By John Delong
In English, the word is revenge.
In French, it’s revenge, too.
And that’s precisely what Gael Monfils got on Wednesday night with a 7-6 (2), 4-6, 6-2 victory over No. 4 seed Tommy Robredo in the third round of the Winston-Salem Open.
Robredo handed Monfils a stinging defeat at Roland Garros in May, coming from two sets down and fighting off four match points for an eventual 2-6, 6-7 (5), 6-2, 7-6 (3), 6-2 third-round victory. It was the first time the rivals had played since.
Of course, Monfils considered the stakes much higher in his country’s Grand Slam, so he only claimed a bit of satisfaction in the rematch.
"It’s just like a minor revenge, you know, because it wasn’t the same surface, it wasn’t the same atmosphere," Monfils said. "This means a lot to me, but, sorry, Paris means more."
The win moved Monfils, the No. 15 seed, into the quarterfinals on Thursday afternoon against another Spaniard, Fernando Verdasco. Verdasco beat Robin Haase 6-4, 6-7 (8), 6-3 on Wednesday.
Monfils, who is coming off a four-week layoff this week after suffering biceps and ankle problems, endured in what was clearly a battle of wills.
He won the first-set tiebreak by racing to a 5-1 lead. Robredo then came from down a break in the second set to break Monfils twice, and a vocal crowd on Center Court at the Wake Forest Tennis Complex had to be wondering if Robredo had another comeback in him.
But Monfils got more aggressive again in the third, took control by breaking Robredo in the third game, and then added a second break to go up 5-2. He then served out the match.
"It was good tonight," Monfils said. "I think I started to feel better hitting the ball and I moved great, so that was good. I had a little drop in the second set, I rushed it a little bit. I think I had to take a bit more time and focus more on my first serve and make him pay.
"The other thing is, he stayed back a little bit and made me run a little bit and get tired, too. When he won the second set, I just had to play simple and be more aggressive again because I saw that I was more defensive. And then in the third, it’s like, the fight is on. So I love it and he loved it, so let’s go."
Monfils had defeated Guido Pella in the second round.
Robredo, who had endured for a grueling 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-3 second-round victory over Guillaume Rufin that went into the wee hours of Tuesday night, appeared to be in pain on several occasions during the match. He was attended to by the ATP World Tour trainer at one point.
But afterward, he said that his knee only gave him trouble in the first set, and he gave Monfils credit for taking control in the third set.
"I only had a little bit of pain in the knee during the first set, but after the treatment it was perfect," Robredo said. "I was just fighting til the end, but it was a really tough match – very physical. And at the end he was better than me, so nothing else, just congratulate him and that’s it."
"I was like, ‘When is he going to stop?’" Monfils said. "But even when Tommy is hurt, he is a fighter, so I tried to not even look at it."
Monfils holds a 2-0 edge against Verdasco, but the two haven’t met since the Paris Masters in 2010.
"It’s always tough to play him," Monfils said. "He’s a very, very good striker. He’s got a huge forehand. So it’s going to be very interesting. It’s been a while since we’ve played, so it’s going to be good to play against him."