Gael Monfils is back in a Grand Slam semi-final after an eight-year wait, pummelling fellow Frenchman Lucas Pouille 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 to reach the US Open last four.
Tenth-seeded Monfils was in control throughout against the 22-year-old Pouille, who was coming off an epic fifth-set tiebreaker win over 14-time major winner Rafael Nadal.
That marked the 24th-seeded Pouille’s third straight five-setter. Whether it was a let-down after the biggest win of his career or sheer fatigue, his 44 unforced errors meant he never stood a chance against the dialed-in Monfils.
Dictating from the baseline, Monfils took charge with seven of his 13 aces in the opening set, gaining the only break he needed in the seventh game.
Pouille conceded a break with a stream of errors to fall 1-2 down in the second, and a break of more than 15 minutes to close the new Arthur Ashe stadium roof, with Monfils up 4-3, did nothing to change the momentum.
After holding with back-to-back aces, Monfils broke the error-prone Pouille at love to take the set.
“I was lucky because I had a break so it was easy in my mind,” Monfils said of coping with the delay. “I just felt so good (and) it was going to be even better because it was going to be indoors. I just kept going with my game plan.”
One break was all he needed in the third, as he wrapped up the match without facing a break point.
Monfils, whose only other Grand Slam semi appearance was at the 2008 French Open, will face either world number one and defending champion Novak Djokovic or fellow Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga for a place in Sunday’s championship match.
It’s the first time in 89 years that three French men have reached the quarter-finals of the US championships.
– Djokovic semis streak on line –
But Djokovic has proved adept at thwarting French foes.
In 2008 he won his first major singles title with a victory over Tsonga in the Australian Open.
Two years later he led Serbia to their first Davis Cup crown, winning singles matches against Gilles Simon and Monfils in a 3-2 victory in the final in Belgrade.
The Serb arrived in New York surrounded by injury questions and slogged through the first round in four sets.
Since then with one walkover, one quick win by retirement and a crushing victory over 84th-ranked Briton Kyle Edmund there’s been little strain on his troublesome left wrist.
Tsonga, meanwhile, has dropped just two sets in four matches en route to the quarters, where he’ll be trying to deny Djokovic a 10th straight trip to the semi-finals — a run that includes Djokovic’s titles in 2011 as well as last year.
The remaining quarter-finals take place on Wednesday with Wimbledon and Olympic champion Andy Murray of Britain facing sixth-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan and third-seeded Stan Wawrkina of Switzerland facing Juan Martin del Potro.
At 142 in the world, del Potro is the lowest ranked player in 25 years to reach the US Open quarters as the 2009 champion battles back from four wrist surgeries that nearly spelled the end of his career. – Agence France-Presse