Article in Sports / Tennis / ATP
Tennis, Talent, Extreme Heat Conditions, Frenchman Gael Monfils’s Determination Shows how to Beat Giant Competitors in a Disruptive Win at Citi Open Championship Match.

Gael Monfils obvious problem solving of this match was worthy of attention to hopefully inspire individual trials and tribulations. Ivo Karlovic at 6-foot-11 had just come off of a win in Newport and at 37 was described as a ‘freight train’ with a so-called old school ‘serve and volley’ game that was wiping out upcoming players. He would take on Monfils one of, if not the most talented player on the circuit today. It was classic!

Last week before the Citi Open finals Gael Monfils was ranked seventeen (17) in ATP ’s Mens Single Tennis. He would win his first 500 title (ranking points) event and jump three spots to number fourteen (14) on July 24th in Washington DC. His one goal was to see his name amongst other tennis greats on the awning that circled center court. Coming into the match his game was solid (both were winning 100% of second serves) but analytics showed Karlovic better higher speed serve with volley was forcing Monfils to implored creative tactics, get out of his comfort zone, stay focused to neutralize his opponent and eventually win. Nothing short of that.

Gael Monfits, the son of a noted Soccer Player in France, came into tennis as one of the greatest new talents of his generation. During his rise from junior tennis into professional ranks he made a good living. He became entertaining on court, but never seem to reach his full potential becoming number one. Broadcasters admitted the competitive field of players in the top three or four had a tight grip making it very difficult for others to penetrate. They noted this as one of the major reasons Gael had not risen to that level. Coaches avoided him, reason being was how Monfils approached the game: no discipline, playful, entertaining, although displaying amazing physical feats, would begin strong, lose focus and thus the game. Despite all this he managed to remain in the top 20 for years.

Gael Monfils while strong is also fragile. Just this year in Monte Carlo (2016) he played Rafa Nadal only to run out of gas in the last set of the match. He was plagued with injuries and then a virus kept him out of the French Open. Gael is one of the most popular amongst his tennis peers in the locker room, he is a very respectful guy. Stan Wawrinka (ranked #5) introduced him to his new coach, but there were conditions. Monfils had to adjust his mental attitude towards the game. Again broadcasters speculated, during the Citi Open in Washington, DC, noting a change in his serve, increased by three (3) mph, allowing his serve to reach into 130’s. They also observed that Monfils remained focused and engaged to the point of achieving a win over a guy that had not lost his serve in more than thirty games and was picked to win.

At 6-foot-4 and 29 years old Gael Monfils was up against Ivo Karlovic, who at 37 years old equaled about fourteen (14) years in tennis at the professional level. Ivo Karlovic was after his first 500 win too and back to back titles would have boosted his brand and ranking in the tennis universe. Needless to say, he was very motivated. Both had made it to the finals with convincing wins over upcoming very competitive younger players. Ivo with his big serves followed up with a volley at the net was daunting strategy. Monfils imploring a defensive style laid way back from the court to ‘get a better view of the court’. Karlovic would destroy him, wear him down and beat him from the net position. Once Gael realized this losing the first set, he could not win entirely from his most comfortable defensive position. The broadcasters once again said he needed to come in closer to the edge of the court to be in a position to react faster and throw Karlovic off his game.

While this was cool to know at 139 degree temperatures on the court, it was even more fascinating to see Monfils stayed back, jumped around to distract Karlovic during serve, and run after his high slams without success. He slowly began to try different approaches including changing his position on the court to receive Ivo’s awesome service game. He slowly began to get balls back. He moved Karlovic around the court challenging him with shots near his feet at the net. He kept serving across court out wide to Ivo’s forehand with some success. Often times during serve Gael would place a his aces down the tee. Analytics were showing Ivo had twice as many aces and was about to win the second set and the match when he ‘choked’. If he had not, this article would not have been inspired. Simultaneously Monfils had to be able to capitalize, in order to take the second set. He couldn’t show doubt and needed focus, patience, creativity, be athletic, fast, stay out of his comfort zone and remain determined. He had enlisted the crowd to his side, limited his entertaining. He ran down balls, and sustained some great shots by Ivo Karlovic. While broadcasters were saying, Gael was hoping for divine intervention, he definitely had a ‘come to Jesus’ moment. If anyone was going to beat Ivo Karlovic, it was going to be the last man standing and he was him.

At this juncture, each man stood toe to toe, each with a set under their belt; it would take the highest talent, skills and mental wit to impose one game against another. This became a match between peers dependent upon strengths and style of play, showing us what it takes to win. A goal, talent, strategic implementation, changing tactics, maintaining focus, flexibility, staying outside of your comfort zone, with perseverance and endurance helped both prevail with a slight difference. Gael Monfils brought his game and did not choke. He won. He showed us in the day to day struggle with belief, faith, determination and a willingness to adapt when bringing your best, makes it possible to succeed against great odds.

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Lillian L Thompson
Lillian Thompson received a Master's of Architecture from Columbia University and Interior and Environmental Degree from Pratt Institute, se

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