Gael Monfils had never beaten Novak Djokovic, The Serb was 16-0 coming into their 17th meeting. Following his quarter final win the Frenchman was asked if he knew his plan for Djokovic but said “well the previous 16 hadn’t worked.”
40 years ago a certain Vitas Gerulaitis who sadly passed away aged 40 in 1994 was on a similar run against Jimmy Connors.
Jimmy had won 16 times in a row without reply against Gerulaitis who in 1980 at the Masters Cup famously beat the American and said:
“And let that be a lesson to you all, nobody beats Vitas Gerulaitis 17 times in a row”
Novak Djokovic had a pretty smooth ride going into his Dubai semi-final. Matches were won in 59, 60 and 66 minutes as he wasted no time going through the rounds.
Gael Monfils was not going down without a fight, the Frenchman was the better player and was a nuisance camping behind the baseline and putting Djokovic under pressure instead of the other way around. A theme of Djokovic’ game had been his brutal drop shot winners but Monfils was getting to everything as the world number one began to tumble.
Down a set and a break at 2-6 2-3 the pressure was certainly on both players as Monfils looked to consolidate his break whilst Djokovic was searching for an road back into the match.
Before you know it, Djokovic saw three break points! A wild forehand from Monfils brought the crowd to it’s feet and the fist pump from the top seed who levelled!
For the first time in the match, Djokovic led in a set at 4-3.
Djokovic led again at 5-4 and it felt like it had become more about the show from Monfils who ended up lying down on the court for a good minute or so after losing that ninth game.
Novak ground out two big set points but the Frenchman saved them and the serving question would again be asked of Gael at 5-6.
The Frenchman bowed down onto his knee following a wide backhand setting up a third break point for Djokovic but a drop shot from the baseline saved it from Monfils!
Another wide backhand set up another set point which was saved following a 25 shot rally!
A lung busting rally set up a fifth set point for the world number one but was saved!
A lovely moment from Djokovic who called a serve of Monfils good when it was ruled out to give him a game point and then a tie-break to potentially seal the match!
Djokovic had won 7 of their previous 9 tie-breaks…
Monfils took a 1-0 lead with a passing shot leaving Djokovic stranded at the net!
Djokovic took a 2-1 lead with all three opening points going against the server…
A fourth with a volley into the net from Djokovic, 2-2.
A fifth point against the serve following a stunning forehand from Monfils down the line and into the corner!
Finally a point on serve and at the change of ends Monfils led 4-2!
4-3 Monfils, a forehand long from the Frenchman took us back to serve!
Monfils pulled the Serb around yet to win a point on his serve to take a 5-3 lead and edge closer to that first win over Djokovic!
Monfils caught the drop shot and three match points for Gael Monfils!!!!
He missed with his first with a backhand wide down the line…
A forehand long and the second was wasted, now onto Djokovic’ serve!
Djokovic yet to win a point on serve in the tie-break!!
Wow! A double fault on set point and Djokovic took the set 7-6 (10-8)
How does Monfils recover?
He did a good job to hold his first game but in his second slipped to 0-40 and physically looked done in! A forehand long from the Frenchman sealed the break and suddenly Djokovic led in the match.
The energy was gone from Monfils who lost 12 of the last 15 points as he trailed 1-4 in the deciding set.
Monfils called on the trainer and both headed off court as he received a medical time out.
Following a five minute delay the Frenchman returned to action with Djokovic serving!
Five points in a row and Djokovic led 5-1 15-0 before his shoe broke so we had a slight delay in the game!
After saving three of his own and after 2 hours and 35 minutes Djokovic sealed his match point to win 2-6 7-6 6-1!