Monfils tops Nadal's conqueror to reach Open SF; Kerber wins
NEW YORK >> For years, the book on Gael Monfils was that he was supremely talented, yes — and also more interested in producing an entertaining display than an effective one.
Sure made for good videos, all those parallel-to-the-court dives or 360-degree smashes or racket-between-the-legs shots.
What they didn't always add up to, though, were wins: He lost six consecutive major quarterfinals entering Tuesday's all-French matchup at the U.S. Open against Lucas Pouille, the man who eliminated Rafael Nadal in the previous round.
Playing steadily, and with only a dose of the spectacular, the 10th-seeded Monfils reached his first major semifinal since 2008 by beating an error-prone Pouille 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 in a match that concluded under Arthur Ashe Stadium's retractable roof.
Afterward, Monfils took a swipe at those who have questioned his methods.
"I dive because I want to win the point. Definitely I want to win the point. When you make the show, honestly, it's to entertain, but it's (also) to win. So what's the point to make the show and lose, actually?" Monfils said. "That's why people think, 'Oh, he's jumping, he's sliding.' In the end, you think I'm stupid?"
Monfils, who turned 30 last week, only once before made it to a Grand Slam semifinal, 81/2 years ago in front of a partisan crowd at the French Open. But he has been playing the best tennis of his career lately, winning all 15 sets he's played during this tournament.
"It's a court I love," he told the crowd after finishing off Pouille. "I always say that the French is my home, but this one is my second."
The 24th-seeded Pouille quite simply ran out of steam, winding up with just about three times as many unforced errors as Monfils, 44-15. Pouille never had won a U.S. Open match or any match that lasted five sets until last week; his 4-hour-plus win against Nadal on Sunday was his third five-setter in a row.
No one ever has won four consecutive five-setters at a major in the Open era, which dates to 1968.
"Of course," Pouille said, "I was a bit tired today."
It showed in the way he often was a step — or more — slow to shots by Monfils, especially passing attempts. Took some shortcuts, too, either watching balls fly to a far spot rather than chasing them or attempting quick-strike winners that veered off-course.
On the first break of the second set, all four points for Monfils came off Pouille's errors. It was the same scenario in that set's last game, when Pouille even contributed a pair of double-faults.
Monfils repeatedly used lobs to make Pouille run.
"I know he was maybe a bit flat today, so he wanted to close at the net," Monfils said. "And the lob obviously is the best shot."
He already was ahead 6-4, 4-3 when a brief shower led organizers to shut Ashe's $150 million cover that is making its debut this year.
Up next for Monfils will be a matchup against No. 1 Novak Djokovic, the defending champion, or No. 9 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, whose quarterfinal was scheduled for Tuesday night. Monfils, Pouille and Tsonga gave France a trio of quarterfinalists at the American Grand Slam tournament for the first time in 89 years.
Monfils said he "might watch a little bit" of Djokovic vs. Tsonga, pulling for what he called "a full French semifinal."
In the day's first women's quarterfinal, Roberta Vinci fell apart after losing the opening set on a foot fault, allowing No. 2 seed Angelique Kerber to take the last nine games and win 7-5, 6-0.
Vinci was the runner-up at Flushing Meadows a year ago, reaching her first major final by stunning Serena Williams to end the American's bid for the first calendar-year Grand Slam in more than a quarter-century.
Kerber, who has a chance to overtake Williams at No. 1 in the WTA rankings after the tournament, moved into her third Grand Slam semifinal of the year. She beat Williams to win the Australian Open for her first major championship, then lost to Williams in the Wimbledon final in July.
Kerber's first U.S. Open semifinal since 2011 will come against two-time runner-up Caroline Wozniacki, a 6-0, 6-2 winner against Anastasija Sevastova, who injured her right ankle in the second game and was never able to get herself going in the match.
Wozniacki is a former No. 1 who is ranked only 74th after a tough season that included injuries and zero Grand Slam match wins until last week.
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