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

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.


Spanish driver Carlos Sainz takes third Dakar Rally title after winning Saudi edition

Updated 17 January 2020

Spanish driver Carlos Sainz takes third Dakar Rally title after winning Saudi edition

  • Asked about defending his title next year Sainz said: “It’s too early to think about it, let me enjoy this”
  • He has now won the Dakar with three different manufacturers, having previously triumphed with Volkswagen in 2010 and Peugeot in 2018

QIDDIYA: Veteran Spanish driver Carlos Sainz won the Dakar Rally for the third time on Friday, finishing with a comfortable winning margin in the first running of the event in Saudi Arabia.
The 57-year-old crossed the line in the 12th and final stage 6min 21sec ahead of nearest challenger and reigning champion Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar, who had managed to cut Sainz’s lead to just 24 seconds on Tuesday but fell back after navigation blunders.
“I feel very happy. There’s a lot of effort behind this. A lot of training, practice,” Sainz told the race’s website.
“It has been a flat out rally since the beginning. It was fantastic, a first time in Saudi Arabia, of course you can always improve but it was a fantastic effort,” he added.
Asked about defending his title next year Sainz said: “It’s too early to think about it, let me enjoy this.”
Sainz, the father of F1 driver Carlos Sainz Jr., seized control of the race from the third stage in his X-raid Mini.
He has now won the Dakar with three different manufacturers, having previously triumphed with Volkswagen in 2010 and Peugeot in 2018.
Stephane Peterhansel was third at 9min 58sec behind in his Mini. Both the Frenchman and Sainz won four stages in the marathon 12-day, 7,800-kilometer (4,800-mile) race.
Ricky Brabec triumphed in the motorbike section for Honda, becoming the first US rider to win the gruelling race.
Two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso finished 13th on his Dakar debut, nearly five hours behind the winner.
Alonso came second in one stage but his first participation in the Dakar was a bruising affair as the 38-year-old Spaniard suffered a double rollover in the 10th stage after hitting a dune at an awkward angle.