Dazzling Monfils made to sweat by fellow Frenchman

2010-02-05 00:00

TOP seed Gael Monfils won in straight sets, but was made to sweat by long-time friend and opponent Josselin Ouanna as the Frenchmen slugged it out at Montecasino in Johannesburg last night for a place in the SA Tennis Open quarter-finals.

Monfils, for the most part, held his serve comfortably, but at times he lost that all-important rhythm so necessary for someone who plays tennis like Brazilians do the samba.

“I had to work hard ‘cos he knows me so good, to get many returns back, he hits forehand so hard,” Monfils said of his compatriot in his delightful French accent.

“I like it because it was hard, but quick, so I feel good.”

As to today’s quarter-final opponent, seventh seed Yen-Hsun Lu of Taiwan, who was given a run for his money by an inspired Braaiketts KZN Open champion Raven Klaasen, Monfils said, “I have never played him, but I try to be aggressive, dictate the court, focus on my weapons.”

The score was 6-4 7-5, but Monfils is about more than just numbers.

He brandishes his racket like a foil, with the light touch and nimble dexterity of a fencing champion, yet has the power to unload dazzling passing shots from impossible positions when he unwinds those windmill arms and legs.

That sort of flair gives a player ranked dozens of places below him very little in the way of a real chance.

This is more than just tennis — it’s The Big Show from a man who needed more than the classical confines traditional coaching could give him.

Today’s other quarter-finals see second seed David Ferrer — he had an honest workout in beating qualifier Filip Prpic 6-3 6-4 — meet India’s Somdev Devvarman, who defeated Thiago Alves 6-4 6-1. Rajeev Ram faces third seed Feliciano Lopez and Rasta man Dustin Brown faces Stephane Robert.

A bizarre incident occurred in the doubles when Johan Brunstrom accidentally hit Rohan Bopanna with his racquet, disqualifying the Swede and his partner, the second seeds.

It was match point when the Swede’s smash went awry and he bounced his racquet in frustration, hitting the Indian’s wrist.

As tour supervisor Gerry Armstrong said later, it is regarded as unfair to expect a player who has been injured through no fault of his own to continue on level terms against an opponent who contributed directly to the injury.

Singles: S Devvarman (Ind) bt T Alves (Bra) 6-4 6-1; 2-D Ferrer (Esp) bt F Prpic (Swe) 6-3 6-4; 7-Y Lu (Tpe) bt R Klaasen (Rsa) 6-4 7-5; 1-G Monfils (Fra) bt J Ouanna (Fra) 6-4 7-5.

Doubles: R Klaasen (Rsa)/I van der Merwe (Rsa) bt 4-J Coetzee (Rsa)/R Wassen (Ned) 4-6 6-2 10-8; R Bopanna (Ind)/A Qureshi (Pak) bt 2-J Brunstrom (Swe)/J Rojer (Aho) 3-6 6-3 9-9, default; 3-E Butorac (USA)/R Ram (USA) bt P Amritraj (Ind)/J Cerretani (USA) 6-4 7-6 (8/6); S Darcis (Bel)/X Malisse (Bel) bt S Ratiwatana (Tha)/S Ratiwatana (Tha) 3-6 6-4 10-8.

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