Gael Monfils pays tribute to ‘the GOAT’ Novak Djokovic despite 19th defeat in head-to-head

Tennis’ gleeful entertainer, Gael Monfils was set to face his familiar foe Novak Djokovic in the fourth round of the Cincinnati Open. Monfils, upbeat over his recent parenthood and wife Elina Svitolina’s impressive Wimbledon journey, blazed his way to the round of 16 by defeating Alex de Minaur and Cameron Norrie.

Monfils and Djokovic had met 18 times before with the Serbian superstar triumphing in all 18 of them. Monfils thus faced an uphill task ahead of not being on the wrong side of a record-making match that could possibly see Novak Djokovic break Rafael Nadal’s head-to-head record in the history of the Open Era. 

Djokovic extends record to 19-0 against Monfils

The 2 players started their match amidst a rapturous crowd that gasped and cheered at every point. Djokovic, dressed in a light blue T-shirt that matched the colour of the hard court surface, was on song with his stroke play and quickly gained the upper hand over Monfils, who began to see chinks in his armour as his entertaining stroke play was faltering against Djokovic’s baseline fortitude.

Novak Djokovic

The first set was tense and with the score 4-3 in Djokovic’s favour, Monfils made a couple of unforced errors that handed the break to his opponent. That propelled Djokovic to serve out the set 6-3.

The second set took even lesser time to get going as Djokovic raced to a 5-0 lead. The records were in sight as Djokovic temporarily faltered by dropping his serve game. Monfils won the next game to give him hopes of an insane comeback but those wishes were quickly quashed as Djokovic effectively closed out the set and the match 6-3,6-2 leading to an euphoric response from the packed stadium who had just witnessed history.

Monfils, ranked 211 in the world, had just been humbled by a highly superior Djokovic who quickly ran to the net to congratulate his awe-struck opponent. Djokovic’s steely mental strength was on display in Cincinnati as he continued his knack of not losing a single set in the course of the tournament.

This match meant Djokovic extended his head-to-head record against Monfils to 19-0. This broke Rafael Nadal’s record of 18-0 against Richard Gasquet. The record was another feather in the cap for Djokovic who was looking to reclaim his number one ranking from Carlos Alcaraz by winning the Cincinnati Open. 

Coco Gauff, playing prior to this match, summed up the excitement by saying, “It’s even more crowded than my first match yesterday,” Gauff said with a smile after her win on Centre Court. “Probably because Novak is after me to be honest, and Gael too”.

Gael Monfils pays tribute to Novak Djokovic

Despite having the most lopsided head-to-head record in tennis, Gael Monfils was smiling and gracious in defeat. After the match, Djokovic gave Monfils an autographed shirt with the message, “#19. 17.08.23. Sorry not sorry (smiling emoticon)”.

Monfils posted the autographed shirt on Twitter and responded with some nice words for “the GOAT” Djokovic. He said, “It may not have been the match I was hoping for against the GOAT, but it’s still an honour and a pleasure to face Novak. Still, it’s been a positive week. I’m going to rest to be at my best at the US Open. Thank you so much for your incredible support.” Djokovic responded to Monfils by saying, “Always an honor to play together my friend.”

Djokovic reflected on his achievement by praising Monfils’ skill set and athleticism. He reminisced on their junior days together in Italy where they played a clay court match in a country club late at night. He said Monfils was entertaining back in those days too along with possessing dangerous offense and defense techniques that complemented his slide and smashes well.

When quizzed on the record being broken, Djokovic slyly said, “I think he(Monfils) knows it too”. 

Novak Djokovic is a record-maker, a top-tier athlete who can reclaim the top spot in the ATP rankings by winning the Cincinnati Open. Will he do so and forge a stellar path towards the US Open where he aims to win his fourth title? Let us know in the comments section below. 



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