Frenchman Gaël Monfils has spent almost 15 years on the global tennis circuit, reaching a career high of world number six in 2016. Dynamite on the court — he’s known to throw in a dramatic dive for good measure — and a gentleman in every respect, here we chat to the much-loved tennis player before he joins the stellar cohort heading to Auckland for the men’s competition of the January’s ASB Classic.
What made you choose to come to Auckland for the ASB Classic? I have always loved this event and I keep great memories from my last participation when I reached the semifinals a few years ago. I haven’t been able to come since but it was always in the back of my mind that I should return at some point. Last year I won in Doha so I thought it would be nice to change my schedule for next year and Auckland came as the obvious choice.
What are some of the most valuable lessons you have learnt in your 15 years of playing tennis professionally? I never forget where I come from. My parents made a lot of sacrifices to allow me to be where I am today and I am grateful every day. I am a down to earth person and I respect everyone.
Life as a tennis player must be pretty gruelling — you spend a lot of time travelling etc — can you tell us a bit about your routine and how you have adjusted to this lifestyle? These are the kind of things you learn along the way. Being away for a long time from your friends and family can affect your morale but also your form. Scheduling has become an art but at the same time, it is a difficult balance to find. You are debating whether to play an extra event to make extra points or to go home and recharge for the next one.
What are some of the first things you do when you touch down in a new city? I go straight to the hotel and sleep! Sadly our sport does not allow us to take much free time to enjoy the places we go to. Our routine is pretty much the same airport/hotel/tennis club… Luckily, I have made some friends pretty much everywhere in the world now so I am glad to meet up for dinners.
What is your favourite part of being a tennis player? And your least favourite? My favourite is the adrenaline that you get on the court in a tight match and the good vibes you receive from the crowd. My least favourite is definitely the travelling part, sleeping in a different bed every week.
Does it ever get ‘lonely’ on the court? For example, if you are having a bad game, what do you do to try and turn things around? I wouldn’t say lonely but lost at times when you lose your focus for example. It is key to regroup quickly to regain some momentum. Sometimes I close my eyes and try to visualize better things and I can also look at the crowd and get some extra energy from them.
Tell us about your personal style on the court and how you tie it in with your sponsorship with Asics? How do you make everything look so cool? It is all natural. This is who I am both on and off the court. Asics and I have a developed a great relationship over the years. They are always listening to my ideas/feedback in terms of style, look, design. Then it is up to me to perform on the court. Hopefully, that makes it look cool!
Are your personal goals the same for every tournament? Is the aim to always improve your ATP ranking or do you sometimes focus on other things? My goal is always to win. I am a competitor. If I do, I know that my ranking will follow. It is very important not to pay too much attention to your ranking as it can make you lose your focus and most of the time it is super complicated to understand anyway, even for us who use it every day.
As someone actually playing the sport, do you believe that the same standards apply to men and women playing tennis or do you think there is work to be done? Tennis has been one of the first sports to grant equal prize money at Grand Slams. This was a huge step forward but of course, there is more work to be done.
What do you think is the difference between a good tennis player and a great tennis player? Without a doubt ‘consistency’. Everyone can have a great week or win something big but to be able to do it every week, every year for 10-15 years is clearly what makes a tennis player become a legend of the game.
If you have any, who are your sporting idols and why? Arthur Ashe. I admire his legacy and his career on and off the court. His contributions for Civil Rights in the US are also remarkable. I have had the honour to contribute to a book about him this year.
Gaël Monfils will be competing in the men’s competition of the Auckland ASB Classic from 6th-12th January 2019. Click here to purchase tickets.