Day 3 diary: Monfils magic lights up Lenglen

 - Alex Sharp

It was a special return to form for Gael Monfils and the local crowd made sure their support was heard.

Gael Monfils, Roland Garros 2021, first round© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

It was another feast of tennis across the grounds at Roland-Garros 2021.

Fans court-side and watching around the globe are being treated to a host of blistering performances.

Here is what you might have missed from a sun-kissed Paris.

Moment to remember

This is exactly what we’ve all longed for during the pandemic in the world of sport.

Fans chanting, leaping out of their seats, backing their player with raucous atmospheres.

Gael Monfils was the perfect competitor to rise to the occasion, feeding off the electric home crowd to knock out in-form Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas 1-6, 7-6(6), 6-4, 6-4. “Allez, Allez, Gael”, boomed around the stands.

After a difficult 2021, with just one previous match-win to his name, this triumph was monumental for Monfils.

“It was incredible. I could feel their energy. I could feel that every day I'm working to be on the big stage like that with crowd,” said the world No.15.

“As I always say: You give to them, they give back. Then sometimes it's them to give to you and you give back to them. It's exchange. Today you could see it was a clear example today. Cannot be happier than that.”

The 2008 semi-finalist pulled out a vintage performance in front of his parents, brother, aunt and cousins.

“Some tough matches, tough losses, but I’ve been getting better and better. To actually conclude the first big win here in a while, it's easy to say, but I put that win on the crowd, my parents. They helped me quite a lot to achieve like a better match, better serve, I was more relaxed on some stage. As I say, I was more me, a bit more fun. It was a better Gael Monfils today.”

Babel stars on Roland-Garros bow

Monfils’ fiancee Elina Svitolina nullified the threat of free-hitting wildcard Oceane Babel.

The French 17-year-old, who learned the basics of tennis playing Nintendo Wii, will feature in the juniors event and impressed the No.5 seed on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

“It takes experience. I guess it’s the first time for her to play here on this court, to be in the main draw of a Grand Slam against the No.6 player in the world, it’s extremely tough,” explained Svitolina following the 6-2, 7-5 triumph.

“I remember being in the same situation and being very stressed. I think she dealt with it really well today. She made it really tough for me.”

Oceane Babel, Roland Garros 2021, first round© Philippe Montigny/FFT

Venus to push Gauff hard

Is it VeCoco? The nickname hasn’t been established yet, but the dream team of Venus Williams and Coco Gauff lit up the doubles draw announcements.

The veteran American is looking forward to teaming up with the 17-year-old prodigy, making sure Gauff will takes charge.

“I think we're hopefully going to be a perfect match. She's so extremely talented that I'll definitely be expecting her to do all the work," Venus said on Tuesday.

Venus Williams, Roland-Garros 2021© Nicolas Gouhier / FFT

Generosity is Berrettini’s middle name

No.9 seed Matteo Berrettini wielded his racquet to overcome Japan’s qualifier Taro Daniel in four sets.

The Italian was in a jovial mood whilst packing his bags to leave the court and told fans asking for his racquets, “If I win the tournament, I'll give you a racquet."

One down, six to go. Next up is Federico Coria.

Gutted for Petra

Any tournament is brighter with Petra Kvitova in the draw. 

The two-time Wimbledon champion has had to withdraw due to an ankle injury, moving Elena Vesina into the third round.

We’re sure we’ll see Petra back in Paris next summer.

Stat attack has Ons on form

Ons Jabeur is a very popular player on tour and clearly knows her manners.

The No.25 seed, who posted a 7-5, 6-2 result to oust Yulia Putintseva, spoke of the analytical side of the game. 

“Not as much as my coach, but we do work with the statistics a lot. We actually have someone helping us. I just want to thank him. Hi, Shane, for all the work he's doing,” said the 26-year-old, who is up against Australia’s Astra Sharma next.  

“Of course, like nowadays statistics are very important. I don't think there is not a single player who doesn't work with that, and obviously it will help us a lot. Sometimes some things we don't see, and statistics show otherwise, so we are glad to say we work with that.”

Ons Jabeur, Roland Garros 2021, first round© Cédric Lecocq/FFT

Medvedev is ruling social media

No.2 seed Daniil Medvedev has reached a US Open final and more recently an Australian Open final.

It’s fair to say Roland-Garros hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for the gregarious Russian, falling in four previous first round encounters. 2021 has changed all that, courtesy of a straight-sets win over Alexander Bublik.

His favourite Roland-Garros moment? The world No.2 piped up on Twitter to tell the ATP, “So far? Actually hearing my name together with ‘game, set, and match’”

We dig that sense of humour, Daniil.

Shot of the day

Ever the crowd favourite, Monfils had the fans in awe when he struck this beauty against Albert Ramos-Vinolas.

Gone in a flash, Li is reaching high

American Ann Li is happy to follow her own path and isn’t in a rush to get to the upper echelons of the sport.

That wasn’t the case on court though, as the world No.75 blasted past Margarita Gasparyan 6-0, 6-1 in just 46 minutes.

“I’m a super aggressive, all-court player, and I have a lot of goals. I always knew I had it in me. It was just a matter of time before it showed,” stated the 20-year-old, who reached the third round in New York and Melbourne in the past two majors. 

“I’ve had steady growth in the past, which I like. Sometimes players get results too quickly and then they go down. Once I get up there, I really want to stay there and be at the top. So, I kind of like the journey I’ve been on, and where I’m going now.”

Ann Li, Roland Garros 2021, first round

Demon the tour guide

Australia’s pocket rocket Alex de Minaur safely passed the test of Stefano Travaglia in straight sets. 

Afterwards the 22-year-old revealed he’d hosted countrymen John Millman and Jordan Thompson prior to heading to Paris.

“I was able to get Johnny and Jordan to come over to Spain and stay at mine, and we were able to have a nice little training block. I was able to show them around, where I grew up, my courts, kind of the simple things in life,” said the world No.22. “We really trained the house down.”

Stat of the day

Andrey Rublev fell in five sets to Jan-Lennard Struff. The three-hour 46-minute contest with both players winning the exact number of points.