After taking the title in Houston last week, John Isner fell back down to earth after a three set defeat to Ernests Gulbis in the first round of the Monte Carlo Masters. The Latvian served 11 aces in the 4-6 6-2 6-3 match but struggled early on falling down a double break after failing to convert a 0-40 in his first return game of the match. Despite his best efforts, Gulbis would fail to reverse this deficit in the first set as he missed two break point chances to make it 4-4. Isner held on to serve out the set 6-4 but it would be a matter of time before Gulbis made his move in the second.
Dropping just three points in three service games on his way to a 3-2 lead in set 2, Gulbis finally made the breakthrough on the third break opportunity of the game to move 4-2 as part of a run that saw him win 13 straight points to close out the set, finishing with a hold and break to love. The run finally ended when Gulbis needed four game points to hold for 1-0 from 40-0 up. Another double figure run of points occured as broke to love for the second time in the match and backing it up with a love hold of his own. This would be all Gulbis needed – he twice had opportunities to break later in the set (the latter being on match point) but it would not matter as he served it out with a hold to 15 to take the match on his second match point.
Jerzy Janowicz missed a great opportunity to advance to the next round, failing to convert big opportunities in both sets of his loss to Kevin Anderson in straight sets. Despite the tie being between two big serving men, the first set of the 7-5 7-6 (9) affair was anything but solid on serve for both players. The players traded early breaks before the match settled down until deep in the first. A 0-40 opportunity for Janowicz was converted on the third break point, giving the Pole a great chance to take the first set. Unfortunately, he fell 0-40 down immediately trying to serve it out and like Anderson in the previous game, would fail to recover from that deficit as the match returned to back on serve. Serving for a tiebreak, Janowicz would be broken for the third time in the set as Anderson looked to build on his performances of last week that saw him a finalist in Casablanca.
Opportunities cooled down in the second, with just the two break point chances for Anderson late in the set which would remain unconverted. It looked like it would be going to a decider when Janowicz moved into a *5-1 lead but he would manage to blow it with a timely double fault at *6-4. An ace followed to equal it up from Anderson who would gain (and fail to convert) his first match point. Janowicz had another chance to take the set on serve at *9-8 only to lose three straight points to exit at this early stage.
Wildcard Gael Monfils suffered a disappointing first round exit to Spain’s Albert Montanes in three sets 2-6 6-2 6-4. An early break in the first saw Monfils fighting to stay in the set but he couldn’t make any inroads onto Montanes serve, failing to earn even one break chance in the set. A second break for a *5-2 lead put the set out of reach for Monfils but he would eventually get a break in the middle of the second. After fighting off 0-30 and three break points in the previous service game to hold, the Frenchman took his chance and won four straight points from 15-0 to take a *3-1 lead. Backed by 5 aces in the set, Monfils made easy work of the rest of the set and would break again to take it 6-2.
After a hold to begin the third, Monfils would have his one and only break point opportunity in the deciding set which he failed to convert. Numerous hard fought service games were won on both sides before Montanes made him move at 3-3, creating a 0-40 opening for himself. He converted on the third chance to get the decisive break. Serving out, it got nervy for a while after Monfils hit an impressive winner to save match point but the Spaniard kept calm and would finish off an impressive victory to book a 2nd round match with Stanislas Wawrinka.
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