After enduring a torrid season in 2017, things are looking great for Gaël Monfils early in 2018. With a title already to his name this year he is certainly showing signs of his almighty best and perhaps a lengthy break away from the game has done him good. How far can the flashy Frenchman go in Melbourne?
The Australian Open draw for the World #39 looks great until you see who his second round opponent could be: Novak Djokovic. The Serb boasts a 14-0 head-to-head record against Monfils in tour matches, although the Frenchman did score a win over Djokovic back in 2004 in a Futures event. The dynamic in the way these matches have gone does not give Monfils fans a lot of confidence as he has only taken one out of the last ten sets.
However, this is a different Djokovic because the six-time champion in Melbourne has not played an official match since Wimbledon, and no one knows how the former World #1 will be after his six month lay off. Djokovic also appears to have a much different service motion in order to protect his chronic elbow injury. Instead of bringing the racket down and around his body to start the serve, he now just goes straight up which simplifies the action but he may lose a significant amount of pace. If these two athletic players do face off in round two then it will be a much different match than their previous encounters.
From the third round onwards, the highest ranked players the Frenchman could play are Albert Ramos-Vinolas, Alexander Zverev, and then Dominic Thiem, which is actually a realistic route for Monfils to navigate his way to the semifinals. Zverev is yet to defeat a top 50 player in a Slam, whereas Thiem has never progressed beyond the fourth round of a Major not held on clay. The mercurial Frenchman would most likely have to defeat Federer and Nadal back-to-back to claim his first Grand Slam but anything is possible in tennis, just look at 2017.
La Monf Story
New year, different Gaël Monfils? Since the start of 2018 the Frenchman deleted all of his social media posts and started fresh. His first post of his “new” social media read the caption: “#NewStart #LaMonfStory”. Why would he want to start again? It seems that he is ready to practically start a new career and fulfil his immense talent.
The “La Monf Story” is a new YouTube series that Monfils has made over the off season and the videos give a really insightful view into his training and him as a person. The videos make me feel that he is preparing for big things this year as he has seen the opportunities presented with players like Andy Murray on the sidelines and the likes of Djokovic, Wawrinka and Raonic returning from injury.
In one of the “La Monf Story” episodes, Monfils said “this is the first time I have felt 100% for a year.” This time last year the Frenchman was #7 in the world and had recently made a US Open semifinal. What will a 100% Gaël Monfils achieve this year?
After three months out of competition with injury, Gaël Monfils won his first tournament back in Doha, twelve years after he first made the final there. This was also his first tournament back since he restarted his social media and it was a real statement to how serious he looks this year. Surprisingly, the title was only the seventh of his career and Monfils is yet to win multiple titles in a single season. That looks set to change this season.
Monfils goes into the Australian Open in red hot form and he looks highly motivated to make an impact in the 2018 tennis season. I have predicted the Frenchman to make the semifinals in Melbourne and I am very confident of this pick, but why stop there? We could be seeing a new Monfils and I am eagerly awaiting to see where the “La Monf Story” will take us.
Watch out for Gaël Monfils at the Australian Open.