Fitness-focused Gael Monfils dubs himself ‘crazy’

Gael Monfils

Gael Monfils had to overcome cramps and a double break deficit in the fifth set to down Sebastian Baez of Argentina 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 1-6, 7-5 and  win his first match in nine months in a late-night French Open thriller.

Monfils was positively giddy after the match having backed himself to win the match in the fifth set after falling behind.

Their late-night encounter would conclude in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Now the world no 394 Monfils came back from 0-4, 30-40 to stun Baez, who has been in decent form on clay.

“It’s crazy. I talked to myself (after the fourth set), and I said, Don’t you worry, I’ll recover, and I’ll beat him, I’ll kill him during the fifth set,” said Monfils.

“Think about this, I’m totally crazy.”

Monfils struggled to move during the last set because of cramps in both legs brought on by the intensity of the contest.

The Court Philippe Chatrier fans rose to their feet in response to his winning backhand before Monfils fell to the red clay court in tears.

In a tie that lasted the better part of four hours, he saved 11 of the 20 break points he faced showing a tenacity that further endeared the Roland Garros darling to his home crowd.

Before suffering a plantar fascia rupture in his right foot that kept him out of action until March of this year, Monfils’ last victory on the tour was in Montreal in August 2022.

It was the most recent in a long series of injury issues the Frenchman had to deal with throughout his 19-year professional career.

“When I was back on the tour, I thought, okay, I’ll wait for Roland Garros,” said Monfils.

“I didn’t even expect to win this match. My objective is to be fit so that I can have long matches.”

He said he tried to ignore the cramping which spread to both legs by the time the fifth set was played out.

“I was really hurt but that’s why we’re called high-level sportsmen, because from time to time, you manage to overcome the pain.

“I had cramps, but quite high in the thigh. So I could go right, left, right, left. I could do this.

“But his dropshots really hurt. When he did the dropshot, I was laughing, I thought, oh, no, now two legs, it’s going to be complicated.”

Monfils will need more than guts to get beyond his second round opponent, world No 6 Holger Rune.

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