When they make the most of the opportunity, it really is something to savour especially knowing it might not happen in a hurry again. Enter the splendiferous, off-the-wall flying Frenchman Gael Monfils.
The 29-year-old finally made it into the last-eight of the Australian Open for the first time on Monday when he beat Russia’s Andrey Kuznetsov and in typical fashion, almost broke a few bones in an airborne baseline volley. You have to see the photos to believe it. But with the awesome acrobatic antics, come the questions surrounding his shot-making decisions and longevity … what if he was able to put 100% into every match he plays?
It’s also no surprise the former French and junior world No 1 has been plagued by injury throughout his career. Novak Djokovic and his fellow top-four cronies are brilliant, but none of them come close to providing the thrills and spills quite like the world No 25. He’s that kind of player you keep track of just to catch a glimpse of something spectacular.
And while Monday’s dive was rather dumb considering he nearly didn’t have the chance to play Milos Raonic in their quarterfinal yesterday morning, there is no shortage of admiration from fellow players. Turns out, Gael was completed served off the court, with the Canadian going through in four sets. Two-time champion Victoria Azarenka has confessed to being a “huge sports fan”, unable to control her emotions.
The first name that popped into the Belarussian’s mind was that of Monfils. “When I play, I’m in control. But when it’s somebody else doing it and I have absolutely no control, I go loco. I scream,” said Azarenka, who was next questioned about what makes her go crazy.
“Probably when I watch Gael because I know how good he is. When he starts doing some Gael stuff, it hits me in my heart, like I’m emotional.” Left with a deep cut, a few bruises and the inability to comfortably grip a racquet, Monfils had no regrets about going for broke, turning to the beautiful game for some added endorsement.
“It’s like instinct, like some soccer player. I don’t know how to say it in English, but they jump and they do it, it’s just natural.” Let’s just hope sanity prevails every now and then and we are blessed with his shenanigans for a few more years. Although not as daring and dashing, China’s Shuai Zhang is proof that patience will eventually pay off as she manoeuvered herself through the draw dislodging seeds, left right and centre.
After upsetting world No 2 Simona Halep in the first round, she went on to beat Alize Cornet, Varvara Lepchenko and Madison Keys en-route to the quarters. The 27-year-old considered hanging up her racquet after a dismal 2015 season. Before the Australian Open she had never won a Grand Slam match in 14 starts. But sadly her magnificent run came to an end when she lost to Great Britain’s unseeded Johanna Konta yesterday.
And although late bloomer Zhang and the clownish Monfils were unable to rattle the big guns towards the business end of the tournament, their feats deserve celebration. Characters are always welcome.