Gael Monfils and Stefanos Tsitsipas have been in superb form recently and they produced one of the matches of the year so far in the semi-final of Dubai, with the young Greek scoring a 4-6, 7-6, 7-6 triumph to become the first player born in 1998 in the top-10!
The Australian Open semi-finalist has won 15 matches on the Tour so far in 2019 and he will fight for the second ATP title in a row against Roger Federer or Borna Coric, arriving in Dubai after winning the crown in Marseille last Sunday.
On the other hand, Monfils has advanced into three consecutive semi-finals for the first time in a career and he had a chance to seek another ATP 500 crown after Rotterdam, leading 6-4, 3-1 and being two points away from the victory in the 12th game of the deciding set before Stefanos stole in the tie break for a huge celebration.
The match lasted two hours and 59 minutes and we saw five breaks in total, three for Gael who had 14 opportunities to take rival's serve and bring the match home earlier. Tsitsipas created ten break chances and he seized two, prevailing in the most critical moments to cross the finish line first and move into the semi-final.
It was the encounter of the highest order in terms of attractive and attacking tennis, with both players eager to keep the points on their racquet and impose the strokes before the opponent do that. Stefanos had 47 winners and 39 unforced errors, hanging there in some tough moments and overcoming the Frenchman who hit 45 winners and the same number of mistakes, covering the court beautifully and always forcing Tsitsipas to play an extra shot.
The youngster was off to a flying start, breaking in game two with a smash winner to open a 3-0 gap before Gael started his engines, pulling the break back in game five and securing another break in game seven to jump into the lead.
Monfils closed the set with a perfect forehand crosscourt winner in game ten, getting closer to the finish line when he broke again at 1-1 in the second set after a double fault from the Greek. With no room for errors, Stefanos pulled the break back in the sixth game with a smash winner, wasting a set point at 5-4 but winning the tie break 7-4 with a forehand return winner to send the match into a decider.
The servers refused to surrender in the third set, repelling all seven break points (Gael had his four at 4-3) and reaching the tie break after three deuces on Stefanos' serve in game 12. The Greek earned a mini-break in the fourth point after a huge forehand error from Monfils and that proved to be enough for the win, serving well and clinching one of the most significant victories in a career so far when Gael sent a backhand long in the 11th point.
Thus, Stefanos has advanced into the fifth ATP final and cracked the top-10 for the first time, playing some incredible tennis in the last 12 months and moving towards the pinnacle of the men's tennis at such a young age.