Monfils, Gasquet Power Through

Richard Gasquet and Gael Monfils made the home fans happy on Monday at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters as both scored first-round wins with bagel second sets.

The ninth-seeded Gasquet defeated Spain’s Nicolas Almagro 6-4, 6-0 in 69 minutes. The Frenchman twice squandered a break advantage in the first set, but from 4-4, reeled off the final eight games of the match to win the pair’s seventh meeting and record his fourth win in a row over Almagro.

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The 29-year-old Gasquet was forced to delay his start to the year due to a back injury, but returned to action with victory in Montpellier (d. Mathieu) in February. Gasquet made his mark at the Monte-Carlo Country Club 11 years ago, when he stunned Roger Federer in the quarter-finals before losing a close semi-final to Rafael Nadal.

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Monfils recorded a 7-5, 6-0 victory over Gilles Muller in just over an hour, rallying from a 2-5 deficit in the first set to go on a tear of 11 straight games. The 29 year old is coming off successive quarter-final showings at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournaments in Indian Wells (l. to Raonic) and Miami (l. to Nishikori) and claimed his 16th win of the season as he converted all five of his break points.

“It was just a break down, 5-2, one break on clay. Of course, on hard courts it would have been more complicated. But on clay… He made two double-faults,” said Monfils, who defeated Roger Federer en route to the semi-finals here last year (l. to Berdych).

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“So during that first set I didn’t return well, but I was able to improve. I believe I played quite well. Little by little I was able to get used to the court and I was able to play a bit higher, not always deep enough, but I was able to find the right angles to make him move. He was not running too well on clay, I thought.

“I played a solid match. It was not a great match, but it was a solid game.”

There was more French cheer as qualifier Pierre-Hugues Herbert set a second-round clash with No. 2 seed Andy Murray after beating Guido Pella 6-3, 6-4. It was the 25-year-old Herbert’s first clay-court win at tour level.

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