In what has been a day filled with dramatic twists and turns on the court, the Monte Carlo Masters is giving its viewers the level of excitement expected from a clay court. There were bad serves from players followed by unforced errors, yet there were so many magical moments to cherish from today's action.
The first match today was between the local favourite Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and the young American Taylor Fritz; the only American player in the draw. During the first few moments of the match, Tsonga looked confident and comfortable in front of his home crowd, as he broke the first game of Fritz and got a quick 2-0 lead.
He even found some great angles with his forehand and was looking in top gear before a hip injury stuck and the entire dimension of the match changed completely. Taking advantage of this, Fritz intelligently started pushing him from corner to corner, which aggravated the pain of Tsonga as his movement on court seemed to suffer.
Fritz broke Tsonga in the 10th game of the first set and won it 6-4. In the second set, the American was up a break with the score 2-0, when Tsonga decided that he couldn't continue anymore and retired from the match.
While Tsonga retired, another Frenchman Pierre Hughes Herbert produced a gritty display of tennis against Fernando Verdasco, a former finalist in Monte Carlo. Once again in this tournament, double faults decided the course of the match as Verdasco served up a few double faults at crucial moments in the match. There were also some unforced errors from the forehand and backhand of Verdasco, which Herbert capitalized upon.
Herbert won the match 6-4, 6-4, as he hit 25 winners and 13 unforced errors compared to Verdasco's 16 and 20.
On the other side of the draw, the in-form Argentinian player Guido Pella stunned the seventh seed Croatian Marin Cilic 6-3, 5-7, 6-1 in a match that lasted over two hours. Pella has been in fine form on clay, having won the Sao Paulo Open in February this year. Just like Tsonga, Cilic too looked quite comfortable in the beginning of the first set before things started to go wrong.
Pella started to find his range and rhythm slowly before taking the first set 6-3. There were a few exchange of breaks in the second set as Cilic used his experience and tackled Pella's aggression with ease, as he took the second set 7-5.
Pella was resilient and made Cilic play an extra shot in every rally they exchanged, and that extra shot from Cilic usually turned out to be an error. This gave a few points and a lot more confidence to Pella, especially in the second set.
The third set was an whitewash, as Cilic mistimed every single shot that he was known for. Even his powerful serve didn't help his cause, as Pella just started to dominate every point from the baseline.
Cilic did try to impose his own style of tennis, even though he produced so many errors. But Pella was too good, especially with his ground-strokes, making very few errors and eventually taking the set and match away from Cilic.
All in all, there were 50 unforced errors from Cilic, in that match, compared with just 19 from the Argentinian. Another stat that made a huge difference was the points won on the second serve of Cilic; which was just a mere 27%, compared with Pella's 74%.
Cilic's struggles in 2019 continues, as he has been unable to replicate his form on the tour in 2018, where he was ranked number three for the first time in his career..
Another young Italian, Lorenzo Sonego, had stunned the eighth seed Karen Khachanov with a 7-6, 6-4 victory over the Russian.
The rising Canadian star player Felix-Auger Aliassime won his first round match against the Argentinian qualifier Juan Ignacio Londero in two gripping sets, 7-5, 7-6. Felix will now face Alexander Zverev for a place in the third round.Published 17 Apr 2019, 00:29 IST