Dubai: Gael Monfils and a budding ‘artist’ Stefanos Tsitsipas stayed the course on behalf of the favourites to enter the semi-finals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, on Thursday.
While Rotterdam champion Monfils battled with himself and determined qualifier Ricardas Berankis for a 6-1, 6-7, 6-2 win, Tsitsipas overcame a gutsy Hubert Hurkacz from Poland 7-6, 6-7, 6-1 to set up a mouth-watering semi-final on Friday.
Tsitsipas, who famously knocked out the fancied Roger Federer in their fourth round match at the 2019 Australian Open, termed himself as an “artist on and off the court” following his three-set win in two hours and 19 minutes.
“Tennis is an art and the spectators who come are also artists as they are the ones who create the environment for us to play,” Tsitsipas, 20, said.
“It is my endeavour to be an artist on and off the court, be it through my game or through my lifestyle.”
After taking the opening set 7-6, the Greek saw his unflinching opponent hang in to take the second set and draw level. But in the third it was one-way with breaks in the second and fourth games enough for the fifth seed to go through for the meeting with red-hot Monfils.
In the earlier quarter-final, it looked as though Monfils had things under control early as breaks in the fourth and sixth game saw him serve out the opening set in a mere 23 minutes. In the second, the 32-year-old Frenchman suddenly seemed to run out of energy as his opponent from Lithuania broke in the sixth for a 4-2 lead.
But Monfils fought right back with a couple of breaks in the seventh and ninth games, only to see the 28-year-old draw level at 5-5 and then go on to win the tiebreaker and push the match into a deciding third set.
After an early exchange of breaks, Monfils got a second in the sixth for 4-2 and then rattled off a game on love before breaking a third time to wrap up set and match following a final double fault from Berankis. “He was very aggressive. He hit the ball big. He was quick and honestly, it was amazing how quick he was on all my passing shots. I felt he was there all the time,” Monfils said. “I think I’m quite good. It was quite tricky for me.”
Monfils also complimented his opponent. “He was a bit more aggressive,” the Frenchman added. “I couldn’t really find my rhythm, as well. I felt he was a bit more pumped. It was tougher for me. I really had to really get upset and bring more energy for me, to move more my legs, to be a bit more aggressive on my shots, more aggressivity on every shot. That was it.
“Second set, I don’t know, it was a little bit different. I mean, I had less on my shots. I felt a bit flatter. That’s why I wanted to come out strong and show nothing. Things went a little bit quick. Then honestly at that moment is tough because you are angry, you have to straightaway focus on the new games. He played a bit better,” he added.
Gael Monfils bt Ricardas Berankis 6-1, 7-6, 6-2; Stefanos Tsitsipas x Hubert Hurkacz 7-6, 6-7, 6-1
Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan/Purav Raja bt Philipp Kohlschreiber/Fernando Verdasco 7-6, 6-7, 1-0