Bodo on the match, it's more about Andy, but he also talks about Gaël:
In Monfils, Roddick faced a player much like himself – or at least the Andy Roddick of yore. Monfils can really bring the big serve, and he can smack the forehand. He even lines up to serve just like Roddick, poised with his ankles practically touching, at which point he arches his back, tosses, and then goes up for the ball, disconcertingly like a salmon leaping from the water.
But the contrast between the two men in one key area was stark. Roddick was all carefully calibrated power, honed focus, and he radiated the discipline and patience of a craftsman hard at work doing something he loves. Monfils, by contrast, looked like he was mostly interested in setting himself up for the spectacular counter-punch. The ambush strategy Monfils plays is a risky strategy at best, and never moreso than against an opponent who can dictate the terms of a match - even a close one, as this was for a set.
But what the hay – Monfils is still a pup at 22, and he’s also born and bred on clay, where counter-punching your way to glory on the strength of your quads and your ability to pull a forehand rabbit out of your hat pays better dividends than on hard courts. That, I thought, was the great underlying theme in this match, and it makes an interesting point about tennis on clay. The difference isn't really (or exclusively) about grips and backswings, spin or the lack thereof - it's really about attitude. For when you look at Monfils athletic profile and tools, which aren't all that different from Roddick's kit, it's easy to see the clear advantage on hard courts of pressing the action - provided you can resist pressing too hard, too early, or too artlessly.
Today, Roddick played a match that was artful, which will strike many of you as an odd way to characterize Roddick's game. But once again his shot selection was superb, his patience noteworthy, and his general judgment outstanding. You could see the mastery he must have felt at the gut level in his body language: He wears his duckbill cap with the visor pulled down to block out distraction; the walk that once was a swagger has been notched back, so that now it merely declares that he means business. When he calls for the towel, he does so with the most subtle of gestures - pointing an index finger in the general direction of the ball boy lucky enough to hold the perspiration-soaked rag without even bothering to glance at the kid, break his stride, or turn to take the towel. It's as if he wills the ballboy and towel to materialize and just as subtly disappear after Roddick has given his chin and racket handle a quick swipe.
As the first set unfolded, you could feel the pressure building, much like it was gathering in the dishwater gray clouds that threatened rain throughout this oppressive, humid afternoon. Both me were taking care of business - that business being holding serve. There was Roddick, powerful but patient. There was Monfils, powerful but cagey, ever eager to lure Roddick into the forecourt to set up a passing shot. Monfils knocked at the door of Roddicks's backhand and found it firmly shut; Roddick poked at the dormancy in Monfils' game, virtually daring him to do something, but found that Monfils would not be goaded. The men slowly boiled down the sap of this contrast to its essence as the games rolled by. Roddick's played with prudent aggression; Monfils pushed back just hard enough to keep Roddick on edge, and from bullying him around the court.
Roddick earned a break point in the eighth game on crisp forehand approach shot winner, but Monfils dismissed it with a crafty drop shot hit off a let-cord backhand. Soon he leveled to 4-all. In the ninth game, Roddick fell behind 0-30 when he got a bit ahead of himself and his feet became tangled as he tried to execute a heavily sliced backhand approach while moving forward toward the net. The shot reminded me of the "old" Andy Roddick, and in context it also made the current model that much more striking. But immediately a service winner and an overhead placement pulled him even, and Roddick went on to hold.
Monfils held, and then put together a break when, from deuce, he forced a pair of forehand errors, the second of them a volley. This is precisely where Monfils counter-punching mindset cost him, because he then played a curiously loose, error-strewn game. After hanging back and waiting to spring a trap, he seemed unable to impose his game. Oh. I'm serving for the set, not trying to break him? What one earth do I do now?
As Roddick would say later: "I think he (Monfils) gives you ample opportunity because he likes to do the rope-a-dope a little bit. He likes to invite you in. Then, if you don't come in, he beats you with length on the next ball. He's quick enough to be able to pass a lot, so I just tried to at least make my approach shots firm if I did it."
If you read some of the other quotes in my Tennis.com analysis, you'll see that at times Roddick sounded almost Agassi-like as he analyzed the game. Here's another nugget: Asked about the most significant way losing 15 pounds (at the behest of his latest coach, Larry Stefanki) has impacted his game, Roddick replied, in part, "I think the biggest difference is after I hit the return, that first ball, if they become aggressive on it I can get it back to neutral quicker, because I'm able to scramble after that first one."
Scrambling, scratching, digging. . . those are all appropriate words to describe the way Roddick now gets through matches against players who can hurt him. And at the risk of patronizing Monfils - who has the athleticism and firepower to hurt Roddick and anyone else who gets in his danged face - I think he could learn some valuable lessons watching Roddick. We can start with the way Monfils reacted to losing the first set; it was as if he beheld a pre-ordained ending that nobody else - least of all Roddick - took for granted. Oh, he made a few spectacular shots and gets, but I'm not sure they fooled anyone. In Monfils shoes, I think Roddick might have thought: Okay, I played a lousy 'breaker, now let's get down to the work of winning this match.
Maybe that's the difference between a 22-year old and a veteran - and former no. 1 - of 26. Maybe that's the difference between a Frenchman with a clay-court mindset and an American knowing he best make hay while the sun shines on that nice, purple and green stretch of asphalt. Maybe that's the difference between a kid who hasn't put a lot of thought into his game yet, and someone who managed to grow out of that difficult stage and, intent on remaining in the hunt, has become. . . a tennis player.