Gael Monfils cannot turn down an opportunity for a good show, not even with set point in the Australian Open. With the second set at stake, in the middle of a rally, the Frenchman chose to go behind the back. His second-round opponent Alexandr Dolgopolov, whether thrown off by the mild sidespin or the plain audacity, dumped an easy forehand into the net.
(This was gorgeous and stupid, but it doesn’t qualify as the dumbest trick shot of the last 48 hours—that honor goes to Nick Kyrgios and his fifth-set tweener.)
Monfils, seeded sixth, his highest-ever placement for a Grand Slam, took the match 6-3, 6-4, 1-6, 6-0. He’s enjoyed a relatively soft beginning to the tournament, with Philipp Kohlschreiber lined up in the third round. Should he make it through that match, Monfils will face his first real test in either Rafael Nadal or Alexander Zverev. If Monfils draws Nadal, it’ll be a dogged footrace between two stubborn, 30-year-old defenders, a matchup that’s historically gone in the Spaniard’s favor, given their 12-2 history. If he gets Zverev, the whole court will be a mess of long limbs, and the hard-striking teenager will take his fourth shot at a veteran he’s never beaten.
Last night Denis Istomin did his colleagues a favor by upsetting six-time champion Novak Djokovic, banishing a menace that loomed over the entire men’s draw. Meanwhile, top seed Andy Murray tweaked his ankle. Even more so than usual, the Australian Open is anyone’s tournament to win—maybe even this clown’s.