Paris Flashback: Novak Djokovic edges Gael Monfils for first crown



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Paris Flashback: Novak Djokovic edges Gael Monfils for first crown

Eight seeds reached the quarter-final at the 2009 Paris Masters, but Roger Federer was not among them after suffering a shocking defeat to Julien Benneteau in the third round. The other favorites were still in the title chase, with excellent encounters in a battle for the semi-final.

Nadal dethroned Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and Djokovic prevailed against Soderling in three sets to set the anticipated clash. Djokovic proved to be too strong for Nadal, scoring one of his most convincing triumphs against the Spaniard and arranging the final encounter against Gael Monfils, who toppled Radek Stepanek.

A week earlier, Novak had conquered the title in Basel and carried that form to France. In a memorable final, Djokovic prevailed over Monfils 6-2, 5-7, 7-6 in grueling two hours and 44 minutes to break the French crowd's hearts and prevent the second home champion in a row.

It was their fourth match and the fourth triumph for Novak, none of those coming easy, though, performing better on his second serve to earn the crown against an inspired rival. The Serb lost his serve four times and broke Gael on five occasions from ten chances, outplaying him entirely in the mid-range rallies to overcome the deficit from the shortest points where Monfils had the advantage thanks to 34 service winners.

Djokovic drew first blood in game four when Monfils netted a forehand and cemented the lead with four winners in the next one for 4-1 after 15 minutes. Another forehand winner in game seven pushed the Serb 5-2 up, and he claimed the opener in 31 minutes with another break in game eight after Gael's double fault.

In 2009, Novak Djokovic claimed his first Paris Masters title.

Novak was the ruler on the court like against Nadal on the previous day, moving Monfils around the baseline and controlling the pace with his deep and accurate groundstrokes that did a lot of damage.

He broke Gael in the second game of the second set after a great defense and delivered another commanding hold that sent him 3-0 up following a forehand winner. Monfils finally held serve in game four after deuce and ended his downfall before pulling the break back a few minutes later thanks to Novak's weak volley at the net.

A hold at love brought Gael back on the level terms at 3-3, performing as a better player at the moment after drawing energy from his partisan crowd that carried him towards another break chance in game seven. Djokovic fended it off with a volley winner, doing the same at 4-4 with a great attack.

Determined to claim this set, the Frenchman landed a deep return in game 11 that pushed him 6-5 up and held at 15 with a service winner to clinch the set 7-5 and force a decider. Novak stayed focused and broke in the final set's second game, only to spray a forehand error a few minutes later to give serve away and keep Gael in contention.

The third straight break came in game four after Monfils' double fault, and Djokovic created a 4-1 gap with a service winner a few minutes later and moved closer to the finish line. It was Novak's turn for a double fault in the worst moment at 4-2, getting broken and allowing Gael to lock up the result at 4-4 with a smash winner in game eight, giving the crowd something to cheer about.

They both held with ease in the last four games, and an ace from Monfils sent them into a deciding tie break after two hours and 34 minutes of a thrilling contest. Novak clinched a 34-shot rally to move 5-3 in front, and a smash winner gave him three match points.

He needed only one, as Gael fired another double fault to end this excellent encounter in the worst possible way. At 22, Novak had already won five different Masters 1000 titles, taking significant steps towards completing all nine.