Gael Monfils is a showman. He is also almost always battling some sort of injury. Some of his injuries are just random or are just the results of the load the body goes through to play tennis. His other injuries are the result of him throwing himself, sometime unnecessarily, around the court and frequently coming close to doing the splits.
Monfils seems to treat hard courts like they are clay courts and slide around the court constantly. In his Kooyong Classic final against Lleyton Hewitt we saw him hopping around like he always does when his knees get sore. A few times during his match against Thiemo De Bakker he seemed to pull up quickly but the bizarre match seemed to be more another example of Monfils going hot and cold.
The Frenchman started well, racing to a 5-1 lead in the first set before completely losing his way, and subsequently the first set tie break. Monfil remained unable to re-find anything in the second, finding himself at 1-4 before much time had past.
To his credit, De Bakker, who certainly has a bright future ahead of him, played some great tennis and pushed the lack luster Monfils around the court – even if he did use a crazy number of drop shots to do it.
De Bakker lead 5-2 in the third after an epic seventh game that had nine deuces and easily exceeded 13 minutes that was sealed with an ace. Monfils replied by holding serve to love and slowly but steadily the pressure tightness crept into De Bakker’s game allowing him to be broken after a few poorly timed errors and another love service hold from Gael.
It was impressive to see Monfils fight because sometimes he does sometimes he doesn’t – it depends on which Gael shows up for duty. Before the end of the third set, Monfils had had over 20 break point chances, converting very few. Another confusing statistic was the shear number of drop shots played by De Bakker despite the fact he only won maybe three of them.
In the fifth set a deflated De Bakker was broken and quickly fell behind 1-4. It quickly became clear that De Bakker was struggling with an injury. Monfils won 6-7, 2-6, 7-5, 6-2, 6-1 and will face Portugal’s Frederico Gil.
After the match De Bakker confirmed that he felt pain in his groin during the third set. “I was exactly two sets up. At 4 1 in the third, when I went for a ball, came a little bit in my groin, like a traction. So from that moment I had problems to play rallies and to serve.
I was a little bit lucky at 4 2 already. Like the long game, I just went for it. Came a little bit lucky. And when he broke me back, I knew it was pretty much going to be tough.”
Interestingly Monfils felt he could get into De Bakker’s head and get it to ‘snap’.
Q. Were you surprised he tanked the fourth set?
GAEL MONFILS: Maybe I was surprised it turned like earlier in the fourth like that. Because the first two game, he won it, but he was like in the edge. And then I saw he was tanking. Yeah, maybe if I break him early, yeah, he would tank and then be ready in the fifth. I was kind of surprised.
But I know Thiemo a bit. I know sometime he snap in the head. So this is like a strong belief. We know like he can snap. It’s a weakness for him. So you play with that.
You know, before the match, my coach, Rog, told me, Sometimes Thiemo is not a big believer. When I saw that, you get it (snapping fingers). So you tank, be ready in the fifth, because I will. Maybe this is play for me today.