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Monfils wins Rotterdam and reminds us to live with joy

Matt Zemek

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Geoff Burke -- USA TODAY Sports

I could stand here in front of my computer keyboard and type a bunch of words about how Gael Monfils has to take what he did in Rotterdam and carry it through the rest of the 2019 tennis season.

I could spend time urgently explaining why this week in Rotterdam can’t be allowed to become an isolated instance, a brief flicker of a moment in which Monfils summons his best tennis to the court but then loses steam at bigger events later in the year.

I could focus on how we see these moments of magic from Monfils far too rarely, and far less often than a lot of tennis observers hope for.

I could focus on everything sad or lamentable or frustrating or exasperating about Monfils. Everything you, as a tennis fan, have read about Gael over the years has reinforced these various ideas to some extent.

Do you really need me to cover this same patch of ground AGAIN? No, you don’t… so let’s focus on something else instead: the good stuff.

Gael Monfils is a joy to watch when he is playing well. When this guy wins matches and tournaments — this title in Rotterdam was his second ATP 500 title, his eighth overall — he lights up the room.

A part of us — maybe not 100 percent of all the people who follow tennis professionally, but certainly a good chunk — dies inside when we see Monfils get exasperated or down. He is such an entertainer in his best moments. He is a shotmaker, a sprinter, and a person who lets us into his emotional world. He is no poker-face artist. There is a raw honesty about him which, when paired with his evident gifts, creates an endearing package.

Other players aren’t easy to dislike or diminish. The point of emphasis here is that Gael Monfils is especially easy to like. He is the life of the party, and one senses that this memorable scene below after he defeated Stan Wawrinka in the Rotterdam final on Sunday would have occurred even if he had lost. He had a great week, after all:

The serious explorations of Monfils’ tennis and his larger approach to the sport have been written many times before. The hope that he can sustain great tennis always exists, but it doesn’t need to be belabored.

Gael Monfils is a carrier of joy when he performs well. Assessing his career isn’t an irrelevant or inappropriate act — what is sportswriting if not an attempt to evaluate the players, coaches and competitions we watch each week? However, if a story has been written many times before (a necessity in the sportswriting business), it doesn’t need to be pounded home one more time.

Gael Monfils, at 32, probably won’t engineer a massive transformation (though maybe his greatest surprise still lies in store for us). At this point, my personal feeling is that regardless of what he does at other times in a tennis season, his victories and his triumphs should be cherished in their own time and on their own terms.

So what if nothing big happens in Indian Wells or at Roland Garros? So what if the Canada-Cincinnati-U.S. Open swing doesn’t deliver a memorable achievement?

Just live and be free. Embrace joy when it comes and savor an ATP 500 championship. Gael Monfils, the life of the party, is celebrating.

Just join the fun instead of worrying about what is next. Allez!

Matt Zemek is the co-editor of Tennis With An Accent with Saqib Ali. Matt is the lead writer for the site and helps Saqib with the TWAA podcast, produced by Radio Influence at radioinfluence.com. Matt has written professionally about men's and women's tennis since 2014 for multiple outlets: Comeback Media, FanRagSports, and independently at Patreon, where he maintains a tennis site. You can reach Matt by e-mail: mzemek@hotmail.com. You can find him on Twitter at @mzemek.

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