Gael Monfils goes for his first hard-court title at the Legg Mason Classic tonight against Czech Radek Stepanek.
Monfils advanced to his first final of the season after a dramatic semi-final win over John Isner last night. The top seed saved match point in the final set tiebreak with an ace before clinching the rain delayed clash 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(6).
"I have a lot of respect for John," Monfils said afterwards. "It's always a pleasure for me to play against him."
The question tonight will be how much Monfils has left in the tank as Stepanek will be much the fresher of the two players. His semi-final could not have been more contrasting as he brushed past Donald Young 6-3, 6-3, successfully pressurizing the 21 year old who struggled to handle the guile and variety of the net-rushing Czech.
"I felt pretty confident heading into this match as I had already played three lefties in a row," said Stepanek. "I was trying to be aggressive, by attacking his second serve, and just putting pressure on him. I think I was in control the whole time."
It's Stepanek's first final since Brisbane at the start of last season but if he is to win his first title since San Jose 2009 he will have to overcome a very poor record against Monfils who leads their head-to-head 5-2. Monfils beat him comfortably 6-3, 6-3 to reach the Tokyo final last autumn and also sealed a 6-4, 6-4 win over the Czech just a couple of weeks ago in Hamburg.
Although that was slow red clay, it still gives a player plenty of confidence going into a big match like this and after that win over Isner, Monfils will be feeling invincible going into this clash. Look for him to pull out the win.