Gael Monfils, the in-form Frenchman who is staking a claim for a return to his peak-performance days, extended his perfect winning streak to 4-0 over Marin Cilic on Tuesday evening at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
The athletic Monfils, a winner of his eighth ATP Tour title two weeks ago at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam, recorded his 10th win in 12 matches this year with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-0 victory over the third-seeded Croatian in one hour and 45 minutes.
“I have new goals, [a] new team, [a] new routine,” said Monfils. “Obviously, wins under my belt. Everything is going fine. I am just trying to keep doing what I’m doing. Every day a little more, a little more to improve. [I’m] definitely trying to reach my goal [of returning to the Top 10] this year.”
The 32-year-old Monfils will now meet Cypriot 2015 finalist Marcos Baghdatis, who got the better of fellow wild card Mohamed Safwat of Egypt 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in one hour and 53 minutes.
Monfils got off to a fine start by breaking serve in the first game, when Cilic hooked a forehand wide, and completed the set when his Croatian opponent committed another forehand error.
Cilic, a two-time quarter-finalist at the Aviation Club (2009-10), broke Monfils to love for a 3-2 advantage in the second set. He needed three chances to wrap up the set, which ended with a backhand error from Monfils. But Monfils regrouped and won 24 of 29 total points in the decider to improve to 10-2 on the season.
“The first game was key because I knew he’s a player who plays with a lot of confidence,” said Monfils. “If you can get early in his mind, it’s always a good thing. It was a tough first game for him. [He] shanked two forehands, missed a volley. I had straightaway my plan set. [It] was just a matter of me [trying] to keep doing it the whole match.
“I was a little bit, a fraction, [I was] too defensive on the break point in the second set. [I] shanked my forehand… Then I think I played the only poor service game in this match. I think I was focused, but I just played poor this game. Then credit to him, because I pushed him to get back into the second set. He made incredible shots to close the set. “[In the third set] I had this momentum going on his service game. For me, [it] was just about putting him under pressure. Obviously it worked.”
Two days after lifting his second ATP Tour title in Marseille, Stefanos Tsitsipas defeated Matthew Ebden 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 to record his 12th win in 16 tour-level encounters this season. The reigning Next Gen ATP Finals winner won 92 per cent of first-serve points (34/37) to claim victory after one hour and 43 minutes. Aiming to reach the quarter-finals in Dubai for the second straight year, Tsitsipas will meet Egor Gerasimov in the second round. The Belarusian qualifier edged Robin Haase 7-6(2), 7-6(5).
“[After winning in Marseille] I had to take the flight next day knowing that I’m going to have to play the day after. [I spent] six hours on the plane. I arrived here at 2 a.m. in the morning, then had to play the same day. I don’t know if [my level was] because of that, but I was expecting a little bit better today,” Tsitsipas said.
Borna Coric withstood 12 aces to edge lucky loser Jiri Vesely 7-5, 3-6, 7-6(4). The 2015 semi-finalist improves to 7-3 at the event and will meet Tomas Berdych for a quarter-final spot. The in-form Czech also required a final-set tie-break to advance, beating another lucky loser, Ilya Ivaskha, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(4) in two and a half hours.