Tennis: Free-spirit Monfils, buoyed by Beyonce and the Bronx

AFP| Last Updated: Sep 03, 2014, 06:43 AM IST

He`s the French free spirit with a love of the Bronx, Beyonce and drinking Coke mid-match whose complicated relationship with tennis and himself has got New Yorkers eating out of his hands.

In tennis`s tightly-controlled, sometimes colourless world, Gael Monfils is happy to be the eccentric, untamed talent who hits breathtaking, pinpoint volleys one moment and tanks a point with a shrug of his Parisian shoulders the next.

He even had the 20,000-strong Arthur Ashe Stadium court singing `Happy Birthday` to him on Monday even though he was nowhere to be seen. 

It`s a recipe that is serving him well in New York where his straight sets win over Grigor Dimitrov on Tuesday gave him a second career quarter-final spot at the US Open, four years after his first.

"For me tennis is a sport. It`s not a job," said the 28-year-old when asked why he gave up a point to Dimitrov, making no effort to get ball over net.

"Sometimes if I`m fed up, I just leave it. For me, it`s like, you know, don`t give a shit. 

"You know, it`s like OK, next one. It sounds bad in English, but what I mean is I care about the match. I don`t care about other things. It`s like if I`m not happy, it`s okay. I want just to be happy."

That easy going demeanour has often been used by his critics as evidence of unwillingness to put in the hard yards.

Even he admits that he can be tough to work with, an admission probably not lost on Roger Rasheed, the Australian who used to coach him until they split in 2011 and who now handles Dimitrov.

For the last 18 months or so, Monfils hasn`t even bothered with a coach.

"It`s better to have someone to help you. I need it. But that person has to be good, first of all, but has to be hard and also understand my personality. Because I don`t think I`m easy, but I think I`m quite a good worker," said Monfils.His run to this year`s US Open quarter-finals has been achieved without dropping a set while his 28th birthday on Monday had former women`s number one Victoria Azarenka encouraging the crowd to wish him happy birthday.

He has now reached the last-eight at the French Open four times, converting one of those runs to the semi-finals in 2008.

Monfils was also a quarter-finalist in New York in 2010, cementing his love for the city and the United States having developed a fondness for US pop star Beyonce, whose hit Partition, was playing on his iPod Tuesday as he came on court.

His attraction for the Bronx was nurtured by his father and former physio in his early years and now he draws on the support of many fans who live in the tough New York borough.

Despite his non-conformist nature, Monfils does possess one mainstream ambition -- to have children so that he can tell them that he once played Roger Federer, a likely opponent in the last eight.

"I will say to my children, I played against him. Even I kill him (Monfils has won two of their nine meetings)...this is cool. It`s why I play tennis to play a big legend, big court, short time."