Mercurial Frenchman Gael Monfils battled into the second round of the Heineken Open in Auckland yesterday, displaying flashes of brilliance as he came from behind to keep his injury comeback on track.
The former world No. 7 beat German Benjamin Becker 6-7 (2/7), 6-3, 6-4 in the New Zealand tournament, a warm-up for the Australian Open, which starts next week.
While Monfils conceded his performance was patchy, he showed no signs of discomfort from the troublesome knee that marred much of last season.
“It was tough,” he said. “I tried to do my best [but] sometimes I’m on and off, but it’s my first game and I try to do my best.”
Monfils’ serve proved a potent weapon in an error-strewn match, as he blasted down 19 aces, compared to just five from Becker, whose challenge faded after he won a first set tie-breaker.
Meanwhile, Taiwan’s Lu Yen-hsun won his first-round match against France’s Benoit Paire 6-3, 2-6, 6-2, claiming the victory over his higher-ranked opponent despite being out-aced 13-6.
Lu also served two more double-faults than the world No. 43, but played the important points better, winning five of seven break points compared with the Frenchman’s three out of seven.
Lu faces a tough challenge in the second round today when he plays top seed and world No. 5 David Ferrer, who received a bye in the first round.
The Taiwnese defeated the Spaniard in their last encounter in Beijing last year when Ferrer retired from their match in the first set, but lost the only other match between the pair in three sets in 2010.
Also yesterday, Canadian Jesse Levine made short work of New Zealand wild card Daniel King-Turner, strolling to a 6-2, 6-2 win, while Australian qualifier Greg Jones made a mockery of his 373 world ranking, notching his first win in five ATP matches to dispose of Austrian sixth seed Jurgen Melzer in straight sets.
Jones downed world No. 29 Melzer 7-6 (9/7), 6-2, causing the Austrian to throw his racquet to the court in frustration as the Australian saved triple break point in the fifth game of the first set.
In other first round matches, Colombian Santiago Giraldo thrashed Go Soeda of Japan 6-1, 6-0, Slovak Lukas Lacko downed Italy’s Paolo Lorenzi 6-3, 6-3 and Holland’s Igor Sijsling ground out a 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 win over compatriot Robin Haase.
Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska stretched her winning streak to six matches with a straight sets victory over Japanese veteran Kimiko Date-Krumm in brutal heat at the Sydney International yesterday.
As temperatures soared above 41°C, the tournament top seed overcame an early break before wearing down 42-year-old Date-Krumm, winning 6-4, 6-3 in 70 minutes.
Radwanska, 23, went into the Sydney event immediately off the back of a win in Auckland without dropping a set, and is in great form heading into next week’s Australian Open in Melbourne.
German second seed Angelique Kerber overcame Kazakh qualifier Galina Voskoboeva 6-2, 7-5 and said playing in the heat was going to help her in Melbourne next week.
Former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki went down in a titanic duel with former French and US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-6 (7/4), 1-6, 6-2.
China’s fourth seed Li Na, who won in Sydney two years ago, breezed past Japanese qualifier Ayumi Morita, 6-1, 6-0.
AP, HOBART, Australia