Rejuvenated Monfils marches into Australian Open quarterfinals

France's Gael Monfils celebrates after winning a match against Serbia's Miomir Kecmanovic. (AFP)
France's Gael Monfils celebrates after winning a match against Serbia's Miomir Kecmanovic. (AFP)

At 35 and recently married, Monfils has a new lease on life, and wants to go even further in the tournament

By Reuters

Published: Sun 23 Jan 2022, 6:26 PM

Gael Monfils’s blistering start to the season continued on Sunday as he eased past Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic 7-5 7-6(4) 6-3 to reach his second Australian Open quarterfinals.

With wife and top women’s player Elina Svitolina beaming in the crowd, the flamboyant Frenchman lit up the Margaret Court Arena with sparkling shot-making to reach the last eight at Melbourne Park for the first time since 2016.

“It was really tough, he played extremely fast on both sides,” said 17th seed Monfils. “I tried to be very aggressive today ... It was just battling, battling, hanging in there.”

Monfils wrapped up the match with trademark panache, leaping high to thump a backhand crosscourt winner and end Kecmanovic’s dream run since the Serb avoided a first-round clash against the deported world number one Novak Djokovic.

At 35 and recently married, Monfils has a new lease on life, and wants to go even further in the tournament.

“I want to do better .... We are not quite finished yet,” he said.

Monfils will take on world number seven Matteo Berrettini for a semifinal spot after the Italian defeated Pablo Carreno Busta in straight sets.

Monfils suffered a defeat in a five-set contest against Berrettini in their last Grand Slam meeting at the 2019 US open quarter-finals.

“Matteo, a lot of confidence for last two years,” Monfils said of Berrettini, who is nicknamed “The Hammer” on the tour for his thumping forehands.

“He played extremely aggressive, big serve, flashy tennis with the forehand.

“Last time I played him, I was a little bit, whatever you call it, unlucky or not. It was very tight, five-setter in quarters in a slam.”

Berrettini wins

Berrettini defeated Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta 7-5 7-6(4) 6-4 on Sunday to reach the quarterfinals.

Berrettini, coming off a marathon five-set win over Carlos Alcaraz, broke Carreno Busta in the 11th game of the opening set after two successive net cords went his way at Rod Laver Arena.

The Italian saved a break-point in the next game before firing some big serves to wrap up the first set. Berrettini dominated on his serve in the second set and won the tiebreaker with the help of three aces.

Carreno Busta showedfight in the contest but could not match Berrettini, who won 87% of points on his first serve and wrapped up the match in two hours and 22 minutes.

Laver at the arena

A day after declaring Ash Barty unbeatable at her best, Australian great Rod Laver had the best seat in the arena named after him as the world number one delivered another masterclass at the Australian Open on Sunday.

The only player to complete the Grand Slam twice, Laver was among those applauding the reigning Wimbledon champion in her 6-4 6-3 triumph over Amanda Anisimova on Sunday.

It was the most challenging match of this Australian Open for Barty, whose streak of winning 63 straight service games was snapped by her American rival in the second set.

But an eighth straight victory to continue an unbeaten start to 2022 took the 25-year-old into the Australian Open quarterfinals for the fourth year in succession.

The top seed will play American Jessica Pegula, a quarterfinalist in Melbourne last February, on Tuesday.

Barty, bidding to become the first local since Chris O’Neil in 1978 to win the Australian Open, has more in common with Laver than their brilliant backhands and status as Grand Slam champions, with both born in the state of Queensland.

In typically understated fashion, she returned serve to his complement.

“It’s so nice to have him enjoying his own house, enjoying his own court. He was unbeatable. I’m certainly not,” Barty said.

“Obviously, he’s an exceptional human being. He’s an amazing champion of our sport. He’s iconic.

“And, in the same breath he’s also a down-to-earth Queenslander who just loves his sport.”

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