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.


Algeria sink Senegal in fiery final to claim second Africa Cup of Nations

Updated 20 July 2019
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Algeria sink Senegal in fiery final to claim second Africa Cup of Nations

  • Bounedjah gave Algeria a dream start in the second minute
  • For Senegal, who lost to Algeria by the same scoreline in the group stage, the long wait for a first continental crown goes on

CAIRO: Baghdad Bounedjah’s early goal propelled Algeria to a first Africa Cup of Nations title in 29 years after a fiery 1-0 victory over Sadio Mane’s Senegal in Friday’s final in Cairo.

Bounedjah gave Algeria a dream start in the second minute when his deflected shot looped over Senegal goalkeeper Alfred Gomis, and it proved enough for the 1990 champions to lift the trophy on foreign soil for the first time.

For Senegal, who lost to Algeria by the same scoreline in the group stage, the long wait for a first continental crown goes on as coach Aliou Cisse, the captain of the 2002 runners-up, again fell short in the final.

It was the first title-decider to feature two African coaches since 1998, with Algeria boss Djamel Belmadi completing a whirlwind 12 months at the helm after inheriting a side that failed to make it out of the group stage two years ago.

With defensive rock Kalidou Koulibaly suspended for Senegal, Salif Sane deputised at the back and Ismaila Sarr was recalled in attack, while Belmadi kept faith in the same side that overcame Nigeria with an injury-time free-kick from Riyad Mahrez.

Senegal had understandably feared the absence of Napoli star Koulibaly, banned after two bookings in the knockout rounds, although the towering Sane was desperately unlucky as Algeria grabbed the lead with scarcely a minute played.

As Bounedjah took aim from 20 yards his effort smacked off Sane and arced high into the air before dropping underneath the crossbar and beyond a static Gomis, sparking delirious celebrations from both players and fans, some of whom arrived for the final on military planes provided by the Algerian government.

It was the first time Gomis had conceded in almost 400 minutes in Egypt having replaced the injured Edouard Mendy ahead of Senegal’s final group game.

Henri Saivet, who missed a penalty in the 1-0 victory over Tunisia, tried to catch Rais Mbohli out with a free-kick while Mbaye Niang fizzed a powerful drive just over as Senegal gradually showed signs of life before the half ended with both sets of players embroiled in a scuffle as they headed for the tunnel.

Senegal thought they had won a penalty on the hour when Cameroonian referee Alioum Alioum pointed to the spot for a suspected handball by Adlene Guedioura, but the official reversed his decision after a VAR review.

Niang rounded an advancing Mbohli after a searching ball through from Cheikhou Kouyate but the forward sliced wide of the target from a tough angle, with the Algeria ‘keeper then acrobatically tipping over a rasping drive from Youssouf Sabaly.

The Desert Foxes started to look jaded as Senegal brought on fresh legs in Krepin Diatta and Mbaye Diagne, but Youcef Belaili nearly made it 2-0 when his cross brushed the head of a defender and skimmed the roof of the net.

Sarr blazed over on the volley as Algeria clung on to their advantage in the closing minutes, the final whistle greeted by an outpouring of raw emotion as the North Africans emerged worthy winners of the expanded 24-team event.

On Saturday, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman telephoned Algeria’s interim president Abdelkader Bensalah to congratulate him on Algeria’s African Cup of Nations win, with Bensalah thanking the king for his phone call.