The fans present and the viewers will long remember this beautiful night at the end of May which saw Gaël Monfils venture well beyond himself and the pain, to win Wednesday (0:18) a heroic victory on the Philippe-Chatrier court (3-6, 6-3, 7-5,1-6, 7-5) in 3h47. In the 5th set, the French player appeared alternately limping between points and then mobile enough to stick to the ball during exchanges. By what sleight of hand?
"Logically, at this point in the match, Gaël is at the end of his reserves, says Paul Quétin, coordinator of the physical preparation of the Federation (FFT), admiring. Although he hydrates and eats, he lacks the miles of training and hours on the field. In this particular context, it is difficult to pronounce specifically on what is happening physiologically... Before specifying: "When the cramps are there, everything is fine as soon as the point is launched, then when the exchange stops, the cramps manifest again. It's all about motivation, it's part of the magic of the game... »
Monfils' extraordinary physique necessarily plays a part. "Gaël would have made an incredible 400m runner. He's a super complete athlete," says Quétin. In Davis Cup, he relaxed at incredible heights to touch the basketball boards. It has everything: relaxation, explosiveness, speed. In tennis players of the last 15 years, he is in the top five in terms of athletic quality. The thing is, he's not young anymore. It's exceptional to mobilize those qualities again at this point in his career, with so few games behind him. »
Cinema? "There, I hurt"
To decipher the Frenchman's performance, Quétin refers rather to the cerebral "muscle" and its mysterious properties. "The main explanation I have is psychic," he explains. What happens with the supporters, the crowd of the Chatrier. We often talk about adrenaline rushes, but here we are right at the heart of it. In the 5th set, Gaël is literally carried. I am convinced that, physiologically, hormones enrich his personal chemistry. As in other circumstances, we are faced with a phenomenon of overcompensation. Or how to fetch unsuspected resources of energy and racing ability. We are typically in the case of the event that sublimates the athlete. We must measure where it comes from. He may have thought he would never play again on this Philippe Chatrier court. And he found himself there, in night session, and in a situation to come back and win... I think it's wonderful, because it shows that the limits of mechanics depend on the state of mind you're able to mobilize. »
Finally, there is the question of a potential "acting" of Monfils, or at least a form of expression of what is commonly called body language. Joined at two sets everywhere, then led 4-0, ball 5-0 in the 5th set, Monfils explained that he managed his resources. "You can say you can make movies from time to time, but now I'm in pain," he said after the game. This is where we are called top athletes. I have (had) quite high, super high cramps in the quadriceps. [...] I drop the fourth set because I'm tired, because I'm dead. I feel like I can't take it anymore. I tell Mikael I need 10 minutes. I needed 25 minutes! It's crazy because you're doing it subconsciously. »