We get up from our sofa with our fists clenched, we jump and we shout “Alleeeeeeez” at all costs that wake up the toddler. Watching Gaël Monfils win is like riding a bike, old reflexes are not forgotten. Suffice to say that, since the start of the season, we have been spoiled. Crowned in Adelaide on January 9, after more than two years without a title, the Parisian finds himself in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open on Tuesday, where he will face the Italian Matteo Berrettini. All after having blasted all his opponents in three small sets with a host of winning shots.
Examples against Miomir Kecmanovic in the round of 16: to win the first round? A long backhand that leaves the Serb with his eyes downcast. To pick up in the tie-break of the second set? A stratospheric forehand, which makes the Concorde look like a vulgar junk ULM. To win the game? A return from surgical lapels. The fruit, finally, one could say, of the collaboration with Gunter Bresnik: more risk, more force, more power.
“At Roland, it went a little in all directions”
But, if he arrived a year ago at the bedside of the French tennis player, the Austrian coach probably wondered several times why he did not take a return flight to Schönbrunn Palace. A pitiful entry elimination in Melbourne, two second rounds at Roland and Wimbledon, interspersed with unexciting outings. “Gaël, he always needs a little time to adapt, to tell himself that, yes, that’s how it’s going to work,” explains former player Lionel Roux. At Roland-Garros, he wanted to do it, he listened, he integrated these instructions into his game, but it was going a little all over the place. »
On Parisian clay, against the Swede Michael Ymer, Monfils had sprayed the entire Suzanne-Lenglen court and a good part of the public had been able to leave with a ball as a souvenir: 62 unforced errors. But, no panic, the Bresnik process was launched. “If I decide to change my game, it’s not to get back to filing [renvoyer la balle sans aucun risque en attendant la faute adverse], then conceded the Parisian. Hitting harder, sometimes, makes you make more unforced errors, but confidence matters a lot. You have to force yourself to go there even if there are mistakes. »
A game plan that pays off
Well, we have to admit that we were a bit dubious about the method, and seeing our Gaël again in the upper echelons of world tennis seemed as plausible as attending the union of left-wing parties for the next presidential election. But, as the Argentine philosopher Marcelo Bielsa said: time will prove you right “. And Monfils, as expected, came back to life. It started with an American tour more in line with his expectations, extensive off-season physical preparation and, in fine, a flamboyant Australian start to the year.
“At the start, he didn’t choose the right shot to hit hard, which his coach asked of him, continues Roux. With the work, this experience of a few matches and the failures, too, he manages more intelligently to identify the right ball to attack, the one where he will be in a position to hit harder, to develop power. “And, even if there is waste (46 unforced errors against Kecmanovic), there is no question of changing the game plan.
More confidence, less panic
“Before, Gaël hit hard, but he didn’t really accept making mistakes, develops his former coach Patrick Chamagne. So he backed off and started filing. Now he defends well and the defense-attack transition is much better. He makes that transition faster. And he has more confidence, so he hits harder and he accepts the waste. »
There, even if it comes back once, twice, he does not panic and waits for the right ball, completes Roux. Before, he was able to panic because it came back and, suddenly, he gave it a big blow right after. »
For Patrick Chamagne, the game of Gaël Monfils has expanded in all compartments: “Before, you had exchanges on the diagonal, crossed-crossed. There, Gaël comes to look a lot along the line, whether forehand or backhand. From there, as he has an exceptional strike, he creates a shift, he goes more into the field. As he is closer to his line, it is much easier to play his volley. We see him more often at the net. »
And it is not likely to stop. “Gunter, I know him, he’s an extremely rigorous boy, who never gives up, leaves nothing”, assures Chamagne. So, what to have a little regret about the fact that this collaboration did not start sooner? “This collaboration comes at a time when Gaël is more mature, more poised in his private environment. [il s’est marié avec Elena Svitolina] and that he may be more attentive. If he had met five six years ago, maybe it wouldn’t have done. Better late than never, then.