Monfils eliminated by Djokovic in Cincinnati: “I’m not beating him but I’m learning a lot”

Monfils eliminated by Djokovic in Cincinnati:

The first song that comes to mind is “Total eclipse of the heart” by Bonnie Tyler, as the defeat of Gaël Monfils hurts the heart. The fans crossed around the Grand Stand believed it. Patrick McEnroe had predicted his victory on Twitter. There were even colleagues to try a few French words to say “Come on, it’s tonight. » We wanted to believe it, to dream, finally, of a victory for Monfils over Novak Djokovic. We almost imagined the title accompanying this day of glory. But the dream shattered on the harsh reality. Very quickly. Because the Frenchman never seemed capable of reversing the course of a sadly one-sided match. It’s like that.

It is in the basement of the Lindner Family Tennis Center, in the recovery room, that we find Gaël Monfils after his defeat in the round of 16 of the Masters 1000 in Cincinnati. In the middle of a stretching session, he returns with lucidity to a match where Novak Djokovic once again proved intractable. “What’s crazy is that you come into the game and he plays well straight away. He makes an ace on second, he takes good shots…, he recalls. He didn’t make any mistakes, he was in good shape. I forced a lot, didn’t make the right choices and that made me thwart a little. Behind, I’m just doing a bad service game where I forced three forehands because I feel I need to do more, but without taking too many risks. And it went wrong. »

“In the second set, he walked on me. »

Once the first set lost, Monfils took the lightning, he does not say the opposite. “In the second, he steps on me. I’m having a hard time finding a solution. I try the serve and volley, but I miss. I tense, it does not pin well. And that’s where he is much stronger than me because he manages these moments very well and he breaks me right away. Afterwards, he relaxes, he plays better and it goes very quickly. When you play a guy who is stronger, you have to find the solutions very quickly, otherwise it can go very quickly. »

The solution will never come and it will be a 19th defeat against Novak Djokovic forever no victory. A cruel statistic to which Monfils would like to debunk. Or, at least, explain it pragmatically. “ This series is a fantasy of people. Of course I would like to beat him just once. But the guy is just stronger than me. Give me a guy weaker than me and I’ll win 50 times against him. If we look at my career, 19 times, that means that I lose overall once a year against him. Of course, there are those who beat him, but he beat, I don’t know, 25 times Murray or Federer. Of course, they beat him too. But he’s just stronger than me and I can’t find the key. I want to win too, but I’m never a favourite. Each time he is 1st or 2nd in the world. I was never a favourite, actually. » The tirade is long, out eye to eye, without trying to find excuses, but just to hammer home a truth of sport that, overall, it is the best who wins.

“The guy is just stronger than me. »

Explain that even if he is ready to die on the court, Djokovic is a better tennis player than him and that ending this losing streak would not change anything. “I’m struggling to find a solution, he’s stronger than me. I had the success of beating Rafa once or twice, but it’s the same, the guy is stronger. I try to do things, but I can’t. When I get into the game, I want to find the solution, but I can’t and it hurts. People have this thing up 19-0. But if I play it 25 times, maybe it’ll be 25-0. And if one day I manage to snatch a match, I will be very happy, but he will remain stronger than me. »

Monfils takes it philosophically. His game and that of Djokovic are not compatible and this works to the advantage of the Serb. “I can’t read what he does well and what he offers doesn’t suit me, it frustrates me. I have to make tactical choices where I am less strong than him. » Djokovic forces him to play his part and Monfils loses the rhythm. “And he played a normal match, because he could have played better. He’s not a crazy game, but enough to beat me. »

Far from feeling resigned, we understand that he knows he just lost to someone better than him. No shame in that. “Yes, as a competitor, it’s boring to lose 19 times against a guy. But it’s Djokovic. I don’t take it easy, but I don’t lose to anyone. It is still the record holder of Grand Slams, the GOAT. And I used to say that if I win matches, it’s thanks to Novak. I’m getting better with these losses because I’m working on trying to hold it a bit more. And by doing that, I give myself the means to beat others. Unfortunately, I can’t beat him, but it gives me the weapons against the others. He makes me raise my level on a lot of things. I’m not beating him, but I’m learning a lot. »

Heading to New York

Now is the time to rest “because I’m very tired”. There will be no final warm-up lap at Winston-Salem next week. The idea is to recharge your batteries to arrive at 100% at the US Open, hoping to have a good table. “Easier than here because, casually, I play the 15th (Norrie), the 12th (De Minaur) and the 2nd. We can make it simpler (laughs). But I would like to win a few matches at the US Open, so I will rest to be in good shape. »

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