WATCH: ATP player suffers incredible meltdown – A racket smash, a point penalty and ‘a bit of fortune’

Shahida Jacobs
Botic van de Zandschulp during his match
Botic van de Zandschulp in action

The end of the Gael Monfils-Botic van de Zandschulp match at the Qatar Open will go down as one of the most freakish finishes in tennis after the latter completely lost his composure.

The record books will state that wildcard Monfils won the match 6-1, 7-6 (11-9) in a contest that lasted one hour and 42 minutes, but the Doha encounter was a lot more dramatic than what the final score suggests.

Monfils breezed through the first set as it took under 30 minutes to complete before hell broke loose late in the second set which lasted more than an hour.

Van de Zandschulp broke in the sixth game and found himself serving to take it to a decider at 5-4, but the Frenchman broke back and the Dutchman then squandered a couple more set points in the next game.

With Monfil serving at 5-6, Van de Zandschulp’s frustration started to boil over as he smashed his racket when his opponent put a volley neatly away. Umpire Mohamed Lahyani gave the world No 70 a warning for racket abuse and it eventually went to a tie-breaker.

Monfils then raced into a 6-3 lead, but the Dutchman somehow fought back again as he saved three match points and eventually got to 9-9 before he completely lost his way.

Van de Zandschulp served an ace, which would have given him a 10-9 lead and another set point but he decided to smash a ball into the crowd and received a point penalty for ball abuse so the score stayed 9-9.

Monfils then had another match point a few moments later and this time he got over the finish line with a bit of fortune thanks to a net cord.

World No 60 Monfils, who faces Zhang Zhizhen in the second round, was happy to get away with the win after a bit of luck after saving nine set points during that heated second set.

“To be honest, he [Van de Zandschulp] played good. I lost a little bit of focus. Then I bring back the energy, you guys [the crowd] pushed me,” the former world No 6, who is looking for back-to-back victories for the first time in 2024, said. “It was a real battle. At the end, I was a bit fortunate. But you know, I’ll take it.”

Zhang upset seventh seed Lorenzo Musetti 6-2, 6-0 in the first round and the winner of the Monfils-Zhang contest is projected to meet third seed Ugo Humbert in the quarter-final.

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