I have set
it upon myself to provide comprehensive profile pieces for each of the main title
contenders at the US Open.
assess each player's chances and attempt to understand their specific strengths
components that I will focus on are: mental strength, technical skills and
point to the weapons and flaws which make up each of the player's games, and
also provide context as to where they are in their career right now.
edition, I will be looking at France's Gael Monfils.
Gael is a
thrilling player to follow and he's now playing the best tennis of his career.
He's also reaching his best ranking, and he can be a real challenger in any
tournament in the world.
Gael is a very unique kind
of player. He's living in his own world, very different from most of the other
players. He has improved gradually through the years because he always favoured defence over attack,
keeping the latter only for matches he knew he won't have a single chance to
win if he was only defending.
He loves challenges, big
arenas, big matches, because the Frenchman is a showman. He slides around, even
on hard courts, plays his shots from all sorts of different positions, even very
Monfils has a very unpredictable shot selection, and he's a public
favourite. He knows how to play his best when it matters, but has always been
hampered by his attitude.
He's now winning
a lot more matches because of his fighting spirit throughout the year. Yet,
he can also sometimes "tank" a match like at the Australian Open in
January against Stanislas Wawrinka.
Ground covering: He's the self-proclaimed
'slider-man'. Gael is one of the fastest guys onthe Tour and one of the most
able to defend his ground. He's really tough to put out of the way. His
trademark is defending with a big slide at the end of his run.
Fighting qualities: As I've already said, Gael loves
tight games because he knows his defence and his fitness give him an edge over
his opponent. So he becomes a true competitor.
Serve: He has a great first serve with a
technique. He gets out of trouble thanks to the free points he gets with this
shot. His second serve is tough to read or predict because he's regularly
changing the pace of it.
Forehand: Technically, this shot is very
unusual. He hits it with a folded forearm, having a really low motion and a
strong torso rotation, often also with shifting and jumping footwork. Despite
all of this, it's an outstanding weapon. Not only has he got a very good striking
quality on his shot (heavy ball, top spin), but also he's able to speed it up
at any time. He loves the inside out forehand, turning around his backhand. He's
very efficient doing that.
Wait-and-see attitude: When he's the favourite, he has
this bad habit of trying to manage the situation by neutralising the opponent
and waiting for the mistakes rather than going for his own winners. It has
often played against him, pushing him to play short and he ends up being
attacked. He's aware of this and has worked on it for several years now. But on
this point he's still below the other Top 10 players. Only Andy Murray has the
Backhand: If his forehand is his strong shot,
his backhand lacks crushing power, especially when the French is in a bad day.
In the modern game, players play a lot on the backhand diagonal so Gael has to
make lots of efforts to turn around it. But he improved a lot on his backhand
down the line.
Net game: His game has never naturally moved
him forward to the net. And he also has a very strange technique at the net.
But one has to notice that he's getting more and more confident in this area
and he's improving.
Shape of the moment: He's now playing the best tennis
of his career and reaching his best ranking. Also, he picked the right moment to
end his work with Roger Rasheed, his previous coach of several years. Since
then, he's been taken care of by his physical trainer and assistant Patrick
Chamagne. He will head with confidence into the US Open after his hard court over
The keys to success:
In order to beat the top
players in the Grand Slam events, he needs to be bold, efficient and have a
clearly defined game. So Gael has to get rid of all the shots he plays without
purpose, and too neutrally. Passivity gives his opponent the chance to dictate
the points and to put pressure on him. To be efficient in this area, it's a
Gael has to take the lead and apply non-stop pressure himself. It's
the only way for him to improve and to get closer to the top four. He has all
it takes to achieve success, but now he has got to be hard on himself every
day. It's the price he simply has to pay.