Monfils magic set to light up Montecasino

2010-02-01 00:00

AFTER safely negotiating an army of French journalists and TV cameras on his Johannesburg arrival Sunday morning, SA Tennis Open top seed Gael Monfils walked into a posse of SA media personnel at Montecasino.

The Frenchman, all quiet eyes and softly-spoken, comes across in a way so out of kilter with his famed flamboyance on court, yet he has a charm that gives just a hint of the charisma that has made him one of the most-watched players in the game.

“This is my first time in South Africa, a country with so much history, so it will act as motivation for me,” he says.

“To win a grand slam I need to work on the second week, it is different, but I am beginning to understand what I must do.” says the 23-year-old with the baby-faced looks of a teenager in reference to his disappointing form Down Under.

Startlingly tall in a reed-thin frame, Monfils’ frailty has always been a question, yet he has come a long way in adding steel to that prodigious talent.

“I am strong, the crowd makes me even stronger when they are on fire, I love to be with them, they give me focus so I just relax and play,” Monfils says with a smile.

But again the competitive instinct is given away in his big eyes when asked of countryman Thierry Henry’s infamous “hand-ball goal”.

“What must he do?” the eyes implore, “if the officials don’t see it, I am fine for it.

“What, Thierry must stop play and point to his hand, when France, all of the country will say, ‘why do you do that to us?’.”

It all suggests that the Frenchman will be doing no one any favours this week.

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