Following a well-deserved week off after the title in Rotterdam, an in-form Frenchman Gael Monfils is back on the winning way, ousting the 3rd seed Marin Cilic 6-3, 4-6 6-0 in an hour and 45 minutes for the tenth win of the season.
This was only their fourth meeting on the Tour and Gael grabbed the fourth win, reducing Marin on one ace and winning 45% of the return points to dominate in sets he won and close the encounter in the best possible way. Competing for the first time since the Australian Open and a knee injury, Marin gave his best to stay in touch with Monfils but he barely won a set from the only break point he created, facing 13 on the other side and giving serve away five times to suffer a rare bagel and hit the exit door.
Monfils finished the match with 30 winners and just 14 unforced errors, a task that stayed away from Cilic's reach, and he kicked off the action when Marin sprayed a forehand error in the opening game. Seven good holds later, the 3rd seed hit another wide forehand to suffer the second break and hand the opener to Gael after 34 minutes, having to raise the level significantly if he wanted to challenge the rival whom he never beat before.
The Frenchman played the only loose service game at 2-2 in the second set when he got broken at love after a forehand error, allowing Marin to grab it in the tenth game after saving three break points to force a decider. Gael was the only player there, though, moving in front with a break at 15 in game two and never looking back, sealing the deal with a forehand crosscourt winner in the sixth game for a 6-0 and the place in round two.
The 5th seed and Marseille champion Stefanos Tsitsipas scored a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 triumph over Matthew Ebden in an hour and 43 minutes for the 12th win in 2019 and another step towards the top-10. The young Greek delivered fury from his first serve, winning 34 out of 37 points and losing serve twice from four chances he offered to the Aussie.
Ebden fought well although it wasn't enough to go all the way, dropping serve twice in the deciding set to end his campaign in the opening round. Stefanos lost just one point in five service games of the first set, rattling off one good serve after another and breaking in game five when Matthew's forehand landed long.
The Australian Open semi-finalist won 16 straight points on serve to close the opener with three winners in game ten, hoping for more of the same in set number two. Ebden was the one who had the edge in that part of the encounter, though, serving well and stealing Stefanos's serve at 15 in game six with a smash winner.
The Aussie closed the set with a service winner in game nine, reducing Tsitsipas on just four direct points and looking for a complete turnaround in the decider. There, they traded breaks in games two and three and Stefanos was the one who saved the best for the last, dropping one point in the last three service games and earning a break at love in game six for the crucial advantage.
Four good serves in game nine propelled Stefanos over the finish line and he will now face Egor Gerasimov in the second round on Wednesday. Tomas Berdych and Borna Coric had to work hard to defeat lucky losers Ilya Ivashka and Jiri Vesely, prevailing in the third set tie break to set the second round clash in the last match in the centre court tomorrow.