WASHINGTON – A traditional backhand probably would have sufficed. Instead, Gael Monfils opted for something worthy of a highlight reel, spinning and wrapping his racket around his body for a behind-the-back shot that somehow cleared the net.
Alas, Monfils lost the point seconds later by missing a regular old forehand. Still, that was only a minor blip in a dominant performance Thursday. Finally on court at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, the top-seeded Monfils hit 17 aces and beat 66th-ranked Ryan Sweeting of the United States 6-3, 7-6 (3) in a match postponed a day because of rain.
Monfils' usual entertaining brand of tennis drew kudos from Sweeting.
"I laughed a little bit today. He hit some great shots," Sweeting said, then clarified that his chuckles came "out of respect."
"He hit a shot behind his back. He jumped 10 feet in the air," Sweeting said. "He's just so athletic. I was laughing because it's just amazing."
Monfils was broken only once and won 39 of 47 points on his first serve. He helped himself by delivering at least one ace in 10 of his 11 service games.
And he didn't do it with overpowering speed, staying generally around 120 mph.
"He took away one of my greatest weapons, which is my return," Sweeting said. "He was hitting his spots well. ... He was placing it really well, and he was tossing the ball in the same place, and it was pretty tough to read."
It was the Frenchman's first match at Washington's hard-court U.S. Open tuneup since 2007, when he reached the semifinals.
Because rain wiped out half of Wednesday's schedule, Monfils was slated to play again about six hours later Thursday, facing 15th-seeded Dmitry Tursunov of Russia in the third round. They both received first-round byes, as did all 16 seeded players.
Tursunov beat Flavio Cipolla of Italy 6-1, 6-4 Thursday.
In other early results, 10th-seeded Michael Llodra of France quit because of sore ribs while trailing Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria 4-3. Llodra joins a growing list of seeded players who either stopped playing — No. 4 Jurgen Melzer and No. 14 Xavier Malisse — or never played a point — Andy Roddick, Mardy Fish, Fernando Gonzalez — at the tournament, citing injuries.
Also Thursday, No. 7-seeded Marcos Baghdatis, last year's runner-up in Washington, beat Somdev Devvarman 6-2, 0-6, 7-5, and was scheduled to play No. 12 Thomaz Bleach, who eliminated Tommy Haas 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-3.
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