In a battle between a big-hitter and one of the sport’s great showmen, eighth seed Kevin Anderson takes on France’s Gael Monfils, with both men looking to reach their first Grand Slam quarterfinal. Surely the finest moment of Anderson’s career came last year when he battled through to the US Open final, but that was a just reward for the hard work the South African has put in throughout his career. The flashy Monfils cannot quite be said to be a hard worker, but there is no doubting his talent. Who will come out on top?
Monfils and Anderson have met five times so far in their careers in a rivalry in which the Frenchman has been dominant, winning all five. Their first match came in 2011 in the Bangkok quarterfinals, where Monfils won 7-5 7-5. He ousted Anderson in Bangkok again a year later, winning 6-4 2-6 7-5. Monfils then scored clay court wins in 2014 in Monte Carlo, 6-4 7-6, and in 2016 in Madrid, 6-4 6-1. In their most recent meeting, in 2016 in Shanghai, Monfils won 7-6 6-3.
Path to the fourth round
Anderson lost first round at Queen’s, but encountered no such problems in defeating Slovakian qualifier Norbert Gombos 6-3 6-4 6-4 first time out at Wimbledon. In his second round match, which pitted him against Italian veteran Andreas Seppi, he was pushed to four sets but came through 6-3 6-7 6-3 6-4 to set up a meeting with Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber, a quarterfinalist at Wimbledon in 2012. But he never looked like getting past Anderson, who won through 6-3 7-5 7-5.
Monfils began his Wimbledon campaign with a tough opening round assignment against the in-form Richard Gasquet, twice a Wimbledon semifinalist in the past. But Monfils got the better of his countryman, winning through 7-6 7-5 6-4. He then recovered impressively from dropping the first set to defeat Paolo Lorenzi in four, 3-6 6-3 7-6 7-6, in second round action. He then finally ended his long-streak of third round Wimbledon losses by defeating last year’s semifinalist Sam Querrey 5-7 6-4 6-4 6-2.
How do they match up?
For Monfils, Anderson presents a similar challenge as Sam Querrey, although the South African is a more capable player off the ground than Querrey. Nonetheless, there is no doubting that Anderson, like Querrey, is at his best when stepping to the line. From a height of 6’8”, Anderson can rain down aces and he has already struck 76 so far. After his serve, his forehand is his biggest weapon and whilst he can do less damage with his backhand, it is a dependable enough shot.
To hit through Monfils, however, Anderson will need to be at his very best offensively. The Frenchman’s speed and court coverage are amongst the very best on Tour, although he does not have quite the same quality on the ball at the end of his range as the likes of Djokovic and Nadal. When he chooses to, Monfils can also step in and dictate and he is blessed with surprising power on both wings. That being said, he might find such opportunities limited against Anderson.
This seems certain to be a close battle, with both men considerably better equipped when stepping to the line than when they are returning. But when the chips are down, Anderson’s bigger and more reliable weapons should be just enough to tip the balance of the match in his favour. Though he doesn’t have the best record in fourth round matches at Majors, winning just two out of twelve, the time looks right for him to claim win number three. Anderson in five.