French Flash burns out

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:08 PM ET

Gael Monfils is known by some as the French Flash, a tennis player who relies on athleticism and a recklessness that borders on the insane.

Daring at times, Monfils was throwing his body around on the Rexall Centre’s hardcourt surface, almost oblivious to the obvious consequences of such forays.

His opponent, Andy Murray, certainly noticed the unorthodox way that has come to characterize Monfils, a style the fourth-seeded Murray isn’t about to emulate anytime soon.

“It’s fun to watch,’’ Murray said in the aftermath of his third-round win over Monfils that sets up a quarterfinal meeting with David Nalbandian. “I’m sure it can be tough to concentrate sometimes against that.

“It’s very entertaining to watch, but I don’t know if it’s worth the risk.”

Had Thursday’s occasion been, for example, the final of a Grand Slam event and not just one of many tour stops for those touring pros, Murray would have felt more inclined to sacrifice his body.

On one sequence, Monfils fell heavily on his shoulder lunging for a passing shot, an act that required the assistance of a trainer.

“He does it in a lot of matches,’’ Murray said of Monfils. “He’s had a few injuries the last couple of years.”

Murray survived a second-set scare against Monfils to prevail 6-2, 0-6, 6-3 to improve to 3-1 in career meetings against his French foe.

The two last met in the quarters of an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 in Madrid two years ago, an event Murray would go on to capture.

Whether history repeats itself for Murray in Toronto is yet to be determined, but duplicating Monfils’ penchant for theatrics or trying to match his threshold for pain will not happen. That much is certain.

The tourney’s 15th seed, Monfils gets engaged with fans and is perpetually wearing his emotions on his sleeves.

“When I hit a good shot, I’m happy,’’ he said. “When I hit a bad shot, I’m happy.”

Not so sure he’s too happy with the pain he’s forced to endure given his style, but it does make for some much-needed entertainment when players at this level too often exchange baseline shots.

Given their bodies of work, Murray entered the match as the overwhelming favourite.

He was well on his way to a straight-set victory when Murray’s level of concentration began to slip, an opening Monfils pounced on to force the decisive set.

The Scot regained momentum in the final set by playing much like he did in the first, by going on the aggressive, initiating matters and ultimately taking matters into his own hands.

“I shouldn’t get distracted by what your opponent is doing,’’ Murray confided. “I know it happens sometimes. I have to try to refocus.”

Murray doesn’t have a coach, but he has a game that poses a threat to any opponent on any given day.

His next challenge is the Argentine Nalbandian, a 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 winner over Robin Soderling yesterday.

One wouldn’t know it, but Nalbandian is recovering from hip surgery who has now claimed 11 straight victims.

Nalbandian is 2-0 versus Murray.

“He’s a very, very good player,’’ Murray said of Nalbandian. “When he’s on, he’s one of the best in the world.”


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