By Michael Stafford-Jones

  • Two exciting men’s quarter-finals on Day 9 of US Open 2016
  • Novak Djokovic[1] vs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga [9]
  • Gael Monfils [10] vs Lucas Pouille [24]
NEW YORK, USA – Novak Djokovic faces Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in one highly-anticipated US Open quarter-final clash, while Gael Monfils plays countryman Lucas Pouille in another.

 

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Novak Djokovic [1] v Jo-Wilfried Tsonga [9] H2H: 15-6

Great entertainment is pretty much guaranteed whenever Djokovic plays Tsonga. The Frenchman goes for his shots against every opponent, but when he is up against a defender as brilliant as the world number one, it can bring out the very best in his ability.

However, frequently that is not enough to win, as Djokovic tends to also step up his game when he faces Tsonga. In their past meetings, when the Frenchman has hits shots deep into the court that are unreturnable for most players on the ATP tour, the Serb has responded by somehow reaching those balls and re-directing them beyond Tsonga for winners. It can be phenomenal to watch.

Hopefully both players will produce their best tennis once again in this mouth-watering US Open quarter-final clash. Before Djokovic produced a masterclass against to beat in-form Kyle Edmund in straight sets, such a prospect might have seemed unlikely. But the Serb, 29, looked to be on top of his game during that match and Tsonga will have a very tough task on his hands if reproduces that kind of performance.

The key for Tsonga will be to unsettle Djokovic by attacking and defending well. When he has lost to the world number one in the past, it has often been because he has attacked well but not been able to make Djokovic work hard enough for his points. If the Frenchman, 31, can repeatedly make Djokovic play extra shots, he may start to make more and more errors. Countryman Gilles Simon demonstrated this to great effect when he took the Serb to five sets at this year’s Australian Open and should have beaten him.

Furthermore, Tsonga will be encouraged by his form in the tournament so far. He beat two potentially very difficult opponents – Kevin Anderson and Jack Sock – with relative ease. He also did well at Wimbledon and could have beaten eventual champion Andy Murray in the quarter-final if he had performed at the sky-high level of sets three and four for more of the match. And the Frenchman took Djokovic to two tie-break sets in their last meeting – in Indian Wells this year – so he can take heart from that too. Now all he has to do is conjure one of the best displays of his life to beat the Serb in a Grand Slam match for the first time since 2010. Easy!

Prediction: Djokovic in five sets

 

Gael Monfils [10] v Lucas Pouille [24] H2H: 1-0

This could be another cracking US Open quarter-final as two entertaining Frenchman go head to head for a place in the last four. Pouille will be on a high after coming out victorious in a five-set epic against Rafael Nadal and will surely fancy his chances. However, Monfils has got an excellent all-round game and is a great athlete, so he will also expect to win.

Consequently, there are likely to be plenty of aggressive shots on show as both players go for it. But both Frenchman defend well, too, so it is also likely we will see a lot of long rallies. If this is how it pans out, the crowd will surely be happy, as pulsating rallies are usually terrific to watch.

It is tough to predict who will win, particularly as Pouille has just scored a career-best win and is playing the best tennis of his life. The experience of Monfils, 30, could prove crucial, as this is the eighth Grand Slam quarter-final of his career and only the second for Pouille, 22. The older Frenchman’s record of only one win in seven previous matches at this stage looks very poor until you take a look at who he played. Monfils has lost three Grand Slam quarter-finals to Roger Federer, one to Djokovic, one to Murray and one to the in-form Milos Raonic in Australia in January. The most galling of these losses was the 2014 US Open loss to Federer as Monfils held a two-sets-to-love lead in that match and allowed the Swiss to come back. He also lost a five-setter to Murray at the French Open that year.

Given this record, the world number 12 should definitely aim to beat Pouille in three or four sets and not let it go to a fifth. Pouille, on the other hand, would surely be happy with such an outcome after showing incredible composure under pressure to win the decider against Nadal. Of course, it might affect his chances of being physically competitive in the semi-final that followed, but it would be worth it just to get there.

Prediction: Monfils in four sets

 

Pouille and Monfils are scheduled on Arthur Ashe, not before 1pm (6pm BST), with Djokovic and Tsonga the second night match.

 

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