Djokovic and Monfils set blockbuster Eastbourne International final
Elliot Cornish for Tennis Atlantic
Novak Djokovic and Gael Monfils will contest an all-wildcard Eastbourne International final after defeating Daniil Medvedev and Richard Gasquet in Friday’s semi-finals.
The Serb ultimately ran out a comfortable winner against his Russian opponent 6-4 6-4, but Monfils was made to tough it out for his victory, eventually triumphing in a third set tiebreak.
But there was disappointment for home hopeful Johanna Konta who was forced to withdraw prior to her match with Karolina Pliskova due to a thoracic spine injury, plunging her Wimbledon prospects into serious doubt. To compound British woes, Heather Watson suffered an agonising three-set loss to 2009 Eastbourne champion Caroline Wozniacki in the other women’s semi-final, falling 7-5 in the third.
Medvedev misses opportunities against Djokovic
While Medvedev should take heart from competing hard versus Djokovic, he’ll go away contemplating a collection of opportunities – particularly in the opening set – that could have made it a much harder afternoon’s work for the former world number one.
After clumsily succumbing from 40-0 up on serve in the first game of the match, the Russian bounced back with a break in the fourth game, and arguably looked in control at various points, especially in the eighth game when he manufactured three break points to move 5-3 clear – however his inability to grasp one would prove costly.
Djokovic snuck out of the game, proceeded to break a frustrated Medvedev to 15 minutes later, before wrapping up the set with no drama. The top seed continued to dominate early in the second, breaking the Medvedev serve once more as he reeled off five games in succession across the two sets.
Medvedev, ranked 52 in the world, stayed competitive for the rest of the second set and forced Djokovic to serve it out, saving a match point on his own delivery, but he was to make no mistake, routinely holding to 15.
After the match, Djokovic said: “I’m really glad that I’ll be able to fight for the trophy tomorrow. I haven’t had too many opportunities to fight for the trophy in the last 10 to 12 months. I’m hoping that I can continue on this path of raising my performance and the quality of tennis.”
He was also complimentary about his stay in the sunny seaside town of Eastbourne, the first time.
“I am undoubtedly enjoying this week and the fact that I’m in the final obviously makes it even better. But I felt very welcomed from the first day by the people in Eastbourne,” continued Djokovic.
Monfils shows mental fortitude to best Gasquet
A strong mentality isn’t always associated with Monfils’ game, but it was the world number 16’s nerve which ended up being pivotal against his compatriot.
The first set was vintage Monfils, as he swooped around the back of the court blazing heavy groundstrokes, combined with some neat net play to take it 6-2.
Gasquet lost serve once more midway through the second set, but was offered a route back in as Monfils was broken for the first time immediately after. The latter reached the precipice of victory once more in the 10th game, mustering two match points on the Gasquet serve, but was unable to convert as the set went to a breaker.
Despite racing to a 4-0 lead, Monfils pinned back the deficit to 5-4, and then a 7-6 lead to eke out a third match point. But once more, Gasquet displayed resilience, saving it before nicking the set 9-7.
Undeterred, Monfils seized the initiative with an early break and continued to hold with relative comfort. Given past happenings though, it was no surprise to see a much frailer Monfils when it came to the crunch. Three errant forehands gifted Gasquet a lifeline late on, somewhat inevitably setting up another tiebreak.
An early double fault from Monfils would have been costlier had Gasquet not responded in kind, but he did and seemed oddly edgier than his opponent at this sudden death stage. Four straight points gave Monfils command, and when a fourth match point arrived at 6-4, he clinched it with a booming unreturnable serve to win 6-2 6-7(7) 7-6(4).
Monfils will go for his seventh ATP singles title in 26 tries on Saturday – and sixth at 250 level – while Djokovic hopes to claim his 68th but only his second of the year.
Wozniacki digs deep to edge Watson
Watson’s run to the semis of a stacked WTA Premier draw has been the surprise of the week in Eastbourne, and the plucky Brit dared to dream of making the final, roaring back from a set and a break down to push the Dane the distance in the day’s opening match.
The world number 126 even moved a break up in the third, but meekly handed it back in the next game, losing it to love. No quarter was given either way thereon until the last, when Watson gave up two break points. She saved the first but not the second as Wozniacki put herself in a position to win her second Eastbourne International title, eight years after her first.
Pliskova’s bye ensures she will be fresh for the final in what has been a hectic week for the players due to the rain-affected schedule. Konta now faces an agonising weight to see whether she will be fit for Wimbledon, but defiantly said: “I’m doing everything I can to be ready.”
Bryans scoop doubles title
Bob and Mike Bryan notched their 113th doubles title and their first in Eastbourne with a 6-7(4) 7-6 10-3 triumph over Rohan Bopanna and Andre Sa in the final on Court 1.
Earlier in the day, the Bryans beat Andre Begemann and Andres Molteni 7-6(1) 6-4 to make the championship match, while Bopanna/Sa got there courtesy of a 7-6(4) 3-6 11-9 win over Robin Haase/Dominic Inglot.
In the women’s doubles, Ashleigh Barty/Casey Dellacqua beat the third-seeded pairing of Timea Babos/Andrea Hlavackova 6-2 6-3 in the first semi-final, before Yung-jan Chan/Martina Hingis romped past Nicole Melichar/Anna Smith 6-0 6-1 in just 43 minutes.
Pliskova and Wozniacki are set to take to the court at 12.15pm local time on Saturday, with Djokovic and Monfils due on not before 2pm. The women’s doubles final between Barty/Dellacqua and Chan/Hingis will follow.