By Phoebe Ho
TORONTO, Aug. 6 (Xinhua) -- World No. 1 Novak Djokovic was pushed to the brink by Gael Monfils in his Toronto Rogers Cup opening match on Wednesday before he edged back just in time for a 6-2, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (2) victory and narrowly missed an upset.
It started off looking like it was going to be an easy match for Djokovic as he dominated the first set with his unstoppable volleys by the net, but the unseeded Monfils made a comeback in the following set as he trailed closely behind Djokovic, eventually breaking him in a tie-break.
"I felt I hit the ball cleanly and didn't make many unforced errors, made him play, put a lot of returns back. Then he started serving better and, as I said, decreased the first-serve percentage, and he was looking for the opportunities to come, you know, to attack," Djokovic said about his opponent. "He played really well. I mean, he mixed up the game, he mixed up the pace, he used his slice well."
It was a long match, but Monfils - who not only hit a shot with his head, between his legs, and also tossed his racquet to hit a ball on another occasion - didn't fail to entertain the crowds.
When asked about what he was thinking when he threw his racquet, Monfils response was: fun.
But fun as it was in the beginning, tempers began to flare as the two fought furiously to finish off the match. At one point Monfils began arguing with the chair umpire after receiving a time violation.
"Yeah, I was upset, because I think I took a free warning call for nothing, because obviously he called time, and Novak crossed the net, and then I switched my racquets and I had a warning," Monfils explained. "So I was very upset. I think it was a free warning for nothing. I think we can have warning if we are very slow between the points, but this is, for me, not good."
Djokovic said the spectacle Monfils created on the court didn't distract him one bit though.
"Gael is Gael, that's what he does. He loves jumping around, sliding, he's very unpredictable," said the Serb. "You don't know what his next move is, so that's why he's so interesting."
The Frenchman continued flinging himself across the court in the final set to earn himself a 3-1 lead. He was unstoppable from there, but Djokovic pushed back and eventually won the match in a tiebreak.
"Like his return is like I think one of massive weapons he have. Because at some stage of the match, you know that you cannot ace him or have any free points with your serve," he said about Djokovich. "And then his timing, he's great. He's always -- you know, he's always on time, run good, defence, attack. I think he's just No. 1 for a reason."
This is now the two players' 10th encounter, with Djokovic leading 10-0.
With this win, Djokovic may potentially be booking a quarter-finals clash with eighth-seeded Andy Murray, who just earlier in the day breezed past Australian Nick Kyrgios with a 6-2, 6-2 victory.
Serving up seven aces in the two sets, Murray dispatched the 19-year-old in just 54-minutes.
A frustrated Kyrgios, who is making his ATP World Tour Master debut this week, threw his racquet when Murray broke Kyrgios 5-2 in the first set, before regaining his composure.
But that didn't stop the two-time Rogers Cup champion from dominating his first match since his quarterfinals exit at Wimbledon. Set to clash with Richard Gasquet for the next match, Murray could be facing Djokovic soon.
"Being in the section of the draw with the No. 1 player in the world, that hasn't happened the last few years based on the seeding and being in the top three or four players," Murray said about the draw. "It's a tough draw, but, you know, it's also good to play against someone, you know, like Novak if you get that opportunity in the buildup to the U.S. Open, you really see where your game is at."
For now, Murray is staying focused on the matches at hand.
"Upsets happen, so, you know, I could lose my next match," he said. "You know, it only becomes relevant if we end up playing each other in the quarterfinals, because if one of us loses, then you might say, well, this section is more open."