Gael Monfils is professional tennis' contribution to YouTube. There are better players — Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, to name two — but possibly none that are as talented, animated, and physically gifted as Monfils, a 23-year-old pro from France who will make his Memphis debut in the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships at the Racquet Club this week.
In addition to his Top 20 world ranking, his muscles, sleeveless T-shirts, fist pumping, arm waving, shot retrieving, and a set of abs that makes "The Situation" look flabby have made Monfils a YouTube favorite. In one clip, he hits an overhead smash after leaping and turning 360 degrees in the air. In others, he twists his body in positions that would make a contortionist applaud.
France is not exactly known for its tennis. Roland Garros is a stadium in Paris, not a modern player. Before Monfils, two Frenchmen came to Memphis and achieved success. The first was Yannick Noah, a champion and father of NBA star Joakim Noah. The next one was Henri LeConte, a flashy finalist remembered for fainting on the court in a match against Jimmy Connors.
If anyone faints at a Monfils match, it will probably be tournament director Peter Lebedevs if his headliner loses early. Or it will be someone in the crowd if a winning Monfils makes good on a promise to take off his shirt and throw it into the stands. He said that in an interview last week. We plan to hold him to it.
Here is some more of the Flyer's interview with Monsieur Monfils:
Flyer: What is your second-best sport?
Gael Monfils: Basketball. I am a big Denver Nuggets fan.
Can you dunk?
Yes, of course. One hand.
Will it be dreads or no dreads for Memphis?
I don't know yet.
If you don't win this tournament, who do you think will?
Maybe Andy Roddick.
Do you know anything about
This will be my first visit. You have cold weather. And I think you have got a good football team.
Have you ever hit with Noah or LeConte?
I have with Yannick, but not LeConte.
Do you have a girlfriend?
Yes. She is not a tennis player.
If you only got one serve every time, could a Top 10 woman get a set off
Never. A game? Yeah, I think so.
Where did your style of play come from?
My parents educated me to enjoy tennis. It is a sport, you can be sad, you can cry on the courts. Show your crazy side. Be yourself.
How did you get so ripped? Do you work out all the time?
No. It's more that I'm gifted from my parents.
Novak Djokovic took off his shirt and threw it to the crowd after he won the Australian Open last month. If you win this tournament, will you promise right here and now to do that?