World No. 1 Novak Djokovic is moving on at the Rogers Cup but not before getting pushed to the limit by Gael Monfils.
Djokovic needed three sets to beat Monfils 6-2, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (2) in an emotional match on centre court at Rexall Centre on Wednesday afternoon. Monfils pulled out all the stops by hitting a between-the-legs shot and throwing his racket to hit the ball, and each player tried to ignite the crowd to get louder.
Monfils didn’t endear himself to fans by arguing with the chair umpire, even as they were captivated by his dazzling play on the court. As a result, Djokovic had support behind him as he came back from a three games to one deficit in the third set.
By avoiding what would’ve been the biggest upset of the tournament thus far, Djokovic kept alive the possibility of facing eighth-seeded Andy Murray in the quarter-finals.
Murray had little trouble winning his opening match in Toronto, as he beat 19-year-old Australian Nick Kyrgios 6-2, 6-2 in the first match of the day on centre court.
“He out-classed me, he did everything better than me,” Kyrgios said. “He played too good for me today.”
Murray, the 2013 Wimbledon champion who has since been derailed by back surgery, was happy with how the match went.
“I thought I did most things like pretty solid,” the Briton said. “I didn’t make too many errors. I moved well, (had a) high first-serve percentage.”
Kyrgios made a name for himself by beating Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon. This was a match in which he said he struggled in every facet but can still grow from because of the quality of competition.
“I’ve got to get better,” Kyrgios said. “There’s such a long way to go. I’m nowhere near where I need to me, and he showed that today.”
Murray had been a consistent top-five player in the world for five years before the back injury. He started to feel himself again just before the French Open but could need some time to get back up the ATP world rankings.
“I was there for the last five or six years, and it was tough to stay there,” Murray said. “It’s one thing getting there, but staying there is challenging.”
Murray could have another major challenge in the near future in the form of Djokovic. Last week, Djokovic called the possibility of facing Murray in the quarter-finals a “terrible” draw.
But Murray, who will face 12th-seeded Richard Gasquet in the next round, said it’s only relevant if he and Djokovic are able to avoid upsets before that showdown. There also could be a benefit.
“It’s a tough draw, but it’s also good to play against someone like a Novak if you get that opportunity in the buildup to the U.S. Open,” Murray said. “You really see where your game is at.”
In other afternoon action, Gasquet beat hard-serving Ivo Karlovic 5-7, 7-6 (5), 6-3. In other early play, Julien Benneteau beat 11th-seeded Ernests Gulbis 7-6 (4), 6-3, 15th-seeded Marin Cilic beat Malek Jaziri 4-6, 6-0, 7-6 (4), Kevin Anderson beat 16th-seeded Fabio Fognini 7-5, 6-2 and Ivan Dodig beat Andreas Seppi 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (5).
After four Canadians were eliminated Tuesday, sixth-seeded Milos Raonic is the country’s only representation left in the singles draw at the Toronto tournament.
Raonic is set to face American Jack Sock on centre court this evening.