Monfils magic, leading lights dazzle

The world's very best are gearing up for the US Open with high-octane action in Canada.

Gaël Monfils / Toronto 2023©Julian AvramIcon / Sportswire / Panoramic
 - Alex Sharp

The countdown is well and truly on for the US Open.

The fourth and final Grand Slam of 2023 launches into action at the end of the month. Here are the key headlines as the key contenders gear up for a trip for New York.

Le Monf proving he can still step up

Finally feeling fit, a resurgent Gaël Monfils has been serving up a treat for fans in Toronto.

The injury-maligned Frenchman has been connecting with a catalogue of hot shots, including a rocket 188 km/h forehand earlier in the week, to oust the likes of Chris Eubanks, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Aleksandar Vukic. 

In doing so, the 36-year-old showman has chalked up his first Masters 1000 quarter-final since Toronto 2021.

“It's a great feeling, that my body is holding up for this week and definitely I’m happy when I can play almost 100 percent. This is great for me," stated Monfils, who has been putting in the hard yards to return to this exhilarating form.

“A lot of work. For me the goal is to stay in shape. My body sometimes cracks up. It can be the foot, can be the wrist, the shoulder, the knee, whatever. So I need the balance between playing a lot and not so much to have enough practice to let my body to hold the pressure and stress I put it under with the movement.

“Of course, when I have enough practice and my body is nearly 100 percent, then I feel like I can still compete. That’s why I’m here. I still believe I can be tough for those guys out there."

Monfils, a 2016 and 2019 semi-finalist at the Canadian Masters, will hope to book a final four ticket across the net from No.7 seed Jannik Sinner

The ultra-consistent Italian received a walkover following Andy Murray's withdrawal with an abdominal strain.

All-star Alcaraz leading cast 

World No.1 Carlos Alcaraz extended his winning streak to 14 matches courtesy of a nail-biting 3-6, 7-6(2), 7-6(3) scoreline with Hubert Hurkacz. 

The recent Wimbledon champion held a commanding 5-2 advantage in the decider, before 2022 finalist Hurkacz rattled through four straight games.

"Honestly, I didn't know what happened," said a relieved Alcaraz, eventually converting his fifth match point.

"The big players have that feeling to find a way to stay alive and try to end the match playing well. In the tough moments you have to believe in yourself, try to go for it." 

American Tommy Paul represents the next challenge for the top seed. The world No.14 defeated countryman Marcos Giron 6-3, 6-2 to earn a Canadian Masters re-match with Alcaraz.

Last year Paul prevailed in a three-set thriller versus Alcaraz, however, the world No.1 bounced back 6-4, 6-4 in March at the Miami Masters.

Medvedev and 'Demon' on the march

2021 champion Daniil Medvedev played plenty of cunning tennis to outsmart Lorenzo Musetti 6-4, 6-4 to claim a tour-leading 31st hard-court triumph of 2023.

Alex de Minaur posted a maiden Masters 1000 quarter-final spot with a pulsating 7-6(7), 4-6, 6-1 victory against top-ranked American Taylor Fritz.

"It feels great to finally break that barrier,” said de Minaur. "It's just a never-say-die attitude. It doesn't matter what the score is. I'm always going to fight till the end."

No.2 seed Medvedev will walk onto court with the Australian roadrunner with a 4-1 head-to-head record. On the other hand, de Minaur won their most recent encounter 7-5 in the third set at the 2022 Rolex Paris Masters. 

Elsewhere, Spaniard Alejando Davidovich Fokina battled past world No.5 Casper Ruud 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(4) to compete in the elite eight against Mackenzie McDonald.  

Philippe-Chatrier reunion

Over to WTA 1000 action in Montreal and world No.1 Iga Swiatek claimed the honours in the Roland-Garros final re-match.

Just like Paris two months ago, the Pole edged an enthralling three-setter 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 in a rain interrupted duel.

“You have to find energy even though we’ve been here since 9 a.m.,” stated Swiatek, after their match took nine hours to complete.  

“For sure, it was a pretty extraordinary day, and I don’t think I’ve had such a situation in my career so there is the opportunity to learn something new and see what I’m capable - even though we played this match like three times.”

The 22-year-old posted a 49th victory of another stellar season to meet qualifier Danielle Collins in the quarter-finals.

The feisty American ousted home charge Leylah Fernandez 6-2, 6-3 to move through. Swiatek dismissed Collins 6-0, 6-1 earlier this campaign in Doha, gaining revenge for Australian Open 2022 semi-final heartbreak.

Gauff still on song

Washington DC winner Coco Gauff has transferred her ferocious form to the Canadian courts. The teenager stormed past Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova 6-3, 6-0 for a last eight spot 

"I wasn't expecting the scoreline to be what it was. She's been playing some great tennis lately, coming off of a Slam win," said world No.7 Gauff. "So I'm super happy with how I was able to manage today."

No.4 seed and doubles partner Jessica Pegula is the quarter-final bout for Gauff, whilst Daria Kasatkina and Elena Rybakina have booked their last eight encounter.

Due to the rain interruptions the Last 16 is yet to be completed in Montreal. No.2 seed Aryna Sabalenka needs to navigate past Liudmila Samsonova to make the weekend. Petra Kvitova and Belinda Bencic will also vie for a quarter-final berth on Friday.