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Monfils storms into U.S. Open quarters

AP

Gael Monfils follows his own rules.

The guy does things on a tennis court no one else has — or can. Just search his name on YouTube and watch any of many video clips showcasing his speed and agility; start with the parallel-to-the-ground, a-few-feet-in-the-air dive at this year’s French Open.

He sips soda during breaks in his matches, raising the can in a toast to his agent. He is currently without any coach at all, in an era when some players have two.

What Monfils has never done, despite all his talent — and in some cases, because he has appeared to value style over substance right there on court, in the middle of a point, preferring the spectacular to the sufficient — is reach a Grand Slam final. He took a step closer Tuesday at the U.S. Open during a surprisingly matter-of-fact 7-5, 7-6 (8-6), 7-5 victory in the fourth round over No. 7-seeded Grigor Dimitrov.

There is a narrative building around the 20th-seeded Monfils’ success so far this year at Flushing Meadows, where he hasn’t dropped a set en route to reaching the quarterfinals for the first time since 2010: He has matured, is playing more carefully, more seriously.

The Frenchman, who will face Roger Federer for a spot in the semifinals, rejected that notion after Tuesday’s win.

“I’m the same. So I will say I’m a bit more lucky than I was maybe sometime in the past. I think I haven’t changed a lot, to be honest. I haven’t changed a lot,” Monfils said. “I just play maybe solid today, but I’m still the same.”

Monfils’ lone Grand Slam semifinal appearance came at the 2008 French Open, when he lost to Federer, part of a 2-7 career mark against the 17-time major champion.

Federer advanced to the U.S. Open quarterfinals for the 10th time in 11 years by eliminating 17th-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.

The other quarterfinal matchup on that half of the draw will be No. 6 Tomas Berdych against No. 14 Marin Cilic. Berdych beat 20-year-old Dominic Thiem 6-1, 6-2, 6-4; Cilic was a 5-7, 7-6 (7-3), 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 winner against No. 26 Gilles Simon.

In women’s quarterfinals, 39th-ranked Peng Shuai of China ended the precocious run of 17-year-old Belinda Belic of Switzerland 6-2, 6-1. Peng’s next opponent will be No. 10 Caroline Wozniacki, the 2009 U.S. Open runnerup, who overwhelmed No. 13 Sara Errani 6-0, 6-1 in a wind-whipped match Tuesday night.

Peng, 28, advanced to her first Grand Slam semifinal in the 37th major tournament of her career; only five women took longer to get to the final four at one of the sport’s top four events.