Monfils gets Parisian backing

Gael Monfils believes he can win a grand slam title and, after a brilliant victory over Ernests Gulbis.

Gael Monfils

It seems certain there is no one the Parisian crowd would rather see picking up the Coupe des Mousquetaires a week on Sunday.

The flamboyant Frenchman with the rubber limbs and the charisma of a court jester followed up his five-set upset of fifth seed Tomas Berdych by defeating Gulbis 6-7 (5/7) 6-4 7-6 (7/4) 6-2.

The crowd on Court Philippe Chatrier roared their support, and Monfils said: "It's a great feeling. It's always different here in my town and to be playing well. It's just something amazing for me."

The 26-year-old was the dominant figure in a junior era that also included Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, yet he has never fulfilled his potential as a senior, winning only four ATP titles and making just one grand slam semi-final.

Injuries have certainly not helped Monfils, and his current ranking of 81 is largely down to knee problems that forced him to miss a large chunk of last season.

Yet he is also a mercurial figure as likely to lose a match he should have won as to conjure up some magic.

Monfils said: "It's difficult to explain it, but all I know is I have a strong belief in myself. I just never give up and just believe that I can show my best every day.

"I'm just trying to be tough mentally and tougher and tougher in my mind when things get down. Obviously it's working, so it's great.

"Inside my dream is to win a slam and deep inside I know I can make it. Now, next month, or the next one, whatever, I will wait for my time and make it when I can make it."

The end of the third set was where the match really sparkled, as Gulbis saved five set points and then had a number of chances to serve for it himself only to lose out in a tie-break.

Monfils celebrated by taking a picture of the crowd with his phone, and Murray, watching on TV back home, tweeted his support, saying: "La monf to win rolly g? £allezlamonf"

Monfils, who next meets 32nd seed Tommy Robredo, said: "He's a good friend of mine, Andy. I've know him since I was 10 and he was nine, I think, when I first played him.

"It was very nice because at the beginning honestly I couldn't speak in English. His French is not very good. Sometime it's improving. He's a very nice guy."

Gulbis is another player whose talent has not been matched by his results, and the Latvian also delights in speaking his mind.

In an interview with L'Equipe, Gulbis voiced his opinion that the big four of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Djokovic and Murray are boring.

He said: "The current tennis is sorely lacking in character. I respect Roger, Rafa, Novak and Murray, but, for me, all four players are boring. Their interviews are boring. Honestly, they are boring."

The 24-year-old, meanwhile, was taking no consolation from the part he played in such a crowd-pleasing match, saying: "I would rather win in three sets, 6-1 6-2 6-2 and that's it.

"No, no, no good match, nothing. An ugly match but easy win for me, I would be more happy. (It was) no fun."

Federer's match against India's Somdev Devvarman was relegated to Roland Garros' second court, Suzanne Lenglen, today, and it certainly could not compete in terms of drama, with the second seed cruising to a 6-2 6-1 6-1 victory.

After two matches against qualifiers, Federer admitted he is not yet entirely sure of his level and he expects to be more sternly tested by 30th seed Julien Benneteau, a player he has lost to twice in six meetings, in the third round.

"I think I'm playing okay," he said.

"I definitely think the next match is going to be a big test for me to see exactly where I stand. I'm happy that I was playing offensive and aggressive tennis in the first two matches."



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