Sports / Tennis

Free-spirit Monfils buoyed by Beyonce and the Bronx

By Agence France-Presse in New York (China Daily) Updated: 2014-09-04 07:38

He is the French free spirit with a love of the Bronx, Beyonce and drinking Coke mid-match whose complicated relationship with tennis and himself has got New Yorkers eating out of his hands.

In tennis' tightly-controlled, sometimes colorless world, Gael Monfils is happy to be the eccentric, untamed talent who hits breathtaking, pinpoint volleys one moment and tanks a point with a shrug of his Parisian shoulders the next.

He even had the 20,000-strong Arthur Ashe Stadium court singing Happy Birthday to him on Monday even though he was nowhere to be seen.

It's a recipe that is serving him well in New York where his straight-set win over Grigor Dimitrov, 7-5, 7-6 (6), 7-5, on Tuesday gave him a second career quarterfinal spot at the US Open, four years after his first.

"For me tennis is a sport. It's not a job," said the 28-year-old when asked why he gave up a point to Dimitrov, making no effort to get ball over net.

"Sometimes if I'm fed up, I just leave it.

"You know, it's like OK, next one. It sounds bad in English, but what I mean is I care about the match. I don't care about other things. It's like if I'm not happy, it's OK. I want just to be happy."

That easygoing demeanor has often been used by his critics as evidence of unwillingness to put in the hard yards.

Even he admits he can be tough to work with, an admission probably not lost on Roger Rasheed, the Australian who used to coach him until they split in 2011 and who now handles Dimitrov.

For the past 18 months or so, Monfils has not even bothered with a coach.

"It's better to have someone to help you. I need it. But that person has to be good, first of all, but has to be hard and also understand my personality. Because I don't think I'm easy but I think I'm quite a good worker," said Monfils.

His run to this year's US Open quarterfinals has been achieved without dropping a set while his 28th birthday on Monday had former women's No 1 Victoria Azarenka encouraging the crowd to wish him happy birthday.

He has now reached the last eight at the French Open four times, converting one of those runs to the semifinals in 2008.

Monfils was also a quarterfinalist in New York in 2010, cementing his love for the city and the US having developed a fondness for US pop star Beyonce, whose hit Partition, was playing on his iPod on Tuesday as he came on court.

His attraction for the Bronx was nurtured by his father and former physio in his early years and now he draws on the support of many fans who live in the tough New York borough.

Despite his non-conformist nature, Monfils does possess one mainstream ambition - to have children so that he can tell them that he once played Roger Federer, his opponent in the last eight.

"I will say to my children, I played against him .. this is cool. It's why I play tennis, to play a big legend, (on a) big court."

 Free-spirit Monfils buoyed by Beyonce and the Bronx

Gael Monfils reacts after a shot against Grigor Dimitrov during their fourth-round match at the US Open on Tuesday. Monfils won and will meet Roger Federer in the quarterfinals. Mike Groll / Associated Press

(China Daily 09/04/2014 page24)

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