Leave it to the Frenchmen. Theirs is a different brand of tennis—flashy, fierce, and at times frenetic. And Gael Monfils and Benoit Paire are standard bearers of this playing style, as evidenced in the two clips below, taken from opposite ends of the ATP World Tour season.
First, witness Monfils’ masterfully cunning and athletic play in an Australian Open first-rounder featuring friendly-fire exchanges with his countryman, Lucas Pouille:
“Well, there’s the best rally of the first two days,” said a male commentator, all of 48 hours into the first major tournament of 2015. Notably, Pouille was up two sets to none at the time, but Monfils came back not just in that point but to win the match in five: 6-7, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-4. Pouille got a lesson that the game’s pros learn or re-learn annually: It’s wise to never assume a point is over against Monfils until the ball has bounced twice or struck the back wall.
One-upping his compatriot, Paire’s cheekiest shot-making this season, among so many selections in most all of his matches, came in Cincinnati. What’s ripe for acclaim at his end is that 1) he got crafty on two consecutive points, 2) he won both of them, and 3) each came at the expense of runaway No. 1 Novak Djokovic. Have a look:
“He’s like a Harlem Globetrotter,” a commentator said of Paire in the moment. Thus the Djoker was reduced to playing what the comedy world calls the straight guy, or the sidekick, to Paire’s court jester. The two points consisted of just nine and 12 shots, respectively, but they left Djokovic good-naturedly grimacing and Paire hugely, slightly sheepishly grinning as he waved off the show-boating with a look and a gesture toward Djokovic.
The dominant No. 1 did, however, get the last laugh against his French foe. The match outcome never seemed to be in doubt, as Paire dropped the opener, 7-5, and then lost 6-2 in the second. Notably, Djokovic wasn’t smiling on the following Sunday, as he fell in the final in Mason, Ohio, at the racquet of rival Roger Federer to once again come up short in Cincy.
Your turn: What did you find to be the cheekiest points of this lengthy year on the men’s and women’s tours?
Follow Jon on Twitter @jonscott9.