They had not won three games in a row for 18 months. Backdated by several physical concussions, Gael Monfils caused a public outcry by defeating Sebastien Báez in the first round of Roland-Garros, but was forced off the court again with a left wrist injury.
This time, after an auspicious Washington tournament (8th final), the Frenchman is definitely back in Toronto. Stefanos Tsitsipas, world number four and winner of last week’s Los Cabos tournament, learned it the hard way with a crushing defeat (6-4, 6-3). “The score is quite astonishing but we should not forget what a player Gayle is when he is physically fit. It is no surprise to see him win,” says former world No. 10 Arnaud Clément.
Since the beginning of the week, the Canadian public has been reveling in the Parisians’ daring strikes, heroic saves and bright smiles. Because the 36-year-old is happy to have found the level that really belongs to him, a far cry from his current ranking of 276 in the world. By following this path, he can also go up the rankings very quickly.
Rediscovered Body Sensations
This return provides a major starting point: his body now leaves him alone. Because it is his body, which is very tense in view of his playing style composed of many runs, slides and great power, which has prevented him from expressing himself for several months. First his right heel bothered him, then right wrist, then left heel to make matters more complicated.
For two weeks, the Parisian finally succeeds in making a series of matches. Even though he admits to occasionally struggling to recover from his attempts, he largely stands his ground against his opponents, despite being of a very good level. He said after his second round against Stefanos Tsitsipas, “When I am almost at 100%, when I feel good, when I have many hours of training behind me, I am always a tough opponent.” The most difficult thing is to build a winning streak in the big matches. With these big matches, the body works every day and with each match played, my body gets used to it again. But every day is very, very complicated. ,
tough, a fair playing field
This Friday evening, Gael Monfils will have to be on top of his game to get rid of Janick Sinner, who was ruled out of the Round of 16 thanks to a last-minute package from Andy Murray. But the Frenchman is capable of anything, especially on the American Tour which he particularly enjoys.
This cross-Atlantic summer has often been a success for Parisians. In Canada, he has also reached the semifinals twice: in 2016, in Toronto, with a semifinal loss against Novak Djokovic, and in 2019, in Montreal, where he bowed out before facing Rafael Nadal.
Also at the US Open, the closing Grand Slam of the tour, Gael Monfils shone regularly. He played in one of his two semifinal appearances at a major tournament there in 2016, but lost again to the Serb. He affirmed, saying, “For many years, I have been playing much better on hard courts than on clay courts.”
“He is completely comfortable on clay and hard courts, emphasizes Arnaud Clément. But clay is a slightly more physically demanding surface. On hard courts, he is able to shorten exchanges if he wants to because of his power, so it’s not unreasonable that his results surface this way. Especially when the Parisian looks more physically prepared than in the spring. Looks like the hard work has paid off.
a calm mind
Since his return to the competition, Gael Monfils has also looked more calm, as if pulled off from the challenge, even though he hasn’t really been. During his long absence, which could already haunt a player nearing the end of his career at 36, the Frenchman took advantage of a new arrival in his family: his daughter Skye. It is also to his granddaughter, who has not yet celebrated her first birthday, that he dedicates his victories, regularly texting her name on camera.
This happy event has apparently made the Frenchman more philosophical about the ups and downs of his career. “I love this sport, and I try every day. I don’t know if this will last for a few weeks, a few months, a few years…” he underlines, enjoying the present moment and avoiding any headache.
“Gael is always very happy on the pitch, but it seems he wants to enjoy it even more,” believes Arnaud Clement. His wife (Elina Svitolina) plays great, he’s a father, he has other interests more important than his career, and he wants to enjoy these last months or years. ,
It remains to be seen how far the former world number six can go now. “He is starting from afar, he will never be secured in the draw, so it will be complicated. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see Gayle in the world’s top 50 again, or even better, from the moment he gets rid of his physical handicaps,” estimates Arnaud Clément. A return that could begin with a new feat on Canadian soil on Friday-Saturday night against Jannik Sinner.