Monfils in hurry to take on big boys

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The Independent Online

Imagine Roger Federer winning the Australian, French and Wimbledon titles and then suddenly announcing he wasn't going to play at the US Open because he simply could not be bothered. Impossible. And yet it may well just happen on the junior circuit.

The world No 1, Gaël Monfils, of France, yesterday moved into the Wimbledon semi-finals with a chillingly comfortable victory over Brendan Evans. The pouting American, who has a great line in line-call injustice ­ he queries every call, but was unbalanced by one foot-fault call ­ may be ranked just two places below Monfils but his tennis appeared a world apart in the 7-5, 6-2, rain-blighted contest.

Monfils, 6ft 4in at just 17 years old and with a serve which tips 135mph, looks as comfortable on grass as Bambi on ice and has professed his loathing for the surface with a disdain which almost rivals his sense of self-belief. "I don't like grass. I like Wimbledon but not the weather," he said.

Having beaten Evans, Monfils added: "I don't know if I will play in the US Open. If I win three titles then that is enough for me." Monfils has already won in Melbourne and Paris and remains on course for the Grand Slam of Grand Slams. That feat has been accomplished only once before in the juniors ­ by Stefan Edberg in 1983. But matching it means less to Monfils than preserving his top ranking which now, with 18 wins and just one defeat, cannot be overhauled this year.

Evans was the only player who could have caught him and there is clearly little love lost between the two. Monfils, from the tough Parisian suburb of Seine St Denis, in the shadows of the Stade de France, felt up for the challenge. One particular glare ­ at both line judge and opponent ­ confirmed his readiness for the seniors. More importantly, he has the game to survive and a ranking already of 467 in the world, as well as his first senior title after demolishing Alex Bogdanovic this year at Bournemouth.

Monfils is in a hurry to move to challenger tournaments, although he will have to add muscle to his wiry frame. "I want to find out what my level is in the big game," he said. Monfils has already absented himself from much of the ITF Junior Circuit while trying to get a foothold in the professional ranks.

He is more comfortable on hard courts, although he won at Roehampton last month, and at Roland Garros without dropping a set. Here he has just lost one, and will face fellow Frenchman Jérémy Chardy who defeated unseeded Briton Jamie Baker.

However, another unseeded Briton, Miles Kasiri did make it into the last four. The 18-year-old beat William Ward, of New Zealand, 6-4, 6-3.

In France Monfils, whose father is from Martinique and whose mother is from Guadaloupe, is obviously regarded as the successor to Yannick Noah, although he has declared his hero is Arthur Ashe. Like his father, Ruffin, Monfils could have been a professional footballer, although he has confessed he prefers to be an individual. Given his singular opinions, that shows.

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