Roger Federer vs Gael Monfils: The best match of this year's Madrid Open so far
If standards like entertainment and drama are anything to go by, the third round match between Roger Federer and Gael Monfils at the Madrid Open could well become one of the top contenders for "Match of the year".
First things first, the last time both these players played against each other was in the fourth round of Roland Garros in 2015. Federer won that match in four sets, and since then both the players have gone through various ups and downs in their careers.
While Federer made a stunning comeback to top form in 2017, Monfils was always juggling between injuries and form. He won a tournament earlier this year but hasn't been able to maintain consistency all the way through.
Monfils started serving in the match today, and at first it looked like it would be a long and hard-fought first set. But less than 20 minutes later, the crowd was bewildered to see the score as Federer had wrapped it up 6-0.
The sheer magic of the Swiss and his ultra-aggressive tennis gave no room for Monfils to settle down.
If there's one quality of Federer's that is truly special, it is the ability to make the match move faster - almost as if it was put on an 8x fast-forward mode. Even his peers like Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have never been able to do this; it was a Federer special in those first 20 minutes of the match.
The crowd realized this and seemed to think that the match would end within an hour. So they started rooting for Monfils a bit just to help the Frenchman get back on track and elongate the match.
Monfils was quick to respond in the second set as he broke Federer immediately and took a 3-0 lead. Federer broke back and leveled the second set at 4-4 before Monfils broke the Swiss Maestro once again and took the second set 6-4.
Here's a clip of Monfils breaking Federer for the first time in the second set.
The crowd was happy as they had got a contest, and once again started to shift their support towards the all-time great Federer. They wanted their favorite player to win the match, now that they had got a third set.
But in a twist to the tale, Federer lost his serve and once again was down by a score of 0-3. Monfils was all over the Swiss as he found some amazing angles to work with. This frustrated Federer and he even got a warning for hitting the ball straight into the crowd after he lost his serve.
Federer was also seen complaining about the roof being a bit ahead of where it was supposed to be. He was finding it difficult to concentrate with the shade falling exactly where he stood.
All looked well for Monfils before Federer started to regain some of his touch. His defensive skills were on full display and he broke Monfils in the seventh game of the third set to level the match at 4-4.
Both the players held serve in the next two games as the scores were leveled at 5-5. Monfils once again served well to gain a lead of 6-5, forcing Federer to serve to stay in the match.
The 12th game of the third set saw Monfils having two match points and Federer saving both of them. The astonishing part is that on both those points Federer failed to hit a first serve and so went for a net attack off his second serve - which he nailed.
A similar thing had happened when these two played against each other in the fourth round of the US Open 2014. Federer was down two match points there too, and he landed a second serve and went for a serve and volley before Monfils tried to lob it over the Swiss and the ball went long.
Federer's courage was worth applauding in both instances. Ultimately he took the third set to a tie-breaker where Monfils' level dropped severely. The Frenchman managed to win just three points before surrendering the match 6-0, 4-6, 7-6.
Federer won 17 out of 20 points while approaching the net in the third set alone. This in itself is an indication of Federer's mindset coming into the clay swing this year; he wants to play his natural game without making any alterations to it.
It was a phenomenal match by two of the best entertainers on tour, but it was Federer who came on top eventually with his aggressive approach. He will now look to continue the same momentum against the rising star Dominic Thiem in the quarterfinals.
This was Federer's 1200th tour victory, giving him yet another landmark in a career full of staggering achievements.
Published 10 May 2019, 01:55 IST