Monfils looks to recapture his spark in Paris

 - Simon Cambers

Frenchman keen to reunite with his mother and find his form at Roland-Garros

Gael Monfils, Roland Garros 2021, practice© Cédric Lecocq/FFT

Gael Monfils is looking forward to two things in particular about this year’s Roland-Garros; seeing his mother for the first time in a long time and seeing Roger Federer back on the Paris clay.

The hugely-talented Frenchman has struggled to find his mojo since the tennis world resumed last August after a five-month Covid-19 lockdown -- playing in front of empty stadiums not his idea of fun.

But with up to 5,000 fans allowed into Roland-Garros in the day sessions, Monfils is looking forward to seeing people in the stands again, even if the presence of one person will mean most of all..

“I don't know what the exact possibilities are (but) the only thing I know is that normally, if everything goes well, I should see my mother,” Monfils told French reporters.

“I haven't seen her for a long time. I hope to be able to see her for a second, even with these conditions. After that, I don't know, I don't know how it works at all.”

Lockdown has been hard on Monfils, a player who feeds off the fans inside the stadium more than most.

The 34-year-old has played sparingly on the Tour and goes into Roland-Garros having won just one match -- in Lyon this month -- since February 2020.

Gael Monfils, Roland Garros 2021, practice© Cédric Lecocq/FFT

“I'm the bad 'case', because it takes its toll,” he said. “I haven't seen my mother for a very long time. I don't even know how I'm going to see her. I know she's coming, she might be in the stadium. Will I be able to hug her, I have no idea. Yes, it weighs on me. I'm not sure.”

What has perked Monfils up, though, is having spent time on court with Federer in practice in Geneva.

And though Federer has not played a Grand Slam event since last year’s Australian Open and only played one match on clay in two years, Monfils feels the Swiss could perform well at Roland-Garros.

“In one day, he had really picked up the pace,” he said. “It's fabulous, the speed with which he found his rhythm, his panache. I can see the difference in his movement, in the quality of his shot, which had evolved a lot. I think that the week of training he's doing here means that he's going to evolve even more.

“He's so strong, so talented,” added the world No.15. “We're talking about a legend in our sport. I found that in a very short time, in two days, his level of play had risen dramatically. I can imagine, with a little more time, coming back to play with the guys he had to train with all week, really picking up the pace and the tempo.

“I think he wants to do well. That's my opinion. If he's coming here, it's because he feels like doing something really good. I'm as impatient as you are to see how he will manage it. It's interesting to see how a legend like him is going to handle all this…(but) what I saw in one weekend was already extraordinary.”

As for his own form, Monfils was not quite so effusive, although his recent engagement to world No.6 Elina Svitolina has at least put a smile on his face.

“In my personal life, I'm doing very well, and in my professional life, I'm not doing well,” said Monfils, who opens his Roland-Garros campaign against Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas on Tuesday.

Gael Monfils, Roland Garros 2021, practice© Cédric Lecocq/FFT