Reem's Melbourne Diary: Gael Monfils' Cirque du Soleil-style performance on court

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Gael Monfils is known for his flamboyance on a tennis court.

On Margaret Court Arena on Monday, Gael Monfils was up 7-5, 2-2 over Andrey Kuznetsov when the acrobatic Frenchman decided to take flight, reach for an impossible ball, and land on his hand and elbow on the rough hard court surface at the Australian Open.

It was a dive fit for a Cirque du Soleil performance but sadly it did not earn him the break point he was trying to get. Instead he hurt his arm and struggled to grip the racquet properly for the rest of the match.

It didn’t matter because he won in four to make his first-ever Australian Open quarter-final but it makes you wonder why he would put his body in so much danger for a near-impossible shot.

“It’s very painful. I cannot even grip anything right now. I have a deep cut. That’s nothing. But I have a bruise. I’m lucky to not have a fracture,” the Frenchman said when I asked him about the ramifications of that dive.

“During the point, I feel that I can have it. So I just do it because I think I have the ability to do it. But you know, I’m not a rock.”

The surface he landed on was the rock.

Does he regret doing it?

“No, never,” he responds immediately.

Do his coaches ever warn him not to do it?

“I will do it. It’s like instinct. Like some soccer player, I don’t know how to say it in English, but they jump and they do it. It’s just natural,” said the No.23 seed.

“People think like why will I throw myself to the floor for nothing. I do it because I know I can do it. That’s the only thing. People need to understand that if I dive, it’s because I know I can dive. That’s it.”

I went around the corridors under Rod Laver Arena and asked some players about the craziest things they’ve ever seen Monfils do.

Victoria Azarenka, a good friend of the Frenchman, said she gets emotional and it “hits her in the heart” when she watches him play especially when he does some “Gael stuff”.

Asked about the craziest thing she’s ever seen him do, Azarenka said laughing: “That’s off the court.

“On the court? I’m not sure. I mean, probably when we were playing Manhattan Beach. We were playing the game like against each other and he started sliding. It was raining and he started sliding all the way there. He says ‘hey, V, be careful when you go that side. It’s slippery there. But he was sliding. He was so much in control.

“I said ‘don’t worry about it. I don’t go back that far’. The first point we actually played, I slipped and I hit my face on the ground. He started cracking up. He’s like ‘I’m so sorry. I know you’re hurting, but it was very funny’. I said ‘thank you, thank you. I appreciate that’.”

2013 Wimbledon champion, Marion Bartoli, is also a good friend of Monfils and she remembers an unreal moment from her countryman.

She said: “There’s one forehand he hit at Roland Garros and the French Federation framed it. He’s jumping so high you can’t even see the ground anymore, so basically he’s jumping like 1.30m, full legs extended and hit a forehand winner down the line. That was in 2008 I think, when he used to have the dreadlocks in his hair.

“That’s probably one of the craziest things. Literally it’s not humanly possible to do it first of all, and then to put it out on Suzanne Lenglen court at Roland Garros.”

Milos Raonic, Monfils’ quarter-final opponent says the craziest thing the Frenchman has ever done is “probably the thing he does next” while Raonic’s coach, Carlos Moya says there are too many moments to choose from.

“Like his diving thing, his 360 jumping, he’s a showman and is a great player to watch,” said Moya.

That is for sure the consensus around here.

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