KEY BISCAYNE, Fla.—Anyone tuning in late for the first Miami Open men’s quarterfinal match on Thursday likely wondered if Gael Monfils jumped into the Atlantic Ocan during a changeover.
Kei Nishikori took full advantage of a seemingly depleted and definitely drenched Monfils to win—but not before saving five match points—4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3).
All seemed to be going well for the Frenchman, though, when he hit an emphatic ace to seal the first set.
The mercurial Monfils, who reached his first Grand Slam semifinal at Roland Garros back in 2008, had his best chance at reaching a second Slam semi at the same 2014 U.S. Open where Nishikori broke through to his first major final. Playing Roger Federer in the quarterfinals, Monfils squandered two match points in the fourth set before crumbling in the fifth. Just like today's match, he summed up his emotions as both disappointed and happy.
“Well, you know, it's never easy to talk about a match like that, but actually I feel that I'm in the right direction,” Monfils said. “I still have the strong belief that I'm not far from those guys.”
That’s the thing about Monfils; he gets away with that sort of content gray area. He's sporadic and combustible, yet has the potential and talent to be far greater than he is. But something about his flashiness and amiable nature makes him extremely lovable, giving him a hall pass for not capitalizing on his chances.
The inevitable Monfils letdown came early in the second set, with Nishikori getting the early break to go up 3-1. That break would end up being enough to give the world No. 6 the second set. To his credit, Nishikori began adding a little flair of his own, with more variety and even a couple of deft drop shots. The second set would end with identical numbers of winners and unforced errors from both players.