Gael Monfils is back in a Grand Slam semi-final after an eight-year wait, pummelling fellow Frenchman Lucas Pouille 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 to reach the US Open last four on Tuesday.
Tenth-seeded Monfils was in control throughout against the 22-year-old Pouille, who was coming off an epic fifth-set tiebreaker win over 14-time major winner Rafael Nadal.
That marked the 24th-seeded Pouille’s third straight five-setter. Whether it was a letdown after the biggest win of his career or sheer fatigue, his 44 unforced errors meant he never stood a chance against the dialed-in Monfils.
“Of course I was a bit tired today,” Pouille said. “It would have been better if I played a bit less time on court. Gael was playing very good. He was better than me today.”
Dictating from the baseline, Monfils took charge with seven of his 13 aces in the opening set, gaining the only break he needed in the seventh game.
Pouille conceded a break with a stream of errors to fall 1-2 down in the second, and a break of more than 15 minutes to close the new Arthur Ashe stadium roof, with Monfils up 4-3, did nothing to change the momentum.
After holding with back-to-back aces, Monfils broke the error-prone Pouille at love to take the set.
“I was lucky because I had a break so it was easy in my mind,” Monfils said of coping with the delay. “I just felt so good (and) it was going to be even better because it was going to be indoors. I just kept going with my game plan.”
One break was all he needed in the third, as he wrapped up the match without facing a break point.
Monfils, whose only other Grand Slam semi appearance was at the 2008 French Open, will face world number one and defending champion Novak Djokovic, a winner over fellow Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga after Tsonga retired with a knee injury trailing 3-6, 2-6, for a place in Sunday’s championship match.
It was the third time in five matches that an opponent’s injury has worked to Djokovic’s advantage, after his walkover into the third round where Mikhail Youzhny retired after just six games.
Ninth-seeded Tsonga gave him more of a workout, but even before an apparent left knee injury began to trouble the Frenchman in the second set Djokovic had the match well in hand.
It was the first time in 89 years that three French men had reached the quarter-finals of the US championships.
Tsonga was the highest seed among them, but his challenge ended with a whimper.
Down two breaks at 2-5 in the second, he called for the trainer, wincing as his knee was manipulated.
A merciless Djokovic then served out the set at love, firing a 118 mph (189.9 Km/h) ace -- his first of the contest -- on set point.
After Tsonga opened the third set with a double fault he called a halt.
The remaining quarter-finals take place on Wednesday with Wimbledon and Olympic champion Andy Murray of Britain facing sixth-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan and third-seeded Stan Wawrkina of Switzerland facing Juan Martin del Potro.
At 142 in the world, del Potro is the lowest ranked player in 25 years to reach the US Open quarters as the 2009 champion battles back from four wrist surgeries that nearly spelled the end of his career.