The second round match between American John Isner and Frenchman Gael Monfils captured the very essence of the US Open. A night-time match on a packed show court featuring the top-ranked American, with the biggest serve in the men’s game, and a French showman, who plays to thrill and entertain rather than just win.
John Isner of the United States of America shakes hands at the net with Gael Monfils of France after their men’s singles second round match on Day Four of the 2013 US Open at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 29, 2013 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Monfils is on the way back from a knee injury, having climbed back into the top 40 after dropping out of the top 100 earlier this year. But you wouldn’t know that if you saw him playing. The Frenchman was at his showman best… sliding, jumping, lunging all over the court… and engaging the crowds like Jimmy Connors and Ilie Nastase used to once upon a time.
After losing the first two sets, Monfils stayed with Isner in the third and waited for his chance. In the ninth game, he got his window – a triple break point opportunity and did not let go. Monfils broke the Isner serve and held his own to take the match into a fourth set. By then, the crowd had more than warmed up to the Frenchman and began chanting his name. Isner was clearly not happy with his home crowd rooting for his opponent – “I was a little bit disappointed in that, actually. Not going to sugar coat it. It was certainly, if I was playing him in France, it certainly wouldn’t be like that.”
The tension continued to build in the fourth when Isner called the trainer, seeking treatment for a hip flexor problem that has plagued him for the past few months.
“A little bit my hip flexor area. That’s what kept me out of Winston-Salem. You know, I’ve gotten to the point I have played so many matches this summer I’m a little beat up. Adrenaline takes over in those situations, and it did – tonight. But it bothered me a little more tonight than it did my first match.”
At several points in the fourth set, Isner seemed to have trouble moving side to side and in a hurry to end the points, especially on Monfils’s serve. With his big serve, he probably thought his chances of winning the match in a tie-breaker were pretty good. And that’s exactly what he did, closing the match 7-5, 6-2, 2-6, 7-6, and advancing to the last 32 where he will meet 22nd seed Philipp Kohlschreiber in a repeat of their third round match here last year, which the German won in five sets.
Meanwhile, the second highest ranked American Sam Querrey went down to 63rd ranked Frenchman Adrian Mannarino 6-7, -7, 7-6, 4-6. Querrey, the No. 26 seed, missed a chance to meet Roger Federer in the third round in front of his home crowd, and admitted that the pressure got to him.
“When I’m out there sometimes, you know, those pressure points, it’s a lot. It’s making me tense and kind of nervous. Once I step off the court, I can kind of let it go. When I’m out there, you know, those big moments like today, I was pretty kind of wrapped up and tight inside. You know, I got to figure out how to deal with those better. I didn’t do a good job of dealing with it today. Got to, you know, find the answer to that.”
Among the top ranked men, second seed Rafael Nadal and seventh seed Roger Federer took another step towards a much anticipated quarter-final – steamrolling their opponents to advance to the third round. Fourth seed David Ferrer, eighth seed Richard Gasquet and 10th seed Milo Raonic were among other winners.
On the women’s side, Sara Errani, at No. 4, became the highest seed in either draw to crash out, losing to compatriot Flavia Pennetta in straight sets. Later, Errani told the media that the pressure of defending her ranking points (she reached the semis here last year) is getting too much for her.
Sara Errani of Italy plays a forehand during her women’s singles second round match against Flavia Pennetta of Italy on Day Four of the 2013 US Open at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 29, 2013 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty Images)
“I mean, I think is the pressure. Everything is very difficult for me. I have never been in this situation, so it’s a new situation for me. And also for my team, not only for me, my coach. We have to find the solution, because is I think these things happens to everybody when you feel on the top and you are there and the people is playing against you with no pressure and you have a lot of pressure. If I feel that I’m not fighting good for too much pressure, for not feeling good with myself doing that thing. Because I don’t want to go on the court. I don’t want to go to play. I don’t want to play. I don’t want to stay there on the court. I feel very bad. So that is the problem for me.”
World No.1 Serena Williams and world No.2 Victoria Azarenka scored straight set wins on Thursday, as did eighth seeded Angelique Kerber, who needed all her experience to beat upcoming 19 year old Eugenie Bouchard. Seventh seed Kvitova, eighth seeded Wozniacki, ninth seed Jankovic, 13th seed Ivanovic, 14th seed Kirilenko, 21st seed Halep, 27th seed Kuznetsova all advanced as well.
Meanwhile, 17 year old Victoria Duval, who has been the breakout star of the tournament so far, went down to the experienced Daniela Hantuchova in straight sets. But another young American – 20 year old Jack Sock- is through to the men’s third round for a second year in a row.
In the doubles draw, the top-ranked Bryan Brothers moved a step closer to their calendar year Grand Slam with a first round win while the Williams sisters needed three sets to advance. Among the Indians, there were wins for Leander Paes, Divij Sharan and Sania Mirza with their respective partners, but Mahesh Bhupathi was beaten in the first round of the men’s doubles with German partner Phillip Petzchner. Mahesh, who has said he will retire at the end of the year, is still in the mixed doubles where he is partnering Martina Hingis. And James Blake’s career came to an official and final end as he and Sock were beaten in the first round of the doubles.
Quote of the Day – British qualifier Daniel Evans after beating Australian Bernard Tomic,
“I was there (in Miami) playing quallies. His dad sort of fobbed me off and said I wasn’t good enough to practice with him, yeah. I remembered that. Because we spoke the other day. Yeah, we went to practice, it was all booked. Got to the court. In Miami, there’s a little practice hut. I got to the practice hut. No, no, he’s a qualifier, I’m not hitting with you. So it was one of those. A bit embarrassing, but hey.”
Matches to look forward to on Day 5 – (5) Li Na vs. (30) Laura Robson; (15) Sloane Stephens vs. (23) Jamie Hampton; (6) Juan Martin del Potro vs. Lleyton Hewitt; (20) Andreas Seppi vs. Somdev Devvarman; (1) Errani/ Vinci vs. Hingis/ Hantuchova.