Our latest guest on the blog is Roger Rasheed, the Australian coach of Gael Monfils, the runner-up at the recent Paris Masters. A confirmed tennis fanatic, Roger spoke to us about his protege and his working methods.
I've known Gael since he was a junior. I used to watch him playing with the Tsonga boys, Gasquet and a few others because I could sense that they were talented and were future stars. To my mind they had the potential to become top 20 or top 10 players and to go and win a Grand Slam tournament. So, I just saw this young player with a lot of energy and talent. He was a big, strapping lad even then and you could see he got a lot of enjoyment out of the game. He was also very entertaining to watch.
When I started working with Gael, he was still a bit of a rough diamond. My job was to shape his game and to mould his talent, and that also involved teaching him his trade off the court, being a kind of mentor for him, fathering him and telling him things about life. There's no mystery about tennis. What you do off the court has a direct relationship with what you do on it, and it was important to help him grow as a person.
Gael's main quality is the respect he has for other people. When he called to offer me the chance to work with him that was something I could feel straightaway. That's great because it makes things easier when you work with someone who's respectful. As you know, Gael is an entertainer but he's also got thousands of ideas in his head, almost too many if you ask me. I tell him, "Let's hone things down a little. That way we can make your game even better".
Gael has so much talent and it's a great thing for me to be able to work with. Maybe he might not make it to world number one, two or three but we're going to give it a go. He definitely has the potential to win a Grand Slam title but what he needs to do is channel all his qualities and find the right blend so he can keep on progressing.
Gael is someone who listens. He understands my philosophy and he knows that I could just jack it all in if he doesn't follow me. Success is what drives me and I want the person I'm in charge of to achieve the maximum. I want to improve every day and I want the player I'm working with to do the same, though that doesn't mean to say that I want them to forget altogether about having fun.
He knows what's expected from me and I've made my terms and conditions clear to him. If, after a month or so, he'd have said no, that would have shown a lack of character on his part and unwillingness to put in the necessary effort. If you don't move forward in that respect, then you never achieve anything. I'm not the kind of person to travel around on the Tour just to keep him company. I'd rather stay at home than do that. What I'm trying to do is make him respect the talent that he's got and use it in the best way he can. If that's not the case, then what's the point of him having a rocket in his hands when he doesn't know how to fire it?
The other key factor is the day-to-day stuff. He has to be professional every day. Playing tennis is a job and players have to be aware that they have been given a wonderful opportunity to do this job and that they shouldn't let it pass them by. One day you're 18 and the next you wake up and you're 26. And by that time it's almost over. Unless you have a professional attitude, then you just let your opportunity slip through your hands.
My work with Gael is a long-term project. There's no doubt he'll be a better player at 25 than he is at 23. I'm just sorry his knee injury has prevented him from having a full season. He's missed four Masters events and a Grand Slam tournament, and if that hadn't been the case, then I think he'd be among the top ten players in the world right now. Gael is a top 10 player. I just don't see him being anywhere else.