Anyone who ever wondered what it might take for Gael Monfils to set aside his love of showmanship and exhibitions of athleticism in favor of punishing, intelligent, result-oriented tennis received the answer today: A record number of fans—27,432—watching him in Lille as his French side trailed Switzerland 1-0 in the Davis Cup final.
Monfils found himself looking down the barrel of the cannon, tended by Roger Federer, after Stan the Occasional Man Wawrinka pummeled French No. 1 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2. Monfils responded with perhaps the most impressive match of his career (at least at a critical time, in a major event) to level the tie with a persuasive, 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 demolition of Federer. It was over and done with in a mere hour and 46 minutes.
True, Federer has been hampered by a lower back strain suffered, ironically enough, during his exhaustive semifinal struggle with Wawrinka at last week’s ATP World Tour Finals. But even an entirely fit Federer playing close to his best might have been hard-pressed to find answers to the probing, piercing questions Monfils asked with his suddenly lethal forehand abetted by his familiar speed and mobility.
Monfils nearly doubled Federer’s winner count, 44 to 25, and he made 11 fewer unforced errors, 18 to 29. Ranked No. 19, Monfils rained down 10 aces to just three by his opponent, and he won an incredible 89 percent (34 of 38) of his first-serve points—a statistic qualified by the fact that he successfully converted a shade under 50 percent of his first serves.