Shanghai: Monaco d. Melzer
Last week it was Victor Troicki, today it was Juan Monaco. You watch a guy play when he’s young, you like his game, you don’t see him for a while, you forget that he ever existed. Then suddenly he’s around again, playing a better, fuller version of the game that you remember.
I picture Monaco as the grinder’s grinder, and he is that. Unlike, say, Rafael Nadal, he’s not explosive enough to dictate with his forehand. But he’s expanded his game over the years, and he went toe to toe with Melzer, a more flat-hitting hard-courter who was coming off a career win over Nadal. Monaco was the aggressor through the last two sets, as well as the superior athlete. He hit heavy serves, took his backhand on the rise, and finished off one point with a full-on jumping overhead. Monaco choked when he served for the second at 5-4, but he didn’t seem to let it bother him at all, coming right back to break and hold for the set. He lost just one game in the third. The guy can't really be only No. 41 in the word, can he?
Monaco also played with more emotion and positive energy than I remember. Instead of a fist-pump, he offered a smile after a couple of winning points—a nice change of pace. That’s the beauty of a tournament with this many of the world’s best. First we get a glimpse of Melzer’s potential, of what his game can look like. The day next day we see it from Monaco—from one JM to another. Let’s hope we get to see it again.