Rare thrilling player of modern tennis, Gaël Monfils dares shots that no one else would try. The proof in ten examples, among many others.

In love (at least) as much of the beautiful point than of the efficient point, Gael Monfils is a showman. Rare thrilling player of modern tennis, he dares to try shots that he's the only one trying... and therefore offers emotions that he alone can provide. And if he will most likely never be World No. 1, he has however no rival when it comes to making the show and feeding the "hotshots" compilations. Proof in ten examples, among many others.

 

The overhead back to the net

 

An overhead? Too easy. Almost boring. And it’s already been a while that Gael Monfils learned how to copy Pete Sampras’ “smash dunk". So in Halle in 2013, against Tommy Haas, he innovated: instead of hitting a simple overhead, he let the ball bounce between his legs, making a U-turn on himself before performing his overhead... Back to the net. Spectacular but not powerful enough, the shot wasn't very efficient since Haas blocked him and finally won the point. There’s still a little bit of work. But a big potential to impress the crowds.

 

 

Apparent indifference at the middle of a point

 

This one happened recently against Alexander Dolgopolov during the latest Monte Carlo Masters 1000. The drop shot of the French was poorly hit. While the Ukrainian rushed to the net to sanction him of a winning backhand, the French conspicuously acted as if he was abandoning the point, apparently turning his back to the game... Back but not without watching Dolgopolov over his shoulder. And since the latter, not suspicious enough, didn't consider it useful to hide his strike zone choice, Monfils suddenly came back into the action and managed to counter the careless forehand of his opponent. "I'm sneaky, you know" he once said, all smiles. "Trickster" would be more appropriate, actually.

 

 

The winning jumped forehand

 

A shot that we see often in backhand, popularized by Marcelo Rios, Sebastien Grosjean or even today Kei Nishikori. Except for Gael Monfils, as here at the US Open 2014: the return of Colombian Alejandro Gonzalez was good, both long and curved. Too bad: Monfils ruled - for once - that he will not back down. He chose to jump to place himself at hip level and remarkably balanced, while coordinating the upper and lower body, hit a "missile" with a forehand. Easy.

 

 

The double dive at the net

 

Even Richard Gasquet and Julien Benneteau, his teammates in the first round of Davis Cup by BNP Paribas against Germany, could not believe it: caught off balance by a passing of Philipp Kohlschreiber, Monfils resurrected the ghost of Yannick Noah on a beautiful backhand volley performed while diving. The shot was excellent, close to the corner of the baseline and short corridor, but Kohlschreiber managed to catch it. No matter: still at the net, Monfils did his dive again... but this time his forehand volley ended out of the court. Not far from allowing his author to claim the point of the 2010 season.

 

 

The jump passing between the legs

 

One of the guilty pleasures of the Parisian player, and one of the spectacular shot he succeeds the most regularly: cornered in defence, far from his line, he responds to his opponent's attack here a long backhand of the line of the Czech Lukas Rosol in the semi-finals of the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas by a passing between the legs, performed while jumping. Double trouble, but double control.

 

 

The blocked double overhead

 

Player highly sensitive to the atmosphere around him, Gael Monfils has made many feats in Paris-Bercy, where he's always at home in front of family and friends present in numbers. Here it was Marin Cilic who paid the price in the quarterfinals of the tournament 2009. Twice the Croat smashed; twice his shot lacked in length, twice, Monfils managed to hit the ball from the tarps... Before punishing Cilic on a backhand passing. Standing ovation of course.

 

 

A defence between the legs and the back to the net

 

Gael Monfils likes unlikely defences and shots between the legs: synthesis of the two, it was necessary that he also tried one day the imposed exercise of the "tweener", that shot of defence between the legs that became trendy the last few seasons, having experienced a first golden age in the 1980s with Guillermo Vilas and Yannick Noah. In Valencia in 2011, Monfils added a little boost from the net which managed to disgust the Spaniard Marcel Granollers.

 

 

The never-ending unintentional rally

 

In his peculiarities too, Gael Monfils is capable of the exceptional, in the image of the third round of the Australian Open in 2013, a marathon lost 8 games to 6 in the fifth set against his great friend Gilles Simon. On that day, "The Monf" mostly lost the tactical battle: physically eroded by two first hard games, he let himself get caught in the cottony fabric of Simon. The one and the other were so afraid of counter attacks that none of them wanted to take the initiative. Resulting in endless sequences "to you, to me" that earned the two men six of the ten longest points of the tournament. Including this one, No. 1 with 71 balls!

 

 

The half volley drop shot while turning on himself

 

The "Monfils show' doesn't only result in unlikely defences and spectacular counter-attacks. The French is also capable of fine shots, like this point against Jürgen Melzer in Munich in 2013. Caught by the return of the Austrian, he hit an unlikely half volley from the baseline, which is always difficult... and even more complex if doing it while making a U-turn. If the Harlem Globetrotters opened a tennis section, Monfils would certainly be their first recruit.

 

 

The mix of all the above

 

What better setting than the Suzanne Lenglen court to achieve the ultimate combo? So here we go: sprint over the entire width of the court, desperate one-hand backhand back to the net, then overhead, while off balance and diving, before running and counter successfully a drop shot. Nothing less! Jürgen Melzer himself could only appreciate and stop to congratulate the author of the most beautiful point of the French Open 2009.

 

 

By Guillaume Willecoq