|Mardy Fish celebrates a point against Stanislas Wawrinka during the Rogers Cup tennis tournament in Montreal on Aug. 12, 201. (BEN PELOSSE/QMI Agency)
MONTREAL - So much for the rust.
New world No. 1 Novak Djokovic complained that he couldn’t get into a rhythm in his first tour event since ascending to the top of the tennis world. That all changed Friday night as he trounced Gael Monfils 6-2, 6-1 to advance to the semifinals of the $2.4 million Rogers Cup.
Djokovic broke Monfils four times and won a baseline battle with several accurate winners while the Frenchman hit numerous forehands into the net.
The lightning-quick Monfils started the match strongly, smashing several blistering, near-unhittable groundstrokes to stay even at 2-2.
But Djokovic got stronger as the set wore on and Monfils seemed to slow down, dropping the last four games.
The second set was no contest as Djokovic broke Monfils twice in the first four games to go up 5-0.
The colourful Frenchman tried to psych himself up with a dance just before serving to start the sixth game, eliciting a roar from the crowd. He proceeded to blast an ace and then let out a loud roar when Djokovic’s return of his next serve sailed long. Monfils won the game on a smashing forehand winner, raising his hands for the appreciative crowd.
But Djokovic closed out Monfils in the seventh and deciding game and now draws one step closer to claiming a title that he won back in 2007.
Djokovic’s semifinal foe will be another Frenchman, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who beat Nicolas Almagro of Spain 6-4, 6-4. Tsonga had unseated third-ranked Roger Federer in the third round Thursday. He has also had Djokovic’s number, sporting a 5-3 career record against the Serb.
“He’s playing great,” said of Tsonga.
Djokovic's win over Monfils made him 51-1 in matches this season, good for eight titles. He’s the only one of tennis’ Big 4 still standing at the Rogers Cup.
Aside from Federer, Spain’s Rafael Nadal, the No. 2 seed, was eliminated by unseeded Croat Ivan Dodig in the second round Wednesday.
No. 4 seed Andy Murray was upset Tuesday by South African Kevin Anderson, also unseeded.
The other Saturday semifinal pits an ageless American against a tattooed, Twitter-friendly Serb.
Minnesotan Mardy Fish has thwarted advancing age and a surgically repaired left knee to reach his first ATP Masters 1000 semifinal with a 6-3, 6-7 (8), 6-0 win over Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland.
He will play Janko Tipsarevic, who defeated Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic 6-4, 6-4 Friday. Like Fish, the 27-year-old Tipsarevic will be in his first Rogers Cup semifinal.
Fish, 29, has revitalized his career after undergoing knee surgery two years ago and has dropped nearly 30 pounds under a new fitness regime.
He’s ranked No. 8 on the ATP tour after reaching three semifinals on the North American hard court swing.
Fish has had success against Tipsarevic, winning their past three meetings, a fact not lost on the bearded, shade-wearing Serb.
“Mardy is playing the best tennis of his life,” he said. “I have a feeling it’s going to be an interesting match (Saturday).”
Tipsarevic’s career has also reached new heights. He hit a career-high No. 23 ranking in July before sliding to No. 24.