Photo : Michael Meierhofer / presse.ro sur Flickr.
No French player has reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros since 2001. That is, until Gaël Monfils stormed into the semis on Wednesday. A tennis fan and an ex-pro (Arnaud Boetch) revel at the Frenchman's performance, and fancy his chances of beating... Roger Federer.
"Watch out, Ferrer is not Federer"
Arnaud Boetsch, 39, is a former professional tennis player. In 1996 he was ranked 12th worldwide.If you told me two weeks ago that Gaël would be in the semi-finals, I would have found it hard to believe. But watching him advance in the past few games, I've seen him make incredible progress. At first, he played too far behind the line, very defensively. I spoke about it with his coach, Thierry Champion, who told me that Gaël was very stressed and in that case he'd rely on what he does best, which is to defend. Now he's got more confident. When he played against Ferrer he took the game into his own hands and attacked more fiercely.
Gaël is a very well-rounded player. He plays well in service, thanks to a serve of over 210 km/h. So he just has to concentrate on his contender's serves. As he covers the ground well and strikes hard, it's hard for his opponent to get round him.
But remember, Ferrer is not Federer. The Spanish player has a very stereotypical way of playing. Once you've figured out what that is, you can beat him. The number one knows how to vary his play; to adapt to the competition. And he's more aggressive. He takes control. This could all be too hard for Gaël. Federer will surely give him some points at the start. So he just needs to play close to the net, to surprise people. If he can do that, then anything's possible."
"He reminds me of Noah"
Amaury de Laurens, 29, is a business entrepreneur in Paris and a tennis fanatic. He can boast a high ranking at regional level.I've been saying for three years that Gaël Monfils is the only Frenchman that could win the Roland Garros. He's a showman, a player who's galvanised by the atmosphere. He reminds me of Noah when he played in this very tournament 25 years ago.
Furthermore, Monfils is perfectly adapted to playing on a clay court. He's swift, he defends well and he's also strong in attack and close to the net. A bit like Kuerten. He's made a lot of progress in exchanges these past few years and can play shots from any direction now.
The game against Federer is going to be hard. When Swiss puts on a good match it's a hard one. But Federer already lost in Rome, and on the same surface. Then it was against Radek Stepanek, who's not a big player.
It's here on clay courts at Roland Garros that small fry have defeated grand players. Think of Puerta, finalist in 2005. So I believe it can happen. My prognosis is that Monfils will win in five sets. If he can lengthen the match, he'll win for sure, because he's physically stronger."
Gaël Monfils is nicknamed "Sliderman" for his wide-ranging returns.
His devastating forehand
One of his most celebrated points
During a match against Croatian Ivan Ljubicic.