On the red dirt of the terre battue, Gael Monfils is at home. Monfils, walks onto the court showing off his muscular physique as the adoring French fans cheer him on.
The Parisian fans would love to see the ninth seeded Frenchman take the title, but even they would likely admit that even though "La Monf," as they call him, has the talent to win a major title, he has yet to fulfill his potential.
His raw athletic ability is better than nearly everyone in the game, but his inability to correctly utilize that ability definitely holds him back. Often Monfils appears to enter matches without much of a strategy (or if he does have a strategy, it's abandoned at some point during the match), as a result, he frequently ends up in poor positions on the court and even though his superb speed can sometimes get him out of such situations, that is not always the case. Additionally, at times he also relies on his ability to dive for balls, which may win him the point in the moment, but can result in him being injured.
On Wednesday, in his second round match at Roland Garros, Monfils was cheered on by the French fans as he defeated his countryman Guillaume Rufin in four sets. The second set, which was won by Rufin 6-1, was a perfect example of why Monfils has never reached the top echelon of the men's tour. Rufin didn't have any weapons that could trouble Monfils and he certainly would not have been expected to win a set 6-1, and yet he did. As Monfils aimlessly ran around the court, got himself into bad court positions and went for broke on far too many shots, Rufin quietly accepted the points that "La Monf" handed to him. That, combined with some solid play by Rufin, led to him easily taking a set off of his countryman.
Such sets happen far too many times for Monfils, and it's these mental lapses that prevent him from breaking into the top five players on tour.