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Sunrise: Monfils wins BMW Tennis Championship
March 18, 2007

(Sunrise, FL) - Record crowds showed up Sunday to see French sensation Gael Monfils win the singles championship in his first showing at the BMW Tennis Championship at Sunrise Tennis Center, facing off with one of Italy's young stars, Andreas Seppi.

Monfils never faced a tournament seed all week, taking out wild card Jesse Levine, qualifier Dusan Vemic, wild card Nenad Zimonjic (who had defeated the tournament's No. 1 seed, Dmitry Tursunov), and Ivo Karlovic, who retired in the second set in the semis. Seppi had defeated wild card and 3-time French Open champ Gustavo “Guga” Kuerten in the first round, Juan Martin Del Potro (who had beaten No. 7 seed and fellow Argentinean Juan Monaco), Oliver Marach and No. 6 seed Nicolas Massu in the semis.

In the first set, Seppi held his own at the baseline, producing silky smooth groundstrokes, especially from the backhand side. But a lot of the long rallies went Monfils' way. Seppi's drop shots, which mightily frustrated Massu on Saturday night, were not as effective against the speedy Monfils, one of the few players who slides easily on hard courts, despite his 6' 4” height. At two games all, Monfils served his way back from love-40 to 30-40, then double faulted the game away. But in the last game of the set, Seppi gave up his service at love.

“I think I didn't serve really well the first set,” Seppi said. “We have always long rallies and he broke me two times. If you don't serve well it's easy to break.”

“In the first set I was focused only on the power,” Monfils said, “And one powerful first serve. That's why I think I hit the ball harder.”

But in the second set, Seppi stepped up his game, looking more comfortable going for winners; while Monfils seemed to dial back his intensity.

“Second set yeah for sure I played the more aggressive,” Seppi said. “In the first games I tried to play faster more on the net and I hit for sure more winners. It was a good start, I am a break up and then I get the intermediary break - and then I was up again a break.

The Italian broke Monfils twice; and the young Frenchman took on an almost bored attitude, as if resigned to start fresh in the third. Seppi broke Monfils once more to finish off the set 6-1.

“In the second, I play very short on the court instead of very long so I think he take his chances and he did great,” Monfils said. “But when he broke me again I decide to tank the last game because I knew it would be new balls and I would serve first with the wind for me.”

In the third set, the tables abruptly turned. Monfils sprang to life again, and the characteristic defiant fist-pumps were back. Meanwhile Seppi's efficient ground strokes started sailing long, and his drop shots, no matter how well disguised, bounced within reach of the fast-moving Frenchman.

“In the third set, especially in the beginning I slowed a little bit down and lost the first two, three games,” Seppi said. “And it's always tough to come back. He's a little bit more confident and so it was tough in the end to come back. He didn't miss a lot today. He was running a lot, played pretty not too much risk and so I always tried the risk. He served pretty good in third set, it was tough to return and when I was serving, there were always long rallies. I always have to risk, and it's not easy, when you play every day so you get a little bit tired in the end.”

Monfils broke Seppi's first service, then consolidated the break for 3-love. Seppi's next serve went to deuce but he held. Monfils followed with an easy hold, broke Seppi once more - and served it out for the win - 6-3, 1-6, 6-1.

Looking forward to Miami's Sony Ericsson Open, which starts on March 21, Monfils said, “I have good preparation, now I win here so during three days I am relax, I have to stay focused, keep practice hard and see what happens at the Ericsson. My first experience was very good here because I won the tournament, but I think it's good preparation here for Miami. It's a good tournament, you have a lot of courts to practice and the weather is very nice and I really enjoy, and I think it's a very important event before Miami.”

“Maybe it s a little bit lower tournament but anyway if you win, you win a lot of points,” Monfils said, “And I think sometimes players forget if you win the tournament its like winning third round in Indian Wells. I think it's a good idea to come here, because there's a lot of good players here so it's not really a similar challenger - I think it's very strong. I feel good but I think now my goal is to win the Sony Ericsson, so I'm feeling confident. I know before I come here it was preparation, now I win this tournament so I feel more confident, I know I can win five match in a row. My goal now is to win the Sony Ericsson, so I have to keep going.”

Last year's BMWTC winner, Dmitry Tursunov, followed up that trophy with his best-ever Masters Series showing at the Ericsson, reaching the fourth round - where he lost to eventual winner Roger Federer.

Monfils is into the main draw at Miami, but Seppi (currently ranked 102), will have to qualify. “This was a good tournament for me,” he said, “And I hope to play good next week.”

Results for Sunday, March 18, 2007:

Gael Monfils (FRA) d. Andreas Seppi (ITA) 6-3, 1-6, 6-1

Konstantinos Economidis (GRE)/Kristof Vliegen (BEL) d. Juan Martin del Potro (ARG)/Sebastian Prieto (ARG) 6-3, 6-4