By John Delong
Gael Monfils likes to play at night, under the lights.
Part of that is because he’s one of the ATP World Tour’s biggest showmen and he always enjoys the spotlight. Part, too, is because he’s a night owl.
"I prefer to play at night," Monfils said. "I’m a night person."
The 26-year-old Frenchman was certainly in his element on Tuesday night at the Wake Forest Tennis Complex as he rolled to an easy 6-2, 6-2 win over Guido Pella in the second round of the Winston-Salem Open.
Monfils needed only 52 minutes to dispatch the Argentine, winning 62 of the match’s 103 points. He served well, never faced a break point, and was 4 of 9 on break opportunities.
It was precisely the kind of dominant performance that the former World No. 7 was hoping for after a four-week layoff because of separate ankle and biceps problems. He hadn’t played a competitive match since reaching the finals at Umag in mid-July.
"It was two weeks of training because I sprained my ankle before Montreal, so you know, I wasn’t sure what I would give tonight, and I was very pleased with the way I played tonight," Monfils said.
Monfils, the No. 15 seed, is currently ranked No. 43 in the latest ATP World Tour rankings, largely because of inactivity. He missed four months near the end of last season because of knee problems, missed Wimbledon this year for personal reasons, and then has had the ankle and biceps issues in the time since.
He acknowledged that the goal this week is to get as many matches in as possible, to build some momentum going into next week’s US Open.
"This week means a lot to me," he said. "I was in good shape before Montreal. The swing in Europe and on clay I was doing good, and then unfortunately I sprained my ankle. So to be back here and win a good match in the first round and then have a second good match tomorrow night, it’s good to finally be ready for the US."
Monfils will face either No. 4 seed Tommy Robredo or Guillaume Rufin in the third round on Wednesday night.
A matchup with Robredo would be an encore of their classic match at Roland Garros this year, when Robredo fought back from two sets down to win in five sets. That by itself keeps Monfils from looking too far ahead or too far down the draw.
"I’m taking it match after match and I’ll see what happens," Monfils said. "It’s always the same. You go match after match and you just try to win."