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Djokovic Withstands Heat, Monfils Does Not As Serb Survives @Australian Open 2018

Novak Djokovic (R) of Serbia and Gael Monfils (L) of France embrace after Djokovic won their second round match at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia, 18 January 2018. EPA-EFE/NARENDRA SHRESTHA

 

 

By Ricky Dimon

 

Gael Monfils was a disastrous 0-14 lifetime in his head-to-head history against Novak Djokovic heading into their second-round tilt at the Australian Open on Thursday afternoon. Even after taking the opening set, it was like the Frenchman never had a chance.

 

Dealing–or failing to deal–with brutally hot conditions under the summer sun Melbourne, Monfils wilted soon after winning the opener as Djokovic eventually pulled away for a 4-6, 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 win. In the latest installment of a matchup that never delivers what it is capable of delivering, the former world No. 1 survived after two hours and 45 minutes.

 

“The conditions were brutal,” Djokovic stated. “That’s for sure. I mean, we both struggled…. “It was just one of these days where you had to stay tough mentally. I think physically it was obvious that, you know, just have to try to hang in there. When you’re facing such conditions, obviously it affects you mentally, as well. It was a big challenge for both of us to be on the court, to be able to finish the match. I’m just glad that I managed to come out on top.”

 

Gael Monfils of France in action during his second round match against Novak Djokovic of Serbia at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia, 18 January 2018. EPA-EFE/MARK CRISTINO

Djokovic certainly did not start on top. He lost each of his first two service games. falling into an early 3-0 hole. This fortnight’s 14th seed got both of the breaks back immediately thereafter only to drop his serve again and fall behind 4-3. This time he as unable to recover. Monfils tightened things up on his own serve–finally–and held twice to wrap up first set.

 

But the unseeded Frenchman returned for the second as a completely different player, clearly affected by the soaring temperatures under the summer sun. In fact, throughout the second and third sets it looked like a retirement might be in the cards.

 

“It was obvious that he was not at his best,” Djokovic said of his opponent. “At times we were both just trying to get a little bit of extra breath–a few seconds more, so we can recover. We were also getting into some long exchanges and rallies. That’s what happens when we play each other.

 

“I was mentioning on the court that he truly is one of the best athletes we have in tennis. He hasn’t lost a match this year. He won a tournament. He was feeling confident. He started well. I didn’t start well at all. I was a set down. Obviously just try to hang in there and wait for opportunities, and when they’re presented, obviously try to use them.”

 

That’s exactly what Djokovic did.

 

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

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