What’s stopping Gael Monfils from winning a Grand Slam, like the 2019 US Open, which is underway this week? It could be simple geometry.
With a near-perfect body for tennis, the athletic Frenchman plays the baseline beautifully and naturally. A Monfils groundstoke rally is like performance art. He’s famous for his defense, and his nickname is “The Amazing Sliderman” for his ability to cover great territory laterally.
The horizontal axis has never been the problem. It’s the vertical realm–specifically moving forward to the net.
At the ASICS player party in Manhattan, Monfils acknowledged that the frontcourt is not comfortable for him.
“It’s a little bit about how you learn tennis. I didn’t learn to play an approaching style. It’s not the way I play my points,” Monfils told Last Word on Tennis exclusively.
Maybe he should. At age 32, it’s not too late to tweak things. Ask Roger Federer about that time he changed his backhand.
In fact, Monfils is coming off an ankle injury–his sliding technique lends itself to rolled ankles. Perhaps he should avoid the bruises and bumps by moving in and ending points early. He did say he’s trying out a more offensive mindset with the hiring of new coach Liam Smith last November.
“I’m trying to be more aggressive and take care of points with the forehand,” he said.
Perfect. Now how about using the forehand to inflict damage–then come in? Monfils stands 6’4″–and has hops to boot. There’s no reason Gael Monfils should not volley early and often.
It’s time for the fans to wake up to this guy’s playing style as well. Monfils is celebrated and applauded for repeatedly engaging in some of the longest rallies in the history of tennis–like this 71-shot rally against Gilles Simon in the 2013 Australian Open. But wouldn’t it be better not to get involved in those long rallies, when statistics show the winner of the short rallies tends to win the match?
“Playing that way requires more energy and focus. You don’t think about it,” Monfils said of constructing points to finish at the net.
It’s not that he lacks the ability. Back in grade school, Monfils won the French under-13 and under-14 boys 100m Championships. His track coach says he could have been an Olympian as a sprinter.
Sprint forward, Gael. Free yourself from the baseline, and watch your results ratchet up as well.
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