No light? No problem for Gael Monfils.
The No. 14 seed beat Japanese Taro Daniel and the Parisian sunset on Tuesday at Roland Garros, advancing to the second round at his home Grand Slam for the 12th time with a 6-0, 6-4, 6-1 victory.
When Monfils and Daniel walked on Court Philippe-Chatrier just short of 8 p.m. local time, it appeared they would need to resume play on Wednesday. But Monfils sped through the opening-round match, striking 38 winners to just 24 unforced errors in his one-hour, 41-minute triumph that ended at 9:33 p.m.
“I really wanted to finish today. I didn’t want to play a set tomorrow,” Monfils said. “I’m happy I managed to play well, and I’m very happy about that.”
The No. 1 Frenchman, a 2008 semi-finalist and two-time quarter-finalist at Roland Garros, has enjoyed a resurgent 2019 after struggling in parts of last season due to injury. Monfils claimed his eighth ATP Tour title in Rotterdam, and recently held two match points against Roger Federer in Madrid before falling in a third-set tie-break. In the next round, he will face countryman Adrian Mannarino, who finished his 6-7(5), 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 victory against Italian qualifier Stefano Travaglia just moments after Monfils.
In the second set, it appeared Daniel might even the match after breaking in the first game and increasing his aggression at points. But in the key moments, Monfils was able to raise his level another notch, showing his incredible athleticism with dogged defence and rapid covering of the net to take a two-sets lead.
“I paid a price at the beginning of the second set because I was too fast from the back of the court, and I could have waited a bit to slow down, ease the pressure. And then luckily I was able to win this very long game at 5-4 and go two sets to love,” Monfils said. “It’s not easy. But two sets to love, I was quite happy to win this game for one good reason. I was serving afterwards, and I was going to put a lot of pressure, serve very hard, to show that I want to go faster.”
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But Monfils was not content with that, locking in even more in the decider, especially on serve (11/11 first-serve points won), to move through in the nick of time. Monfils’ only first-round loss at Roland Garros came on his debut in 2005, when he was 18.
Mannarino, on the other hand, is through to the second round in Paris for only the third time on his 11th appearance. Mannarino leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 2-1, including a five-set win at Wimbledon in 2017.
“It’s never easy to play a French guy, especially Adrian. He has a game which is particularly — he’s left-handed, he plays very flat and low balls in the backhand. And over the past two years he’s been playing better on clay. He’s feeling better. He’s a good warrior,” Monfils said. “It’s always difficult matches in Roland Garros to play against French players, because the audience is shared. It’s not easy.”