MASON – Ohio
Gael Monfils was accused by commentators of “tanking” during his first-round match at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati on Monday, with the 14th-seeded Frenchman losing to Poland’s Jerzy Janowicz 6-4, 7-5 in 75 minutes.
Monfils served so quickly in the second set the ball boys barely had time to get into position after each point before the ball was back in play.
Television commentators said at one stage they thought Monfils was in a hurry because he had a tee time booked to play golf.
During one rally he turned his back on his opponent briefly, prompting disbelief in the commentary box.
“To not give 100 percent and be so blatant about it, I think it’s disrespectful,” two-time U.S. Open champion Tracy Austin said on Tennis Channel.
“It looked like exhibition tennis. We’ve seen that way too many times with him.
“With Gael it’s so difficult to watch because you know his upside ceiling could be so big but he just goes away and doesn’t even try.”
Despite his apparent indifference, Monfils actually had a set point in the second set before succumbing.
French 10th seed Gilles Simon was also sent packing on the first day after losing to Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic 6-4, 6-7 (3-7) 6-3.
Nadal staying optimistic
Mason Ohio AFP-JIJI
The ever-positive Rafael Nadal remains a total tennis optimist as he begins his final preparation for the U.S. Open, with the Spanish world No. 8 insisting that he is working constantly to turn this season into a success.
The 14-time Grand Slam winner is competing this week at the Western and Southern Open, which he won in 2013, the last time that he played.
After an injury absence that basically took him out of the last half of the 2014 season, the 29-year-old has been fighting all year to make improvements to a ranking which dropped to 10th after he failed to win a 10th Roland Garros title in June.
“The last part of the season is important. I want to finish feeling better than when I started,” said the eighth seed. “This is an important week for me.”
Nadal arrived in the Midwest after losing a Montreal quarterfinal to Kei Nishikori, who withdrew from the American tournament with a hip muscle problem, which should be right for the U.S. Open starting in a fortnight.
“I played OK in Montreal, but every week is a different test — a different story. I’m working more than ever to change the dynamic,” said Nadal.
With a two-hour rain interruption slowing a full day’s schedule, Ivo Karlovic still found time to produce the first upset of the week as the Croatian hammered 35 aces in a 6-4, 6-7 (1-7), 6-3 defeat of French 10th seed Gilles Simon.
American Mardy Fish began winding up his Cincinnati career with a defeat of Serb Viktor Troicki 6-2, 6-2.
Fish, who has suffered from a heart-scare problem and full-fledged anxiety attacks, will end his time on court at the U.S. Open after dealing with his worries since 2012.
“I was a little surprised at my level, I hadn’t practiced a ton or (practiced) particularly well for a little while. I was struggling with my serve,” said Fish, a 2010 finalist against six-time champion Roger Federer.
Fish moved into a second-round challenge with third seed and world No. 2 Andy Murray, who comes to Cincinnati after his Montreal title over the weekend over Novak Djokovic.
Australian Bernard Tomic reached the second round over Sergiy Stakhovsky 6-4, 6-3, while Joao Sousa of Portugal beat Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-2, 6-7 (5-7), 6-2.
In the women’s draw, veteran Venus Williams and young compatriot Coco Vandeweghe both notched wins over Kazakh opposition.
The 35-year-old Williams came back after the rain interruption to finish off Zarina Diyas 7-6 (8-6), 6-4, while Vandeweghe beat Yulia Putintseva 6-3, 6-2.
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