In one of the hyped R1 match-ups at Rotterdam, DelPo defeated WC Gael Monfils 6-3 6-4 in their first H2H encounter. Both players entered Rotterdam with question marks hovering over their heads.
DelPo, who’d been making his slow but under-ratedly steady way back to the top tier, encountered a significant setback at this year’s AO, when he lost to Chardy in R3. Meanwhile, Monfils had been off the tour for 4 months in 2012 and had struggled with a recurring knee injury that raised serious questions about his future prospects. This first encounter between DelPo and Monfils (and their attendant baggage of troubles) promised to be an exciting one. To an extent, the final result delivered.
DelPo and Monfils played many baseline rallies, where DelPo proved to be the steadier of the two. Monfils’s lack of a tactical game plan allowed DelPo to acclimatize himself from the start and establish his role as the aggressor. For Monfils fans, the most frustrating aspect of his game is his ability to hit beautifully angled offensive shots that take his opponents by complete surprise. If he is capable of such shotmaking exploits, why does he insist on hanging back in rallies? So goes the main story of Monfils’s career. However, credit also goes to DelPo for establishing an aggressive base from the start.
Compared to last year, one noticeable improvement in DelPo’s game is his ability to hit deeper shots that tend to keep his opponents pinned behind the baseline. In the first set, DelPo hit a 140 kph FHDTL to wrongfoot Monfils. While he struggled a bit with his service games, he followed up with a big 160 kph running FHDTL, to set up SP for the 1st set. The first set went to DelPo, 6-3. Still, one lingering weakness of DelPo’s game is the way he opens up the court for his opponent to hit an unreachable BHDTL winner. Monfils found his range in the 2nd set and he was able to exploit DelPo’s court movement to wrongfoot him with the BHDTL. However, Monfils played a very loose game at 4-4 in the 2nd set to get broken at love. DelPo served out the match and secured his passage to R2. At the net, both players shared a hug and Gael winked at DelPo. Last year, I remember hearing a fan’s account of DelPo and Gael walking with their arms around each other’s shoulders at Indian Wells. A blooming bromance?
DelPo will face Ernests Gulbis in R2. The last time they played was at the 2011 Farmers Classic in LA, where Gulbis upset DelPo in straight sets. At the time, Gulbis had been working with coach Guillermo Canas, and Gulbis won that tournament. Gulbis has been making the news yet again, for having qualified for the main draw. Is he on another hot streak? Gulbis says he has quit smoking and drinking, which therefore means he will soon reach the top 20. In true Gulbis fashion, he then mentions his reasons for liking the Rotterdam tournament. I’m not a huge fan of Gulbis’s entitlement issues and I was a bit amused by his reasons for not playing the AO this year — he says the plane ticket is too expensive and any prize money would be outweighed by the costs — I would understand this reasoning from any other player, but this is Ernests Gulbis we’re talking about (son of one of the richest families in Latvia).
DelPo, for his part, spent his day off signing autographs for the Rotterdam fans.[tweet https://twitter.com/17slams/status/301831287377887232 align=’center’]
- Llodra had to withdraw from Rotterdam with physical problems, which meant the DelPo-Llodra team withdrew from the doubles tournament.
- During the DelPo-Monfils match, chair umpire Mohamed El Jennati seemed to advise DelPo against taking too much time during his serve. I haven’t yet confirmed whether or not DelPo received a time violation warning.
- During the match, Monfils hits an entertaining tweener at DelPo’s expense: