There are times when there is no greater sight in tennis than Gaël Monfils in full flow.
The world No 14, a magnificent athlete and fearsome ball-striker, moved into top gear only fitfully here at the Paris Masters last night but it was enough for the local hero to end Andy Murray's remarkable run of 27 victories in succession over French players.
In truth Monfils' 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 victory owed as much to Murray's up-and-down performance as it did to his opponent's blend of pace, power and panache. Murray, who said afterwards that he had felt below-par after not getting to bed until 3am following a late finish against Marin Cilic the day before, played well in patches but put only 51 per cent of his first serves court, hit just three aces and made too many errors.
The world No 4, who would have moved up a place in the world rankings if he had reached the final, said he had had only seven hours' sleep. "Any athlete will tell you that it's not ideal," he said. "It's difficult to come out and play your best tennis. I just couldn't keep it up the whole time. But the week as a whole has been quite beneficial. I played three pretty long matches against good players."
A packed crowd in Bercy's 14,500-capacity Palais Omnisports, already cheered by another local triumph after Michael Llodra beat Nikolay Davydenko to reach his first Masters Series semi-final, roared Monfils to victory. There is no crowd-pleaser in the game quite like the 24-year-old Frenchman, who loves to throw himself around the court.
Monfils tumbled to the floor trying to reach the ball on the very first point and two games later was spinning round like a breakdancer, pivoting on one hand, after being wrong-footed. The Frenchman sometimes slid around the court as if he was playing on the other side of the city on clay at Roland Garros. No wonder he has suffered from knee problems.
Taking full advantage of some erratic play by Murray, Monfils won the first set in just 35 minutes before Murray levelled the match after a second set that was two minutes shorter. Murray saved two break points in the fifth game of the decider but hooked a forehand wide on the third. The Scot was broken again when he served at 3-5, Monfils completing victory with a superb backhand cross-court pass winner.
If there was disappointment for Murray, he should go into the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, which start at London's O2 Arena in eight days' time, in good heart, particularly as there was no recurrence of the wrist problem he suffered against David Nalbandian.
In today's semi-finals Monfils will take on Roger Federer, who needed just 70 minutes to beat Jurgen Melzer 6-1, 7-6. Llodra will play Sweden's Robin Soderling, who beat Andy Roddick 7-5, 6-4.Reuse content