Sorry Simon sees friend Monfils retire in pain

MELBOURNE Mon Jan 26, 2009 1:12am EST

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MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Sixth seed Gilles Simon suffered a bittersweet experience Monday, advancing to the Australian Open quarter-finals after his compatriot and friend Gaels Monfils was forced to retire with a painful wrist injury.

France's Simon had been leading 6-4 2-6 6-1 and ahead 30-0 in the first game of the fourth set while serving when Monfils, who had been continuously flexing and shaking his right hand throughout the match, called a halt to proceedings.

Monfils, the 12th seed at Melbourne Park, had received treatment on his right wrist during the third set and then had it strapped before the fourth set began.

"Well, you never want to win like this," Simon told reporters. "It's already strange when it's another player, but when it's a friend like Gael it's more difficult."

The 24-year-old Simon said he had chatted to his fellow "New Musketeer," who said he was in pain.

The 22-year-old Monfils said the pain had developed gradually throughout the 119-minute match and he had initially sought treatment to see if he was imagining it.

SIMILAR PROBLEM

"When I really felt it was at 3-1 for Gilles," said Monfils. "I mean, it was maybe 3-0 (in the third set and) I served, that service game, then I started to feel it.

"Then I asked the physio. I was thinking maybe it was (in) my head. Then I said, 'I feel it'."

Monfils added he had not experienced a problem in his right wrist before though he felt like he had a similar injury last year in his left wrist.

He added the injury had not affected his tactics in the first set when he and Simon had taken the pace off the ball and embarked in long rallies.

Such was the slow pace of the match at one stage it looked like the pair were involved in a practice session and not the fourth round of a grand slam, though Simon said it was deliberate because they knew each other so well.

"I know what he doesn't like to do, and it is the same for him. That's why it seems maybe a little bit strange during some points.

"But I can't win against him if I just play my game as usual, because he really likes to run right, left, right, left, every time.

"That's why I just wanted to play slower than usual, just to try to attack then, because I wanted to have a speed difference."

Simon, who will meet either Spanish top seed Rafael Nadal or Chilean Fernando Gonzalez in the quarter-finals, said he would be able to easily change his tactics for that match.

"That was the way I wanted to play (on Monday), I just did what I wanted to do.

"But I can play faster than this, I know.

"I will play faster than this the next match"

(Editing by John O'Brien)

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