“I am undoubtedly enjoying this week and the fact that I’m in the final obviously makes it even better. But I felt very welcomed from the first day by the people in Eastbourne,” said Djokovic. “I’m really glad that I’ll be able to fight for the trophy tomorrow. I haven’t had too many opportunities to fight for the trophy in the last 10 to 12 months. I’m hoping that I can continue on this path of raising my performance and the quality of tennis.”
The Serbian will take on Gael Monfils in the final after the second seed prevailed in a wild 6-2, 6-7(7), 7-6(4) battle against seventh seed and fellow Frenchman Richard Gasquet. Monfils improves to 9-7 in his FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry with Gasquet and they’re even at 2-2 this year. Gasquet prevailed last week in Halle and this February in Marseille, while Monfils won via retirement at Roland Garros.
“It was a big battle mentally, so I’m happy to get through it,” said Monfils. “I really hope to be fine for the final tomorrow and to be at 100 per cent. I’ll need to be aggressive and play my best.”
Djokovic has won all 13 of his FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings against Monfils, but they have never played on grass. The top seed acknowledged Monfils’ prowess on this surface and said he can’t afford to take the Frenchman lightly.
“Gael is such a dynamic player and unpredictable. He has the full package,” said Djokovic. “If things come together for him and he wants to perform well that day, he can be really tough. Especially with that serve, he can beat anyone.”
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Djokovic and Medvedev traded a pair of early breaks in the opening set, but the turning point of the match came with Djokovic serving at 3-4. The top seed saved three break points and then used that momentum to break Medvedev in the next game when the Russian hit a backhand into the net. A service winner from Djokovic at 5-4 gave him the early advantage.
Djokovic opened the second set with another break and never looked back, winning 86 per cent of his first-serve points on the day to prevail in one hour and 22 minutes.
Monfils stormed to a 6-2, 4-2 lead against Gasquet, but the match proved to be anything but straightforward from there. Gasquet saved two match points on his serve at 4-5 with an aggressive forehand and gorgeous forehand volley, then Monfils took an injury timeout in the next game after slipping on the grass and injuring his left leg.
The second seed saved two set points at 4/6 in the second-set tie-break and earned a third match point at 7/6, but dumped a routine forehand into the net. Monfils shockingly hit a double fault down 7/8 to send the match into a decider.
Monfils refused to wilt, though, earning a break at 1-1 with a delicate drop shot winner. He eventually went up 5-3, but missed a chance to serve out the match at 5-4 and Gasquet broke back with a backhand winner up the line.
The epic battle fittingly went to a final-set tie-break, where Monfils flicked a forehand passing shot winner to earn a 5/3 lead. A fourth match point came to his racquet at 6/4 and he made good with his fastest serve of the day to prevail in two hours and 31 minutes.