Monfils to entertain at SA Open
Gael Monfils, "The Great Entertainer" is here to entertain, but the colourful, charismatic Frenchman also made it clear on Sunday after his arrival in Johannesburg for the South African Open that he means business.
The R3,75-million tournament's top seed at the Montecasino event which gets underway on Monday and the 12th-ranked world tennis player said under new coach Roger Rasheed he was employing a more professional approach, concentrating on planning his matches and employing a greater degree of tact and tenacity.
"Everyone keeps telling me I have the talent to win a grand slam tournament," added the 23-year-old Frenchman, "but that I need to show more resolve and resillience on the court. Well now I've started to try and achieve this under Roger's tough training."
The imposing, 6ft 4in Monfils, nevertheless, said he had no intention of abandoning his inherant spectacular and emotional showmanship.
"That is me," he added, "and I'm not going to change what comes naturally."
Although Monfils said Rasheed had not accompanied him to South Africa because of "personal problems", the rest of his support team was here and he was geared to vie for the R600 000 winner's prize at Montecasino and what would be surprisingly for a player of his talent only his third ATP title.
The obvious favourite for appeal and ability in the South African Open, Monfils opens his programme with a first-round game against seasoned Slovakian Dominik Hrabaty, who coincidentally also reached 12th as a best world ranking - but that was a matter of six years ago.
"It's a tough opening game," said Monfils about a match the tournament organisers have provisionally planned for Tuesday night, "But it it is a good test for me to settle down and find my feet in high altitude conditions."
(...) In between the business of improving his world ranking at Montecasino, the engaging Monfils said he would like to pursue his passion for soccer by viewing the imposing World Cup Stadium at Soccer City.
As for the controversial Thierry Henry handball that earned France a place in the tournament hosted by South Africa in June and July at the expense of Ireland, Monfils said most Frenchman regarded it as "just one of those things" and an instinctive action.
"What was he to do?" asked Monfils, "gone to the referee and told him he had handballed. He might have been lynched in France had he done it." - Sapa