Gael Monfils Makes His First Tennis Final on US Soil

Diana Sir LouisContributor IIIAugust 7, 2011

Gael Monfils
Gael MonfilsMatthew Stockman/Getty Images

Gael Monfils survived a rain delay Saturday and a late night to secure his first ever ATP final on U.S. soil. With little time to recoup before the final match against Radek Stepanek, Gael's dream of a hard court victory in the U.S. was quickly fading. 

Unseeded Radek Stepanek wasted no time eliminating 1st seeded Gael Monfils 6-4, 6-4 at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic. Radek, who is 32, is the oldest male player to win this title since Jimmy Connors, who was 35, in 1988.

Radek won 29 of his 39 charges at the net. Stepanek's net game and powerful two-handed backhand helped him win his first ATP title in two and a half years.

Radek also won 52 of his of his 56 service games as Monfils lost serve in each set. Radek did not face a single break point against Monfils.

“Today I was a little bit, a fraction, slower,” said Monfils, who finally got to bed around four a.m. only to be back on court 11 hours later.

As of 2011 Monfils was the highest-ranked French tennis player, ranked 7th in the world ATP rankings. He was the runner-up at the Paris Masters in 2009 and 2010 and a semi-finalist at the 2008 French Open.

Monfils turned pro in 2004 and quickly established himself as one the more colorful players on the tour. Even though he did not win today, Monfils did manage to delight the crowd with his usual athleticism and showmanship. 

Unfortunately, none of this could help him escape the aggressive net-charging style of Radek Stepanek. Monfils chose to play his usually strong baseline game and only charged the net four times during the match.

Monfils’ finished his semifinal match beating big-serving John Isner 6-4, 3-6, 7-6. The two and a half hour match ended at 1:15 a.m. with the Frenchman winning in a third-set tiebreaker after saving a match point.

This would be a rematch of Monfils and Isner's 2007 semi-final in Washington, which the American won in a third-set tiebreaker.

If Gael wants to win an ATP title on hard courts and in the U.S., he will need to switch up his game and start charging the net. A strong baseline game is good only if you are playing David Ferrer, who has the strongest baseline game on the tour.

Gael is an incredibly fit player with great speed and agility. He should have no problem playing the net. If he can learn to read his opponent's game sooner in the match and adjust accordingly, he will have a better chance of achieving his goal.