Happy New Year everyone! The tennis season has officially started! Before the first Grand Slam of the year, the Australian Open, there are plenty of warm up tournaments for us tennis junkies to indulge in! One of these tournaments is the Qatar Open, airing from Doha. The match that I am analyzing today is the quarterfinal match between the Frenchman Gael Monfils and the German Peter Gojowczyk. Monfils is a very skillful and athletic player, who thrives off the big points and the supportive crowd. Gojowczyk is coming into this match as the underdog, so he needs to work his very hardest to beat the favorite.
Each player has specific things that they need to focus on in order to play their best tennis. Starting with Monfils, he needs to really concentrate on every point. In the previous two matches that Monfils played, he loses the second set, and then fights back to win the third. This trend shows that after Monfils wins the first set, he relaxes and his opponent takes advantage of it. Therefore, with such a skilled player like Monfils, he just needs to be focused and not to hit any wild shots that could cost him games, and as seen in his previous two matches, even the second set. On the other hand, Gojowczyk has come off of two straight wins, so he is coming into this match with some confidence. Since Monfils’s weakness is that he loses focus, Gojowczyk will need to focus on winning the longer points, and not to give anything away for free. Being the underdog is always the more difficult task, but since this is not a Grand Slam tournament, Gojowczyk only needs to win two sets, not three.
In the first set, Monfils holds his serve very easily. However, when he is returning, he goes for too much. When playing someone whom you can out-rally, it is smarter to return the serve with a high percentage shot, which then gives your opponent the burden of hitting back a good shot. In the points, Monfils hits excellent heavy cross-court shots, which he should also use on his returns. Heavy cross-court shots not only are very high percentage, but they also cause your opponent to lean backwards, and now you are already on the offensive after your first shot in the point. It can sometimes be exhilarating to go for the big shot off of the serve, but for someone who can easily lose focus and get a little to lackadaisical, that type of return can easily bring back bad habits.
But even though Monfils is a little wild on some returns, his athleticism allows him to win the longer points. And as Monfils is now a veteran on the tour, his experience really helps him out when it comes to deciding when to pull the trigger during the points. When I say “pull the trigger,” I mean hitting a more aggressive shot that immediately puts you on the offensive, and a lot of times these shots end up being winners. Monfils exemplifies these shots perfectly. He hits cross-court for around five shots, and when he feels ready, he hits the ball down the line, which surprises Gojowczyk and for many points Gojowczyk does not even try to get to the ball. But pulling the trigger does not just apply to cross-court rallies, it applies to any rally where the player has the ability to change the course of the rally, and throw their opponent off.
On Gojowczyk’s side of the court in the first set, he does not play his smartest tennis. Gojowczyk approaches the net when Monfils is not even in a defensive position. This is a bad idea because with someone as skilled as Monfils, there is absolutely no reason to go to the net without a good shot. There are only a few specific times when going to the net is a good idea: if your opponent is about to slice, if your opponent is reaching for the ball, if your opponent is leaning backwards to hit your ball, or if your opponent is scooping up a low ball. If you go to the net at any other time, your opponent can easily pass you. Another mistake that Gojowczyk makes is that he tries to out-skill Monfils. Trying to beat someone at their own game never works out; you always have to play your own game with your own strategy. Gojowczyk does a good job knowing when to pull the trigger, but he goes for too small of margins, causing him to miss many of those shots. But something that Gojowczyk does well is that he is good at returning Monfils’s serves. Like I said earlier, forcing the server to come up with a good shot off of your return is the best way to take the pressure off of yourself. In the end, Monfils wins the first set 6-3.
In the second set, both players step up their game. Monfils, trying to not lose the second set for the third time in a row, does a better job of making his returns, meaning he is more patient and he goes for bigger targets. Gojowczyk does a better job pulling the trigger on his shots and staying in the points longer. In short, the second set is very even. However, Monfils wins the second set 7-6 (6) for one reason: Gojowczyk goes to the net at the right time for the most part in the second set, but he keeps missing the volleys! His form on the swing is fine, but he does not get low enough! This mistake must be very frustrating for his coach because if Gojowczyk would have made all those volleys he missed, he could have easily won that second set! When your opponent hits a low ball to you and you are at the net, you need to get very low, almost to where your knees are touching the ground. Gojowczyk bent down from above his hips, instead of bending down from below his hips. Such a simple error cost Gojowczyk the second set! But in the end, Monfils played a great match and he definitely deserved the win.