Serving up Aces


French tennis superstar, Gaël Monfils and his undying passion for playing poker

Athletes have always been idolized by millions because of the immense talent they showcase night in and night out. They are those special breed of consummate professionals who constantly raises the level of competition by doing whatever they can to be ahead of the game. Whether it is improving their core strength by cross training to other sports and spending countless hours inside the weight room, or developing their mental state by hiring a sports psychologist or maybe competing in a mind sport like poker; athletes have that knack of seeking excellence in every way possible. Case in point French tennis dynamo, Gaël Sebastien Monfils.
Born in the beautiful city of Paris, Monfils was greatly exposed to sports at a very young age – having a dad who was a former football player from the island of Guadaloupe. But instead of following his dad’s footsteps and lace on a pair of boots, Gaël Monfils found love in the equally competitive world of tennis. He became a highly accomplished junior tennis player in 2004, after collecting an impressive list of Boys’ Singles titles defeating compatriot and doubles partner Josselin Ouanna at the Australian Open, Russian Alex Kuznetsov at the Roland Garros, and edging out Miles Kasiri in a tightly contested Wimbledon final. By winning three out of the four junior Grand Slam tournaments, Monfils finished the season as the number one ranked juniors tennis player, and eventually went on to compete against the big boys of the sport. With the physical stature of grizzled veteran, Gaël Monfils was a man among boys in the juniors division and is considered by many as an exemplary athlete who seemed to be bound for greatness. However, throughout his erratic professional tennis career, the player known as ”La Monf” suffered a ton of disappointing injuries and illnesses.
Away from the tennis courts, Gaël Monfils found a way to cope with his frustrations and improve his mental fortitude by engaging in the perilous waters of poker. The flamboyant Frenchman was quickly hooked with online poker, before taking the game more seriously competing in a 2010 Monte Carlo casino tournament. And though Monfils’ skills on the felt is far from the likes of other European studs PartyPoker flag bearer Marvin Rettenmaier and fellow online poker enthusiast Chris Moorman, he still turns to his passion of playing poker as an effective tool for battling his anxieties on the tennis courts. In more ways than one, poker is helping the 26-year-old tennis star in dealing with the everyday challenges of being a world-class athlete.

The fabulous life of an athlete comes with a lot of hardships and trials. And the way they handle themselves amidst all the pressure from the watchful eyes of people makes them truly remarkable – it’s what makes them a special breed of human. For Gaël Monfils, it would be such a shame if his potential in tennis will crumble in injuries. No doubt he’s a fantastic athlete, an imposing physical specimen, and a top-calibre talent in tennis. With that being said, non-believers should stop criticizing the Frenchman for “distracting” himself by playing poker; besides, Rafael Nadal went through the same poker route and look at where he is today, back from injury and better than ever.