AFP, WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina
Gael Monfils shrugged off pain in his left hip to reach his second ATP final of the season on Friday at the Winston-Salem Open.
The French 15th seed defeated 10th-seeded Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov 7-6 (11/9), 6-3 to advance to the title match of this US Open tuneup, where he was due to face ninth-seeded Austrian veteran Jurgen Melzer, a 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 winner over sixth-seeded American Sam Querrey.
The win was the first for the 32-year-old Austrian over Querrey after two defeats.
Melzer has lost to Monfils in four previous matches, but Monfils said the injuries that have hampered him in recent weeks made him the underdog.
“I still think I’m the outsider. I am the outsider, and I like it,” Monfils said. “I’m happy that hopefully I can keep going. I’m trying get back into shape. I’ve worked hard this week and it’s paying off well.”
Monfils called for the trainer after just 11 minutes on court, having surrendered two breaks of serve to trail Dolgopolov 0-3.
After a consultation and on-court treatment he got on with the job of mounting a comeback.
“I had thigh muscle pain which was going to my hip. The trainer told me I was just tight,” Monfils said. “When we resumed I told myself to focus on the match, not the pain.”
“OK, I have some pain, but it’s no reason not to play tough,” he said. “I just needed to focus less on my body.”
“I tried to keep it simple and it worked,” Monfils said. “I needed to get my rhythm back.”
Monfils kept the pressure on Dolgopolov, who faced 13 break points in the contest.
In the first set, the Ukrainian double-faulted to lose the sixth game for 4-2 and then found himself at 5-5 after saving one break point, but then netting a backhand on another.
In the tiebreaker, Monfils saved three set points and won the opener on his own second chance.
Monfils, competing on hard courts for the first time this month after missing the Masters events in Montreal and Cincinnati with an ankle injury, took control in the second set.
He broke Dolgopolov for a 2-1 lead on another double-fault from the Ukrainian.
Monfils broke again in the final game of the match, converting his second match point to seal the win in 97 minutes.
The victory was Monfils’ second over Dolgopolov this year. He also won their Australian Open first-round meeting.
Melzer won through to his second final of the year after Zagreb in February.
“Any time you get a win before the US Open, you take it,” Melzer said. “It was a tough match and especially for me near the end of the second set when Sam lifted his game, but I won in the end and I’m very happy to be in the final.”