Monfils upsets seedings on his comeback
Gael Monfils, the former world No 7 from France who is seeking to resurrect his career after a knee injury, upset the seedings to reach the quarterfinals of the Qatar Open in Doha in his first tournament back.
Without a match for two and a half months, and now down at 77 in the rankings, Monfils edged out Philipp Kohlschreiber, the third-seeded German, by 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 in a two-hour contest full of absorbing, varied rallies.
These suggested no further problems with Monfils's long-lasting ailment.
They also hinted at seriously renewed ambition for the 26-year-old Switzerland-based Parisian, who has often appeared to possess enough speed, serving ability, and inspirational flair to make the later stages of Grand Slams.
Now though, after a mental dip in the second set, it was greater consistency which enabled Monfils to prevail in the final stages of the deciding set, in which he snatched its only break of serve in the very last game.
"I didn't know what to expect (from myself), but I produced good tennis," said Monfils, whose biggest dilemma often seemed to be in regaining an instinct for how and when to mix patience with daring.
"I am physically a hundred per cent," he insisted. "My knee is fine, and I moved well and I ran fast. I am very happy. Tonight I am pleased with my game."
Monfils also timed perfectly the one break of serve which decided the first set, grabbing it in the last game as he punished Kohlschreiber for two dicey approaches to the net.
The German has nevertheless finished 2012 as his country's top player and as a top 20 player for the first time, and showed his ability as he quickly got on top in the second set when Monfils' standard dropped.
This appeared to be a response to a warning the Frenchman got for a time violation - taking too long between rallies - and after dropping serve immediately, he was soon a double break down and out of that set.
When twice break point down in the third game of the final set, though, Monfils' responses were different. A forehand drive taken enterprisingly from the backhand tramline averted the first crisis and a heavy serve the other. After that his focus seemed to intensify.
By contrast Kohlschreiber appeared to commit himself inflexibly to all-out attack on crucial points during the climax of the contest.
He was a second match point down after risking a foray to the net, only to find Monfils' dipping response catching him low at his feet. And Kohlschreiber lost it with another ambitious backhand, this time directed over the high part of the net but instead catching it.
Monfils on Thursday has a last eight meeting with another German, Daniel Brands, a qualifier ranked outside the top 150 - with every prospect of making the semis.
Earlier Mikhail Youzhny, the No 4 seed, became another of six seeds to have fallen in two and a half days. His defeat created very different emotions within a 40-hour span.
Youzhny had been sharing a celebratory new year's drink with his fellow Russian, Nikolay Davydenko, two days ago. Now he was trying to shrug off disappointment as he was beaten by his compatriot.
Davydenko, a 31-year-old former world No 3, was impressive during the second set of a 7-5, 6-3 win which suggested it may indeed be worth making one last major push for success.