Gael Monfils and Filip Krajinovic meet for the second consecutive week as they battle for a spot in the Rotterdam final on Saturday.
Gael Monfils vs Filip Krajinovic is live from Rotterdam on Saturday, 15 February from 6:30pm GMT/ 7:30pm local time
Monfils defeated Krajinovic in last week’s Montpellier semi-finals- can the in-form Frenchman repeat the trick and move into an ATP final for the second consecutive week?
Monfils is not only on a seven-match winning streak on the tour, stretching back to last week’s title run in Montpellier, he is also on an eight-match winning streak in Rotterdam, after claiming the title last year. The Frenchman is bidding for a third final at the ATP 500 tournament, having also made the final in 2016 (lost to Martin Klizan).
Monfils improves to 11-2 in a rock solid start to the season. He began with a quiet 1-1 record for France at the ATP Cup, before reaching the fourth round of the Australian Open, where he was stopped by Dominic Thiem. The 33-year-old is unbeaten since then, winning in Montpellier for his ninth career title, and well on course to get into double figures in the titles column this week. He is the only seeded player left in the Rotterdam draw.
He’s reached the Rotterdam semi-finals without dropping a set, breezing past Joao Sousa 6-3 6-2 in his opening match, taking out Gilles Simon 6-4 6-1 in the second round, before stopping Dan Evans 7-6 6-2 in the quarter finals.
He was tested by Evans in the opening set on Friday, with the Brit breaking for 5-4 to earn a chance to serve out the set. Monfils hit back immediately, capitalizing on his opponent’s inability to find first serves. With the set right in the balance at 5-5 in the tie break, Evans misjudged a Monfils backhand return, opting to leave the ball at the net, only to see it drop in. Monfils converted the ensuing set point, and ran away with the second set, finishing off the win on his third match point.
His reward is a reunion with Krajinovic, eight days after he stopped the Serbian at the same stage in Montpellier last week.
Like Monfils, Krajinovic has reached the Rotterdam semi-finals without dropping a set, beating Tallon Griekspoor, and a pair of in-form players, Vasek Pospisil and Andrey Rublev to reach the last four.
He overcame a bout of nerves towards the end of his match against Pospisil to close out a 6-4 7-6 victory. The Serbian held three match points when he served for the match at 5-4 in the second set, but he eventually got broken, and had to save three set points before stuttering over the line in a second set tie break on his fourth match point.
Tasked with taking down the excellent Andrey Rublev on Friday, Krajinovic played a tidy first set, sticking with the Russian before dominating the tie break. He tightened his grip on the match with a break in the opening game of the second set, and while Rublev broke back for 4-4, Krajinovic regained his advantage in the next game, and served out the match without much trouble. The 27-year-old cracked 27 winners and 25 unforced errors, won 80% of points on his first serve, and saved four of five break points in an efficient performance against the Russian.
Krajinovic’s ranking has wildly fluctuated throughout his career, majorly due to persistent injury problems. He was outside the top-100 in April last season, but he managed to climb to a top-40 finish, on the back of a strong ending to the season that included a runner-up finish in Stockholm and a quarter final in Basel.
He had a quiet start to 2020, losing in the second round in Doha and the Australian Open, but he’s found more joy on European Indoor hard courts, reaching consecutive semi-finals in Montpellier and Rotterdam.
He was denied a spot in a fourth career final by Monfils in Montpellier last week; can he earn his revenge in Rotterdam on Saturday?
Monfils is 2-0 against Krajinovic, having scored a three-set win in Miami way back in 2015, and a 7-6 6-2 victory in Montpellier last week. Krajinovic generates decent power from the back of the court, and is particularly dangerous off the backhand wing, but Monfils is an expert at absorbing power and turning the tables on his opponents. Of course, the Frenchman has got immense firepower of his own, when he does decide to take matters into his hand. I think Monfils is playing better in Rotterdam than he did in Montpellier, and should once again be too strong for his Serbian adversary.