Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Sports

Less flashy Monfils rolls on

NEW YORK — For years, the book on Gael Monfils was that he was supremely talented — and more interested in producing an entertaining display than an effective one.

That made for good videos. What it didn't always add up to was wins: He had lost six straight major quarterfinals entering Tuesday's all-French matchup at the U.S. Open against Lucas Pouille, who eliminated Rafael Nadal in the previous round.

Playing steadily, and with only a dose of the spectacular, the 10th-seeded Monfils reached his first major semifinal since 2008 by beating an error-prone Pouille 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 in a match that concluded under Arthur Ashe Stadium's retractable roof.

Afterward, Monfils took a swipe at those who have questioned his methods.

"I dive because I want to win the point. Definitely I want to win the point. When you make the show, honestly, it's to entertain, but it's (also) to win. So what's the point to make the show and lose, actually?" Monfils said. "That's why people think, 'Oh, he's jumping, he's sliding.' In the end, you think I'm stupid?"

Monfils, who turned 30 last week, had made it to a Grand Slam semifinal once, 8½ years ago in front of a partisan crowd at the French Open. But he has been playing the best tennis of his career lately, winning all 15 sets he has played during this tournament.

"It's a court I love," he told the crowd after finishing off Pouille. "I always say that the French is my home, but this one is my second."

The 24th-seeded Pouille ran out of steam, winding up with 44 unforced errors to 15 for Monfils. Pouille never had won a U.S. Open match or any match that lasted five sets until last week; his 4-hour-plus win against Nadal on Sunday was his third five-setter in a row.

No one has ever won four straight five-setters at a major in the Open era, which dates to 1968.

"Of course," Pouille said, "I was a bit tired."

Up next for Monfils will be a matchup against No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who moved into the semifinals for the 10th straight year when No. 9 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga stopped because of a hurt left knee, the defending champion's third opponent to pull out with an injury. Djokovic won the first two sets 6-3, 6-2.

In the day's first women's quarterfinal, Roberta Vinci fell apart after losing the opening set on a foot fault, allowing No. 2 seed Angelique Kerber to take the last nine games and win 7-5, 6-0.

Kerber's first U.S. Open semifinal since 2011 will come against two-time runner-up Caroline Wozniacki, a 6-0, 6-2 winner against Anastasija Sevastova, who injured her right ankle in the second game and never got going.

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