By Simon Cambers
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Seriousness and Gael Monfils usually go together about as well as fish and chocolate.
However, 10 months in the company of Mikael Tillstrom seems to have turned Monfils into a more consistent performer and an impressive 6-4 6-2 6-4 win over Spain’s Nicolas Almagro put the Frenchman into the last 16 at the U.S. Open on Friday.
Monfils loves to entertain and there is surely no more athletic player on the ATP Tour but there has been a steel about his performances in 2016, with his Swedish coach Tillstrom playing a pivotal role.
“He (Tillstrom) is a very serious guy on the court, very picky with every tip he gives me,” said 10th seed Monfils, who will next play Marcos Bahgdatis of Cyprus.
“Then he is a very fun guy outside the court. Very sensible and it’s a great mix.”
For a man who has been through his share of coaches, Monfils conceded that his partnership with Tillstrom was a case of right time, right place.
“I think every collaboration I had was great,” the 29-year-old Frenchman said. “It’s always different, your life, everything’s moving, everything’s growing.
“I think I am at a time where I also understand my sport better, understand myself better so for me, it’s for sure a different approach.”
Monfils has been to the quarter-finals at the U.S. Open twice before and after missing Wimbledon this year because of illness, he is delighted to be in good form at the season’s final grand slam.
“I feel much better,” he said. “I had this virus which stopped me for quite a while, too much, but I feel good. I am in great momentum so I am happy.”
Monfils produced the straightest of faces when asked if he agreed with recent comments made by Tillstrom that the Frenchman could win a grand slam and qualify for the ATP World Tour Finals in London.
“I think I need to recover and be ready for the next one,” Monfils said, with just the hint of a smile.
(Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)