One of four Frenchmen among the top 20 men’s seeds at Roland Garros, the rangy former world No 7??Monfils has clawed his way back up the rankings since his injury. Now at 14, he is seen by many in the French sporting press as the country’s best hope this year.
“I appreciate it… but then you just have to go out and win your matches,” the 28-year-old said after a wobbly first round win against fellow Frenchman Edouard Roger-Vasselin on Monday in which he had trouble with the wind – and with his shorts.
“I don’t necessarily feel the pressure. Jo (Wilfried Tsonga), Richard (Gasquet) and Gilles (Simon) have as much chance as I do.”
Monfils took Andy Murray to five sets in the quarter-finals last year when he was ranked outside the top 20.
But his best major performance to date was longer ago, here in front of his home crowd, in 2008, when he lost in four sets in the semi-finals to Roger Federer.
The slender 6ft 4in Monfils, a crowd-pleaser famous for his unorthodox shots and basketball player posture, appeared to be cruising against wildcard entry Roger-Vasselin, but then dropped the second set on a tiebreak before gathering himself for a 6-2 6-7 (7-5) 6-1 7-5 victory.
“I wasn’t going at 100 percent. Then he started to manage the (wind) conditions better than me. I had to give it a bit of a boost,” Monfils said.
Aside from the wind, Monfils also had something of a wardrobe malfunction with a pair of shorts whose pocket was too small to carry a ball for a second serve.
“It was a bit tricky,” he said. “You get into a routine with the ball in your pocket… that second ball… having to turn around (for an extra ball) and then serve again, it took me a while to adapt… I’ll have a new pair of shorts for the next match.”