Jovial Djokovic earns Federer showdown
Novak Djokovic signalled his intent to repeat the glories of last season by brushing aside Gael Monfils in an entertaining clash at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi.
World No. 1 Djokovic claimed three grand slams during 2011 before a fitness struggles saw him fade towards the end of the campaign. But judging by a 6-2 4-6 6-2 success against Monfils, the close-season rest appears to have served him well.
That said, this was not the match to draw definitive conclusions from. Early on, it was played at a low intensity even for an exhibition, with Monfils in particular intent on ensuring he and everyone else had a good time. The tempo did increase eventually, but Djokovic will face a much stiffer test in his semi-final against Roger Federer on Friday.
Monfils appeared more interested in entertaining the crowd than winning the match during the first set - which, sure enough, he lost inside 29 minutes. There were several occasions when he had the opportunity to win points, only to opt for a crowd-pleasing shot that allowed Djokovic off the hook.
Perhaps Monfils was attempting to lure Djokovic into a trap - and if so, it worked. Djokovic lost his serve in the opening game of the second set, apparently struggling to adjust to the now-interested Monfils, who had wiped the smile off his face and rolled up his sleeves.
When Monfils went 2-0 up, it became a full-throttle match worthy of any ATP Tour event - and, when Djokovic attempted to seize the initiative, Monfils was just about able to match him blow-for-blow. The Serb looked high on confidence, but his ultra-aggressive brand of baseline play was costing him as many points as it won. Monfils eventually took the set - crawling over the line in the end - to force a decider.
By the end of the second the momentum had shifted back towards Djokovic - and, once he found his rhythm, he was unstoppable, taking the final set with two breaks.
David Ferrer overcame an opening-set mauling to beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in three. The world No. 5 triumphed 2-6 7-6(5) 6-2 after taking advantage of a late collapse from Tsonga, who was simply blown away in the final ten minutes of the match.
Tsonga started in fearsome fashion but gradually faded - alarmingly so in the third set, when he succumbed to a rash of unforced errors and looked unable to maintain the frantic pace set by his Spanish opponent. After he moved 4-2 down following Ferrer's second break of the set, Tsonga lost the next game to love, effectively waving the white flag and letting Ferrer enter the semi-final, where he will play his countryman Rafael Nadal.