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'Not quite finished': Monfils to face Berrettini in quarters

  • Alex Sharp

A driven Gael Monfils continues to motor at Melbourne Park, dismissing Serbian youngster Miomir Kecmanovic 7-5 7-6(4) 6-3 on Sunday to return to the Australian Open quarterfinals. 

MORE: All the scores from Day 7 at AO 2022

The world No.20 is yet to drop a set at Australian Open 2022, lighting up John Cain Arena with 54 torpedo winners to match his 2016 march into the last eight at Melbourne Park.  

The French showman will take on seventh seed Matteo Berrettini on Tuesday. 

MORE: AO 2022 men's singles draw

"I tried to be very aggressive. Tried to not let him dictate the point, I served quite well. Then was just a battle, battling and hanging in there," said the ambitious 17th seed. 

"It's been a long journey for me and I'm quite happy, but it's not finished. I want to do better and I will try. We're not quite finished yet." 

Monfils has burst back into prominence in 2022, lifting the Adelaide trophy in the lead-up to his run at Melbourne Park.   

"I guess is a lot of work, a lot of belief, strong mindset,” explained the Frenchman of the catalyst behind his strong start to the campaign.

"Coming up this new season wanting to be better in 2022 than 2021. Of course, a bit of luck of everything."

It took just 46 seconds for the 35-year-old to chalk up an opening hold. Monfils darted a backhand pass down the line, but Kecmanovic was gaining plenty of success off the serve plus one-striking.  

The world No.77 was in trouble when Monfils injected pace on the forehand wing to earn three set points at 5-4, but the 22-year-old raced through five straight points to yelp "Idemo" in delight. 

It was the Serbian's turn to apply the pressure, also posting 0-40, but Monfils copied his opponent for an impressive escape. 

At 6-5, the Frenchman brought the heat, flashing two lightning-bolt backhand winners to roar to the opener. 

Four matches, four wins, no sets lost: Monfils has been on fire in Melbourne

Kecmanovic was in trouble on serve again at 6-5 in the second set, but David Nalbandian's charge held tight to earn a tiebreak.  

Time for 'La Monf' to really put on a show. 

After double faults and a couple of forlorn errors, Monfils was down 2-4. The world No.20 flicked a switch, gaining air time on two huge forehand winners to spark five points in a row. The crowd was electric, the play was pulsating, Monfils was conducting and in charge.  

There was time for a bit more magic from the 35-year-old, clipping a nonchalant backhand lob onto the baseline, and another pinball forehand had the Frenchman tongue out, cheekily grinning to the bouncing fans.  

"Matteo, I lost a quarterfinal in the US Open against him, 7-6 in the fifth (2019). A lot of confidence for last two years. I think he played extremely aggressive, big serve, flashy tennis with the forehand. Going for it," added Monfils, who was also defeated by the Italian powerhouse in straight sets at ATP Cup last year. 
"It's gonna be a tough match no matter what, but I'll be ready."

Seventh seed Berrettini looks more than ready too, and keen to make up for lost time.
The 25-year-old put on a lethal serving display to overpower 19th seed Pablo Carreno Busta 7-5 7-6(4) 6-4 in the final match of Sunday at Rod Laver Arena. 

Berrettini, who was forced to withdraw from Australian Open 2021 with an abdominal tear after advancing to the fourth round, fired down 28 aces and landed 77 per cent of first serves (winning 62 of those 71 points) to secure a career-best result in Melbourne.  
"It was really tough last year, but in a way helped me. I believe that everything is happening to you for a reason and I guess I was even more wishing to come back as soon as possible," he said. 
"The way I won today, and the tournament now, is showing why I care so much about this tournament, because of last year."

Berrettini rode a superb serving night all the way to the quarterfinals

Berrettini showcased his full repertoire of shots to push past Carreno Busta, including a sublime pickup backhand volley from off his laces. He dictated the crucial second set tiebreak, and his "very precise" serving was too hot for the Spaniard to handle. 

The world No.7 turned his attention to facing the might of Monfils. 
"Talk about long matches, I think the emotions were all over the place for me and for him," said Berrettini, casting his mind back to that tantalising 2019 New York tussle. 

"He's playing good, I'm feeling good, so for sure is going to be a fight."