Saturday, November 14, 2009

Paris Masters: A Battle of Dangerous Floaters

The penultimate tournament on the ATP tour calendar wraps up this weekend in Paris. The BNP Paribas Masters is the last big one before the 8-player tour finale. Semis were on the Tennis Channel today.

I was out getting my hair cut as Djokovic dispatched of Nadal in straight sets but I caught a decent portion of Stepanek v. Monfils. At this point in their careers, both players are best described in tennis parlance as dangerous floaters: strong players who usually don't pose much of a threat to win titles in the big tournaments but nobody wants to have to play them. Radek Stepanek is a warrior: prepared to battle for every point and concedes nothing to anyone. He holds two career victories over Federer - no small accomplishment.

Gael Monfils has to be considered one of the best pure athletes on the tennis tour. I've often thought of him as a great player in the wrong sport. For all of his gifts, his gangly frame and movement style seem to me better suited to a basketball court. He was overpowering as a junior player but has yet to find a foothold in the top echelon of the senior tour. Perhaps this tournament can help propel him forward.

He is a very exciting player to watch. Today, he attempted a flying, run-around, cross-court forehand which few tennis players possess the body control to even imagine. Unfortunately for the highlight reel editors, the shot went long - but not by much.

Monfils's victory today means that for the second year in a row, there is a Frenchman in the final. Jo-Wilfred Tsonga was last year's champion. Monfils has some history with Djokovic. The two played a memorable match at the US Open in 2005. Djokovic won the match with some perceived gamesmanship, an unfortunate knock against him throughout his still young career. Monfils has never beaten him in an ATP-level match. Surely, it would be sweet to beat him for the first time in front of the home crowd.

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