Gael Monfils squeaks through in Dubai as Stefanos Tsitsipas cruises onward

Gael Monfils of France returns the ball to Lithuania's Ricardas Berankis during the ATP Dubai Tennis Championship in Dubai. (AFP)
Updated 28 February 2019
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Gael Monfils squeaks through in Dubai as Stefanos Tsitsipas cruises onward

  • Unseeded Monfils, 32, revealed that he needed to get angry with himself to get over the line
  • Tsitsipas made easy work of his Polish opponent Hubert Hurkacz

LONDON: 

Gael Monfils’ charmed run at the Dubai Championships continued on Thursday after he battled into the semifinals with a 6-1, 6-7 (3-7), 6-2 win over lowly qualifier Ricardas Berankis.
The Frenchman, who came into the tournament off the back of beating Stan Wawrinka in Rotterdam earlier this month to win an eighth career title, will face Stefanos Tsitsipas in Friday’s semifinal after an unexpectedly tight win.
Unseeded Monfils, 32, revealed that he needed to get angry with himself to get over the line after missing chances to close out a straight-sets victory when a set up and leading the second 5-4.
“It was tough mentally, I was upset that I didn’t finish it (then). I had to get angry to find the energy to come back,” he said after coming from a break down to storm the final set.
“I was playing flat, I knew I had to do something.
“My opponent was very brave, he went for his shots, came to the net and made it difficult.”
Monfils’ performance dipped drastically after ripping through the opening set in 23 minutes, losing the second and re-discovering his game only just in time to claim the victory.
In the end it took nearly two hours for the world No. 23 to beat Berankis, ranked 113 in the world and playing his first quarter-final since October.
“It started to get a bit windy. He went for different shots and he was getting more on the line.
“I think I got a little bit away from my game plan, but he did make brilliant shots, it was a mix of everything.
“He hit the ball big, he was quick, it was amazing how quick he was on to all my passing shots. 
“I felt he was there all the time. I think I’m quite good, but it was quite tricky for me,” he added.
Also on Thursday, man of the moment Tsitsipas made easy work of his Polish opponent Hubert Hurkacz, the man who vanquished Kei Nishikori in the previous round.
The Greek wonderkid was frustrated at not having won in straight sets but his progress through to the semifinals was never in doubt once into the final set.
“That was frustrating, but I knew that the crowd enjoyed the match. They probably wanted to stay a bit longer.
“His serve dropped, and his first-serve percentages, giving me the opportunity and possibility to be more aggressive and start the rallies.
“I was serving a bit better, maybe opening the court, being aggressive. When I broke him the first time, I showed him that I’m still in the match, I still want to break him more. 
“I guess that mentally, he saw the dominance of his opponent, that affected him probably. That’s how I felt,” he said.
On his semifinal opponent Monfils, he said he knew his service game had to be perfect.
“We’re both serving really well, we have similar game style.
“I guess I’m a bit more aggressive than him, but he’s much faster and I’m going to have to deal with all of that, be patient, play with passion as well, just wait for the opportunities to break him.
“I think I’m going to have to serve well to win that match, if I don’t serve well, I’ll have trouble.”
There’s added incentive for Tsitsipas going into the game, knowing a victory in Dubai would see him move into the top 10.
“I’m thinking about it almost every day, I want it badly and I want it to happen very much.
“I know I’ll have to win a couple of crucial matches to get there as the point difference is pretty big, I’m going to have to dominate more.
“It’s a good motivation because I’m so close, to get it as early as possible.
“For me, personally, I feel like I have the game to be there already, maybe even in the future, but (I hope) as soon as possible,” he said.


Four-star Everton pile on the agony for Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Updated 22 min 11 sec ago
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Four-star Everton pile on the agony for Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

LIVERPOOL: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s problems since taking over as permanent Manchester United manager intensified with a humiliating 4-0 loss away to Everton on Sunday.
Defeat at Goodison Park — United’s sixth in eight games — also dealt a huge blow to the Red Devils’ hopes of playing in the Champions League next season.
Goals from Richarlison, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Lucas Digne and Theo Walcott inflicted the largest defeat on United since they lost by the same scoreline at Chelsea three years ago.
But, after starting his reign with eight consecutive victories, the best start ever made by a manager at the club, former United striker Solskjaer is now collecting some other, very unwanted, statistics.
This latest loss means United have now leaked 48 league goals, the most they’ve conceded in a season, since letting in 63 back in the 42-game 1978/79 campaign.
Sunday’s loss also means United have conceded in 12 consecutive games for the first time since December 1998 while, under Solskjaer, the Reds have lost five consecutive away games for the first time in 38 years.
United looked second best even before the hosts scored twice inside the opening half-hour, conceding a succession of corners from which Everton threatened.
It was another type of set-piece, a long throw-in by Digne, from which Everton took the lead after 12 minutes when the full-back launched the ball deep into the United area.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin helped the ball on with the flick of his head and Richarlison sent a spectacular scissor-kick finish flying past David de Gea.
After a humbling 3-0 Champions League exit at Barcelona in midweek, it was not the start Solskjaer had been looking for. Everton soon made the situation worse for the visitors.
After 27 minutes, Everton cleared a United corner and immediately broke on the counter-attack, with winger Bernard playing a delightful ball inside to Idrissa Gueye.
He, in turn, released Sigurdsson who, with Nemanja Matic backing off, unleashed a magnificent 25-yard shot which bounced just in front of the diving de Gea on its way into the bottom corner.
Richarlison might have given Everton the lead even earlier. His 10th minute shot drew an amazing reaction save from de Gea. From the rebound the Brazilian hurried his follow-up effort wide.
With the recalled Romelu Lukaku booed every time he touched the ball by his former fans at Everton, United had little response to an impressive effort from the home side.
In between the goals, United star Paul Pogba’s long diagonal pass freed Marcus Rashford who could only poke his effort over from a tight angle.
Everton effectively killed the game in the 56th minute. De Gea punched clear a Sigurdsson corner to the unmarked Digne who sent a superb, first-time volley flying back past the United keeper from 20 yards.
Three minutes later, and from the same left wing, another Sigurdsson corner almost crept in at de Gea’s near post before the Spaniard stuck out a boot to clear off his line.
Even though Richarlison had limped off through injury, the agony was not over for United with the Brazilian’s replacement Walcott continuing the rout in the 64th minute.
Sigurdsson again carved out the opening with a brilliantly-timed through ball which allowed the former England international the space to sprint into the area and beat the advancing de Gea.
Not until the 86th minute, and a comfortably saved Anthony Martial strike, did United have a shot on target.
Meanwhile Everton, who had not beaten a ‘big six’ rival in 25 attempts before last month, have now won consecutive home matches against Chelsea, Arsenal and United while keeping three clean sheets in the process.