Monfils Fells Federer

Gael Monfils stunned second seed Roger Federer 6-4, 7-6(5) Thursday at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters to reach the quarter-finals at this ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament for the first time.

The Frenchman imposed early and, despite a strong effort to level the match from Federer, Monfils reeled off four straight points down 3-5 in the tie-break to clinch the victory in one hour and 44 minutes.

The World No. 18 hit 22 winners to Federer’s 17, while the Swiss struggled with 38 unforced errors and could only capitalise on one of his three break point opportunities.

“I am solid and I move well, so I know when I play well on clay, I am difficult to beat,” said Monfils. “Now, as to Roger in particular, of course I have a precise tactic against him. But three or four times during that match he changed his game and I had to adapt.

“I’m happy I won that match because I played a good tennis match. But it’s not finished. It’s not over yet. This was the Round of 16 only. But I know that when I’m in good shape, I can play very well. The Top 10 is not far away.”

The 28 year old claimed his biggest win of the season, and was also a quarter-finalist in Rotterdam (l. to Berdych), a semi-finalist in Montpellier (l. to Gasket) and runner-up in Marseille (l. to Simon).

A four-time finalist in Monte-Carlo, Federer was looking to join a small group of players who have won 200 or more ATP World Tour matches on both hard and clay courts. The only other three players to have hit 200 or more wins on hard and clay courts are Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer and Tommy Robredo.

“It was not the best end to the match, that’s for sure,” said Federer. “I think I did a good job to hang around in the second set. I also had chances of my own. It remained close, but I never felt like things were really happening the way I wanted them to be going during the whole match. The way I felt at 5-3 sort of showed how I really felt, I guess.

“It’s the very beginning of the clay-court season. It’s going to take me some time to feel 100 per cent comfortable. Not many guys are perfect this week. But it was a good week for me anyways to come here and practise with the best, play a couple of matches. At least gives me some information, if I’m trying to be a bit positive right now.

“Of course, I was really hoping to do better because I felt there was an opportunity. Unfortunately, Gaël played well today. It was always going to be a tough match.”

Monfils’ next opponent will be Grigor Dimitrov, who earlier signalled a return to top form as he routed defending champion Stan Wawrinka, 6-1, 6-2, in the third round.

The ninth seed had failed to win back-to-back matches in four tournaments leading into the start of the clay-court swing in Monte-Carlo, but raced past Wawrinka in 55 minutes to reach his first quarter-final since the first week of the season in Brisbane (l. to Federer in SF).

The 23-year-old Dimitrov saved all six break points he faced and capitalised on five of his nine opportunities on Wawrinka’s serve to level their head-to-head at 2-2.

“It’s definitely one of the good wins for me, this year,” said Dimitrov. “I had a really tough draw, but I jumped out the blocks pretty fast. It was a good match for me today. I knew Stan wasn’t at his best, but I think I was the cause of that. I got the momentum really early in the match and that helped me a lot. After that it was pretty easy for me.”

The Bulgarian is through to the quarter-finals at the Monte-Carlo Country Club for the second time (l. to Nadal in 2013).

Wawrinka captured his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title in Monte-Carlo last year with victory over Federer in the final. The 30-year-old Swiss dropped to a 17-5 mark on the season.

“I didn’t know where I was, but I was not on the court for sure.” said Wawrinka. “The way it happened and the way I played upsets me. I don’t like losing like that. The only thing I can do now is accept that I played badly and try to find solutions and try to work on what I need to work on to solve the problem.”

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