Tournament 8 Jan 2024

Monfils magic enthrals but not endures in exciting clash at ASB Classic

by ASB Classic
Monfils magic enthrals but not endures in exciting clash at ASB Classic

The remarkable Gael Monfils leaves the ASB Classic early but not before he enthralled a packed house with `over two hours of exquisite and exciting tennis.

His young Hungarian opponent Fabian Marozsan, more than 10 years his junior, produced the game of his life to defend magnificently, and attack with power and precision to come out the victor 6-4 6-7 7-6 at the ASB Tennis Arena.

Marozsan dominated the opening set 6-4 and when he appeared to have the match under control, Monfils found his touch, claiming the set with some audacious shots in the tiebreak that brought the fans to their feet.

He had chances in the final set but then had to play catch up before the Hungarian held strong under pressure to win the tiebreak and the match.

“It was a great game and I really enjoyed it. For my first of the season, you want a better result but it was a good match,” said Monfils. “He was good coming from a sprained ankle and sickness and to be able to play that level was good. Fabian was better than me so I need to give him credit.

“I felt good. I had some opportunity to break him but I couldn’t convert them. I was 0-30 a lot on his serve but I could not find the solution I tried to then play my game, be a little more aggressive but he broke me back when I was serving for the match.

“The crowd was great. I felt they were supporting me and it is a pleasure and a blessing to play. We have enjoyed this experience here in Auckland.”

Marozsan was thrilled with the result and how he managed to play against an idol.

“”It was my first time here in Auckland. It was amazing. Gael is a great player who has been in the top-10 for like 15 years. He is a great player so this means a lot to me. It is never easy to start the season. I was sick in the pre-season so this means a lot,” said Marozsan.

“It was amazing to play in front of all these people. It was crazy. And it was cool to play on the centre-court for the first time.

“The key to the win was to believe in myself. I was a break down in the third set – it is not easy to believe in myself and continue to play to your maximum level so I am so pleased I was able to listen to the information from my coach and keep believing.”

It does not get easier as Marozsan takes on No 1 seed Ben Shelton in the second round.

World No. 57 Daniel Altmaier from Germany had a 100 minute battle to dispose of American Marcos Giron 7-6 6-2 to open proceedings on the first day of the men’s competition.

Meanwhile French teenager Luca van Assche, former world no. 1 ranked junior now ranked 87 in the world, enjoyed a strong start to 2024 coming through qualifying to beat world no. 54 JJ Wolf (USA) .

Qualifiers took advantage of two pre-tournament matches with Luca van Assche (NED), Alejandro Tabilo (CHI) and Alexandre Muller (FRA) all advancing to the second round.

Former world 22 Botic van de Zandschulp (NED) scored a strong win in overcoming the powerful serving 2.01m Chris Eubanks (USA) 7-6 6-2.

It was a tough day for the Americans, with all four in action on the first day losing their matches.

The men’s competition began outright in blazing conditions at the ASB Tennis Arena, and while the top-four seeds were rested through to Wednesday, there was plenty of star-power on show in arguably one of the deepest men’s fields in the event’s history.

And the night almost ended with some kiwi magic with Olympic medallist Marcus Daniell linking with kiwi-born Ben McLachlan to push top seeds Marcel Granollers (ESP) and Horacio Zeballos (ARG) to a third-set tiebreak in the doubles, going down in the first round of doubles 6-3 2-6 10-7.

Day two is exciting with the former world no.9 Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP), another top-10 returning in Canadian wildcard Denis Shapovalov and a romantic French battle between the world’s top ranked young gun Arthur Fils against defending champion Richard Gasquet, who has 19 straight years in the world’s top-100.

Kiwi action includes the appearance of wildcards Rubin Statham and Artem Sitak, in his final appearance before retirement, while American stars Chris Eubanks and Ben Shelton pair up in doubles.