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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 March 2019

Dubai Tennis: Gael Monfils breezes past Marcos Baghdatis to reach quarter-finals

Frenchman extends his winning streak to seven matches, despite difficult windy conditions on Centre Court

Gael Monfils, right, greets Marcos Baghdatis at the net following their second round match in Dubai. EPA
Gael Monfils, right, greets Marcos Baghdatis at the net following their second round match in Dubai. EPA

Gael Monfils continued his recent rude health with a straight-sets victory against Marcos Baghdatis on Wednesday to move into the quarter-finals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

The Frenchman, winner earlier this month in Rotterdam, took little more than an hour to defeat his Cypriot opponent, triumphing 6-3, 6-2 on Centre Court.

The win was Monfils’ seventh consecutive win, a run stretching back to Rotterdam, where he defeated Stan Wawrinka to clinch his eighth ATP career title.

Yet, despite the scoreline, Monfils said the encounter with Baghdatis was not as straightforward as it looked – especially as conditions at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium continued to test the players.

“It was windy today,” Monfils said. “It was not that comfortable. I was struggling a little bit to actually hit heavy the ball. It was more tough for me to be aggressive.

“I went a little bit for the back and tried to shape a little bit more my ball, be patient, push him, focus on the key points with my serve. It wasn't that easy for me today.”

The key for Monfils was undoubtedly his ability to bounce back immediately after he was broken by Baghdatis, a player the current world No 23 has now defeated the last four times they have met. With his latest victory, his overall record against Baghdatis increased to 4-1.

"That's good," Monfils said regarding the breaks of serve. "Straightaway I tried to change a little bit the rhythm. When he broke me, I was rushing a little bit. I tried to be aggressive, but I couldn't because I couldn't feel so good with my footwork with the wind.

"I told myself, 'Go back and spin the ball a little bit and run', then I see."

This week’s event has already lost a number of top seeds, with No 1 Kei Nishikori the latest high-profile casualty. On Wednesday, the Japanese star joined Marin Cilic (third seed) and Karen Khachanov (fourth) through the exit door.

Asked if men’s tennis in general has been imbued by a new-found confidence from the lower-ranked players, who believe now that they can upset the so-called bigger names, Monfils said: “I hope for the other guys. Me, I always had this mind-set. I know when I'm on the right mind-set, I know I can win a tournament or I can go far.

“I think for the other guys, maybe they have more belief, make it even tougher for everybody because, as you say, now everybody’s tough and they believe, which is great.

“There's no easy match. There's no match you can come and be hurt a little bit, think, ‘OK, it's fine, he's going to give me the match. Yeah, now you're hurt, you 100 per cent lose. I think it's great for tennis.”

Making his third Dubai appearance and first since 2017, Monfils plays qualifier Ricardas Berankis, the world No 113 from Lithuania, in the last eight on Thursday.

Updated: February 27, 2019 08:15 PM

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