Allez, Gael! La Monf Saves MP To Advance
Could a Gael Monfils match possibly end quietly? It looked that way as Horacio Zeballos led 5-2 in the third set of their first-round encounter at the Rio Open presented by Claro on Tuesday evening. The Frenchman even faced match point as the left-hander served for the match at 5-3.
But Monfils would find his entertaining best to win the final five games of the match to clinch a 7-5, 3-6, 7-5 victory against the Argentine.
"It was a tough match for me," Monfils said. "I never stopped believing and definitely had a huge help with the crowd. The crowd was amazing tonight."
The recent Qatar ExxonMobil Open champion, who also advanced to the semi-finals at the Argentina Open last week, is now five-for-five in opening-round matches this season. He continues his pursuit of a second title in 2018 — if he wins another trophy this year, it will be the first time Monfils has won multiple titles in an individual season.
But more immediately, ‘La Monf’ set up a blockbuster second-round battle against top seed and World No. 3 Marin Cilic, who advanced on Monday. Monfils has won both matches in their FedEx ATP Head2Head, including a meeting less than two years ago in Rio at the Olympics.
"I want to play better," Monfils said. "Obviously I need to play better if I want to win tomorrow... Tomorrow I hope I'm going to raise my level a little bit."
Defending champion Dominic Thiem, who triumphed last week at the Argentina Open, also got off to a good start with a much simpler 6-2, 7-5 victory against Dusan Lajovic. The 24-year-old Austrian is once again off to a hot start on the red clay after he began last year's clay season by winning 10 of his first 11 matches.
"The main thing today is that I won," Thiem said.
The second seed, who has now won an ATP World Tour title in four consecutive seasons, will look to extend his winning streak to seven in the second round against Pablo Andujar, who he beat at the same event two years ago. That was the pair's only FedEx ATP Head2Head series meeting.
Third seed Pablo Carreno Busta, who lost in his first match at his past two events (Quito, Buenos Aires), got back on track by defeating qualifier Marco Cecchinato 6-4, 6-1 in 64 minutes. That evens the Spaniard’s tour-level record for the year (4-4) as he attempts to defend finalist points from Rio de Janeiro last year (l. to Thiem).
"It means a lot," Delbonis said. "To have 100 match wins, it's a big challenge and I'm so happy to reach it."
Nine of the Argentine’s victories have been against opponents inside the Top 20 of the ATP Rankings. The left-hander is in-form, too, having made the semi-finals in Buenos Aires last week (l. to Bedene).
Did You Know?
Pablo Andujar, the former World No. 32, won his first tour-level match since January 2016 on Tuesday.