Monfils back with new ATP hopes
Gael Monfils, the flying Frenchman with the flamboyant style and maverick theatrical tendencies, makes a comeback at the Qatar Open in Doha on Tuesday which could hint at whether he still has the potential for major tennis titles.
The 26-year-old Switzerland-based Parisian won three grand slam titles as a junior and at times looked good enough to repeat that at senior level but in the last seven months has only been able to play eight competitive matches.
Monfils has also fallen from a world ranking of seven to 77 following a year and a half's continual knee problems - saddling him with a year-end finish outside the top 20 for the first time in five years.
All this makes his reappearance in Doha on New Year's Day, at a tournament where he has done well in the past, particularly important.
"I have been in the top ten, so for sure I want to get back there. The start of the season will be very hard because I need to get matches for confidence, and to feel that I'm back, like definitely back, week after week," he said.
Then he relented and uttered what he might really be his target: "Honestly I want to play for (a ranking of) seven."
Monfils has been drawn against a local wild card, Mousa Shanan Zayed, an 18-year-old with a ranking of 1851, which may offer an opportunity to ease his way back into a competitive ambience.
"First, I just want to enjoy being on the court," Monfils said. "When you're injured, you're not a tennis player any more. You're just someone trying to get healthy quick."
Things will get immediately tougher though in the second round for Monfils should he make it with the top 20 German Philipp Kohlschreiber waiting for him.