a walkover after Yoshihito Nishioka was forced to withdraw from the match due to food poisoning.

The Belgian player started the match with two consecutive holds before breaking at love to open up a 4-1 lead with a backhand winner down the line.

Goffin held his next service games to seal the opening set 6-3. Gasquet earned an early break to open  2-0 lead, but Goffin won five of the next six games with two breaks. The 2017 Nitto ATP Finals runner-up served out the win at love in the 10th game after 1 hour and 16 minutes, as Gasquet sent his backhand long.

Goffin reached the semifinal in Cincinnati last year, but he was forced to retire due to an arm injury.

“I am very happy. It’s a tournament I like and I have played the best tennis in the past few years. I am really happy to reach my first Masters 1000 final here. It’s a great moment for me.”

 

 

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Richard Gasquet reaches his first Masters 1000 semifinal since Miami 2013

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Frenchman Richard Gasquet edged past this year’s Wimbledon semifinalist Roberto Bautista Agut 7-6 (7-2) 3-6 6-2 after 2 hours and 12 minutes to reach his first Masters 1000 semifinal since the 2013 Miami Open.

 

 Gasquet missed six months of action after undergoing groin surgery last January.

The French player set up a semfinal against David Goffin, who reached the semifinal after his Japanese opponent Yoshihito Nishioka withdrew from the match due to illness.

The first set went on serve with no break points en route to the tie-break. Bautista Agut hit a backhand wide at 1-2. Gasquet sealed the tie-break when Bautista Agut hit a forehand long.

Bautista Agut earned two breaks of serve in the second set and sealed it, when Gasquet made his third double fault on set point.

Gasquet broke serve with a volley in the third game of the decisive set. The French player went up a double break to race out to 4-1 lead. He saved two break points to hold his serve at deuce before serving out the third set on his first match point.

“I know how tough it was to come back. I know the moments I had at the start of the year, so I just wanted to enjoy, to fight. It is not easy to come back after six months out, but I am here. I am in semis tomorrow”,said Gasquet.

 

 

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