French Open: Fed Rises, La Monf Falters

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By Bill Simons

We expected more, much more from La Monf—Gael Monfils. Then again, maybe we didn’t. After all, there is no predicting his play.

One example comes to mind: Gael was up over Roger Federer in a riveting US Open match, but could not convert two match points. Our conclusion was simple enough: “Monfils is nonchalantly brilliant one moment, absent-minded the next.” Since that September match, Monfils beat Federer in Davis Cup play, and again in Monte Carlo. Plus, he delivered thrilling five-set performances early in this year’s French Open, and dramatically came from behind last night to even his match with “The Rog” at a set apiece.

The crowd roared and then groaned when it was announced that the Sunday evening match would be finished Monday. And Monday is Monday.

When Monfils and Federer came to Courte Centrale, the crowd was out to lunch, and so was Monfils. After all, more than anyone (even Serena Willliams), LaMonf is an “emotion player.” Defiant and charismatic, he needs noise and a mission.

But Monday’s match was polite, the mission muddled. Often we heard the sound of silence—polite French applause for a skilled foreigner, icon Federer.

To be blunt, it seemed like LaMonf had not yet gotten out of bed. Passive and far from explosive, he lost the first game of the third set and never flashed sufficient magic to ignite the crowd or himself. There would never be a sizzling comeback. The sprawling, brawling man who has often amazed us proved meek. Blowing his nose and one slim chance after another against the relentlessly focused Federer, Monfils left the court after his forgetable 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 loss a beaten man, drained of inspiration or fight.

So would things have been different if—last night as the light was fading—he had insisted on playing on, when the crowd was howling, Roger was reeling, and Gael-force winds briefly ruled the court?

This we will never know.