Saturday, May 28, 2011
Frenchman Gael Monfils celebrating after defeating Belgian Steve Darcis on day 6.
An nearly perfect day for French players turned a little cloudy when Stanislas Wawrinka came back from two sets down to stun Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 4-6, 6-7)(3), 7-6(5), 6-2, 6-3.
Before that, Gael Monfils had crushed Steve Darcis 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 and Richard Gasquet dispatched Thomaz Bellucci 6-2, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. Those two wins bookmarked a fantastic effort by their WTA counterpart Marion Bartoli, who edged Julia Goerges in three sets.
Unfortunately for the partisan home crowd, it was not to be for Tsonga, who played so well in the first two sets against the flying Swiss, controlling the match with a booming serve down the tee, a big forehand and effective net approaches. Wawrinka began to play more inside the court from the third set onwards however, cutting off hard balls to his one-handed backhand, serving big himself and staying strong in forehand rallies.
Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga grimaces as he loses to Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka
He broke Tsonga to 5-3 in the final set when the Frenchman erred on a forehand, and then he won the contest on his third match point with a screaming inside-out forehand winner. Tsonga said that Wawrinka simply zoned on him in the last three sets. "I felt that he was making no mistakes at all. If I wasn't hitting the ball very strong and putting it in the corner, I would not win a single point," the no.17 seed said. "And then the ball didn't bounce anymore, so I hit the ball as hard as I could. I couldn't make any winning points. The one who loses the third set is in a much more difficult situation. I put everything in the battle in the third set to try and close the match. That's what tennis is about. It's a mental thing, and today he clearly was stronger than I was throughout the match… He simply played a superb match."
2008 semi-finalist Monfils played a near-faultless match against Darcis, despite the fact that, as is often the case at his home tournament, he is coming in lacking in match practice due to illness and injury.
"It was not easy in terms of my game," said the no.9 seed. "And now this is a new week, a new tournament. Of course I'll play against stronger players. Otherwise, I'll perhaps change the way I play a little. I'll have to be much more aggressive, but apart from this, I'm happy."Monfils knows that against David Ferrer in the Round of 16, he faces a tussle against an accomplished clay courter. "I'll turn the page immediately, because as I told my coaches, I think I have survived. I've lived on what I know - how to defend myself on the court. But next week I'll have to go up a level and enhance my performance. Even today I was not totally relaxed when I was hitting the balls - I was not fluid enough in my forearms. The winning shots were not good enough. Too many of these little things that I don't have at present (if I want) to go further."