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Match of the Day: Gael force blows away Bublik

  • Alex Sharp

It's easy to forget that Gael Monfils went 15 months without a victory from February 2020 until May last year. 
The reinvigorated world No.20 has turned his career around brilliantly and is back to his scintillating showman best. As he put it, "Good Gael." 

MORE: All the scores from Day 3 at AO 2022
Monfils roared into the Australian Open third round for the 11th time, finding the lines to swat world No.37 Alexander Bublik aside 6-1 6-0 6-4 on Wednesday night.   

The build-up 

Monfils launched his season by picking up his 11th Tour-level title at the Adelaide I event. The Frenchman took out Tommy Paul, Thanasi Kokkinakis and then Russian powerhouse Karen Khachanov in the final.  

MORE: AO 2022 men's singles draw
He retired from his opening clash at the Adelaide II tournament with a neck injury, but thankfully that has disappeared in time for AO 22.  
Monfils motored through his opening round, losing just five games to Federico Coria.  

Bublik, who has never featured in the last 32 in Melbourne, won their only previous encounter over four sets at Roland Garros 2020. Back then, Monfils was struggling mentally with the pandemic player bubbles and lack of energy courtside without fans. Not today! 

How the match unfolded 

It was showtime from the very start, the Frenchman pounding aces and then clipping a backhand pick-up for an immediate break lead. 
Monfils dished up some exhibition tennis, displaying his athleticism by chasing back to a lob, striking a tweener, before sprinting in to reach a drop shot. 

Add into the mix some ripping forehands, Monfils kept up the five-star entertainment with a slam dunk smash the highlight of a catalogue of stunning shots to close the opener. 
It was all too much for the world No.37, Bublik overcooking serves to try and pin Monfils back. Hopping wide of the tramline, the world No.20 clipped a remarkable inside-in forehand past the Kazakh to lead 3-0.  
Some damaging double faults for Bublik, in stark contrast to the steely focus and flamboyance from Monfils, it was two sets on the scoreboard in just 52 minutes.  

In less than an hour, Monfils had command of the match and control of the highlight reel

Monfils' confidence was optimised in a rare single-handed backhand winner en route to a 4-3 break lead. An ace evaded trouble in the very next game, and the 35-year-old welcomed another last 32 battle. 
"I just felt good, amazing atmosphere, good vibes with crowd. Good Gael," he said with a smirk. 
"I was moving very fast, was tough for him to get through me. Serving great, couple trick shots. Everything is good. I'm on. 
"I really feel good. Great. Strong. I'm back … hopefully I'm doing some cool stuff." 

The key stat 

That was some clean serving from the Frenchman; 11 aces, winning 74 per cent of points on first delivery, no breaks on his serve.  
The free points kept coming, enabling a fresh Monfils to avoid too many lung-bursting, prolonged rallies.  

What it means for the loser 

While his opponent was simply too red-hot on Wednesday, Bublik has now lost seven successive matches to top-20 talent. 
Does he need to conjure a Plan B more often when the blistering serve isn't in the zone?  

Bublik's loss was a familiar story against the top tier

The 24-year-old has all the touch and raw power at his disposal. He excelled in doubles to reach the Roland Garros final last June. Perhaps more doubles play could help sharpen his tools.  

What next for the winner?

Asked about his feelings for the next round, Monfils simply stated; "Always ready, you know. Born ready." 
Over to 16th seed Cristian Garin. The Chilean needs to recover quick, having spent nine hours on court in two five-set tussles thus far.   
Monfils edged to a 6-3 7-5 triumph in their only meeting at the 2020 ATP Cup. On another level now, he has plenty in the tank. Can Garin derail the Monfils momentum?