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By Jim McLennan

(December 13,2010) Professional tennis is about athleticism, about the incredible prize money, about the quest for “Number One” but also and importantly when two players engage in an entertaining match – professional tennis is about theater. And on that score, Monfils loves the stage. Enigmatic, talented, enormous promise, he is perhaps the greatest athlete on the men’s tour.

And if you don’t believe me, check out the following two links on YouTube (which has become an excellent resource for tennis footage).

Monfils is every bit a showman, and in the first clip the ever playful Frenchman does a full 360 degree spin while executing a jumping over head smash. And in the second clip we see an enormous if not the fastest ever forehand struck at the Australian Open, screaming down the line at 120 mph.

Monfils is 24, he turned pro in 2004, is currently ranked 12th, and his lightning quick court coverage has earned him in excess of $4 million dollars in prize money. His highest ever ranking was 9th in 2009, but with changes to his coaching entourage and style of play, he may be at the edge of something really great – meaning a comfortable place within the Top 5 – if not higher.

In July of 2008 Monfils hired Roger Rasheed, the Australian coach who shepherded much of Lleyton Hewitt’s career. Rasheed, a well known task master within the professional coaching ranks, has said, “He is not even close to where I want him to be. In two years time he will be a beast." And to that end Monfils has admitted he wants to become tougher. But as much as this project will concern conditioning and stamina, Roger also expects more offensive tactics. They have tried to reduce the number of his trademark “showtime sliding” shots, and to move him much closer on if not inside the baseline. And to this end they do have their work cut out for them. Over the years there have been darn few professionals willing if not able to recraft their playing style - let’s see if Monfils is able to “reorchestrate” his game.

What to look for when watching the “resurgent” Monfils game.

The Ricoh ATP Match Facts provide an indelible look into the nuts and bolts of the game. These facts highlight the two most important shots in any point (this is true for you and me as well as for the professionals), the serve and the return. Servers want to control the point with accurate court opening serves, receivers want to neutralize the server and simply get into the point and back to neutral.

The following stats highlight two areas Monfils and Rasheed are well aware of – to climb into the top 10 and higher he must improve his points won on second serve, and on break point conversions.

Service Record Year-to-Date:
• 49% 2nd Serve Points Won 49th place Nadal 1st at 59%

Return Record Year-to-Date:
• 38%Break Points Converted 44th place Youzhny 1st at 46%

Monfils is well aware of his talent and the attendant expectations that inevitably follow, and in many ways those “shoulds” have created a fair amount of pressure on this young Frenchman. But that said, these days the word on the tour is less about Monfil’s talent and more about his toughness, about how there is new “substance” to back up his “showmanship.”

As Djokovic observed at the 2010 US Open, “He’s physically one of the most prepared and strongest guys on the tour. I guess he’s kind of flashy. If he starts playing well, he can beat anyone.”

Jim McLennan is the Editor of TennisOne and publisher of Essential Tennis Instruction, and insightful and cutting edge blog on tennis. He is the Tennis Director at the Fremont Hills Country Club in Los Altos Hills, California, he holds a masters degree in Sports Psychology, is a past president of the USPTA’s NorCal division, and has been a lifelong player teacher and student of the game of tennis

Get free tennis lessons from Jim for a bigger and better serve here.


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