Frenchman Gael Monfils, the No. 20 seed in the U.S. Open, gave second-seeded Roger Federer all he could handle in Thursday night’s quarterfinal match.
Monfils won the first two sets 6-4 6-3 before Federer, who’s seeking to extend his own record with his 18th Grand Slam title, won three straight sets, fighting off two match points, for a 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2 victory.
Here’s what you need to know about the underdog Frenchman:
1. His Most Successful Grand Slam Tournament is the French Open
Monfils advanced to the quarterfinals in May at Roland Garros, marking the fifth time he’d done so at a Grand Slam tournament. In 30 Grand Slam tournaments, 4 of his 5 quarterfinal appearances heading into the U.S> Open had come in Paris, with the only exception behing US Open in 2010.
2. He Had a Dance-Off with Laurent Lokoli in Paris
Monfils is animated both on and off the court. The day before the opening matches at the French Open in May, Monfils and fellow Frenchman Laurent Lokoli engaged in a dance-off on Kids’ Day.
There have also been clips of some of Monfils’ showy and sometimes risky shots during big matches.
3. He is Nicknamed “Sliderman”
Monfils has been noted for his distinct style of play. He has been nicknamed “Sliderman” due to the way he slides across clay courts such as the one at Roland Garros. Although his unusual techniques are erratic and entertaining, he is known to be consistent and is usually 2 steps ahead of his opponent at all times as an experienced player when it comes to his placement on the court. He also has one of the best victory dances in tennis as shown by the video above.
4. He Was a Track Star
Monfils parents are from the Caribbean, but moved to France because of his father’s job. His father, Rufin, was formerly a soccer player from Guadalupe before becoming an agent for Telecom while his mother, Sylvette, is a nurse from Martinique.
Both he and his younger brother, Daryl, play tennis at a professional level, but Gael has always been a standout in any sport he picked up. Watch the video above to see some of his stunning athletic moves on the tennis court.
Monfils is one of the most athletic players on tour. He has told sources that if he didn’t play tennis he would play basketball because of his passion for the game. Track could have been another option for Monfils, according to his former track coach in school. His coach believed that if he had kept up with it, he would have been competing in the Olympics since at the ages of 13 and 14, he had the fastest 100m time in the country.
5. He Has Beaten Rafael Nadal
Monfils has been competing against the top players in tennis since his debut in 2004. Despite Nadal’s higher ranking, Monfils has managed to beat him 2 of the 9 times he has played him.