Monfils adavances to Vienna final

Gael Monfils of France claimed a thrilling 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (7/2) victory over unseeded German Philipp Kohlschreiber to reach the final of the Austrian Open.

updated: October 14, 2008 11:36 IST
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Gael Monfils of France claimed a thrilling 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (7/2) victory over unseeded German Philipp Kohlschreiber to reach the final of the Austrian Open.

He will play German qualifier Philipp Petzschner, who continued his run by defeating former champion Feliciano Lopez of Spain 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.

In a dramatic battle that lasted just nine minutes short of three hours yesterday, the eighth seeded Monfils almost gave the match away at the end, breaking to lead the final set 6-5 but then failing to win three match points before dominating the tiebreak.

The match was finely balanced from beginning to end, with both players running the other all over the court.

Although there were plenty of break point opportunities in the opening set, it was Monfils who earned the only break when a netted backhand gave him a 4-3 lead.

He then went on to serve out the set with two consecutive aces.

In contrast to the first set, in which Monfils earned five break points and Kohlschreiber four, both players easily held serve in the second set.

But Kohlschreiber struck when it mattered most, playing more aggressively in the last game to earn the only break.

In the final set, Monfils thought he had made the vital breakthrough at 1-1 when he won a marathon game that went to deuce 10 times.

Kohlschreiber failed to convert four game points, before Monfils broke on his seventh break point and leapt to his chair in delight.

His joy was premature, however, as a forehand error allowed Kohlschreiber to level at 3-3.

Games then went with serve until Kohlschreiber netted a backhand to give Monfils a break to lead 6-5.

But Monfils still had to battle to close out the match and reach his first final of the season, letting a 40-0 lead fall away, dropping his serve, but then racing through the tiebreak.

"I knew I had to keep going, to be focused," said Monfils of his thoughts after he surrendered three match points.

"Straight after I had the match points I was focused about the tiebreak so I didn't let him play and didn't keep the match points on my mind.

"He's strong on his baseline and always stretches you with his crosscourt forehand, so to play my game today was tougher."

The second semi-final could not match the drama and tension of the first.

Unseeded Lopez, who won his only career title in Vienna in 2004, took advantage of his opponent's often unforced errors in the first set, holding off three break points in his opening two service games before winning his third game to love and then easily breaking Petzschner to lead 4-2.

That was enough to secure him the first set, but in the second set it was Lopez who struggled to keep the ball in play as Petzschner settled and was more aggressive, often coming to the net to put away a volley.

The outcome was virtually decided at 2-2 in the final set when the ball clipped the net cord to give Petzschner break point and Lopez then netted a forehand to give the German a 3-2 lead.

Lopez then dropped his serve again at 5-3, as Petzschner clinched victory with a winning forehand volley.