Gael Monfils is back inside the top 25 after beating Richard Gasquet in the Montpellier finals. Monfils has been performing quite impressively throughout the beginning of the 2014 season. The Frenchman has been criticized over his career, often credited for being an extremely talented showman, but underperforming in terms of his ranking and winning record. Nonetheless he appears to be on track, and more focused than perhaps at any time in his career.
Perhaps a testament to the world of sports, the personable Frenchman enjoys immense popularity and healthy endorsements, probably due in large part to his showmanship and razzle-dazzle style of play. In contrast, Nikolay Davydenko, who at one time was ranked inside of the top 10 and has outperformed monfils by quite a margin, has had difficulty just finding clothing sponsors. At one point, back in 2006, Davydenko was ranked a career high world no. 3, and though he has not shown that form for some time it is a testament to his talent level. Davydenko however is not anywhere near the charismatic crowd-pleasing performer that Gael Monfils is. This difference is highlighted by the fact that Davydenko has struggled over the years to find sponsorship despite his tremendous accomplishments, even going a full tournament once at the World Tour finals (which he won) without being asked for his autograph. Gael Monfils on the other hand is a flashy show man who has no trouble at all engaging the crown with flamboyant c’mons and fist pumps after winning big points.
What this translates into is that Monfils, even though he has fielded tough critical questions regarding his performance, is a favorite of sponsors and advertisers. This year however, the Frenchman looks to be getting serious about winning as well. In his meeting with Rafael Nadal in Qatar earlier this year, he was moving great, defending and dictating well, and producing impressive winners. Although he lost the match, he showed in that match that he may be ready to make some moves in the rankings and perhaps enjoy the breakthrough the tennis world has been waiting for. Monfils’ recent performance against Richard Gasquet in the finals of Montpellier may be adding credibility to that trend.
Monfils dispatched his fellow Frenchman in a handy 6-4, 6-4 victory. He looked to be hitting the ball harder than he has in past years, pushing Gasquet around when given the chance and simply overpowering his countryman from the baseline.
Gasquet did produce a handful of world-class backhands, as usual, but it was not enough to stay with the red-hot Gael Monfils. With the win in France, Monfils is not back in the top 25 and with the jump reaches his highest rank since close to two years ago. Just last year in fact Monfils had fallen outside of the top 100 due to a knee injury. The Frenchman now however looks to be ready to take on 2014 with his usual flare. This time though, his showmanship is complimented with a steely focus that may see his ranking improve even more as the year goes on. The tennis world would surely welcome an upward move by Monfils as he is one of the fan-favorites wherever he goes.
Editorial by Daniel Worku