Wonderful Wildcard: Monfils Joins WSO Field
By John Delong
Gael Monfils may be the most athletic player on the ATP World Tour, and he is certainly one of the most charismatic and entertaining.
Winston-Salem tennis fans will get to enjoy all the flair up close as tournament director Bill Oakes announced Thursday that Monfils has been awarded one of the Winston-Salem Open’s four wildcard berths.
Monfils is currently ranked No. 19, but that ranking is a bit skewed because he has been shelved with a right knee injury since May and missed Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the Olympics. He has been ranked as high as No. 7 in the world as recently as April of 2011.
"We are very excited that Gael has included us in his summer preparation for the US Open," Oakes said. "We expect his return from injury to go very well, and for a guy recently Top 10 this is a big coup for the Winston-Salem Open.
"Gael is one of the most charismatic and fun players on the tour and will bring electricity to his matches that our fans and community will really enjoy."
Monfils thus becomes another example of a player who sees the benefit of playing the week before the US Open in order to get in as much competitive match experience as possible. That’s one of the Winston-Salem Open’s most-attractive calling cards.
"Players are starting to recognize that when they need matches, we’re a very convenient opportunity for them," Oakes said. "The reputation we’re starting to build with the players, we believe, will continue to help us this year and into the future."
Monfils becomes the second player to receive a wildcard into the tournament, following former World No. 4 and longtime Winston-Salem favorite James Blake. Oakes still has two wildcards to hand out and is waiting for the conclusion of the Olympics to see what other top players may want to be late entries.
Monfils also ups the Winston-Salem Open’s total to 23 of the Top 50 players in the latest ATP rankings. The top seed will be Monfils’ French countryman, No. 6 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. No. 11 John Isner is the defending champion.
Monfils, 25, has won four career ATP World Tour singles titles and has been a finalist 13 other times. He was the runner-up to Tsonga at Doha and to Thomas Berdych at Montpelier earlier this year before the knee injury occurred.
He burst onto the ATP World Tour scene in 2005 with a splash and was named the tour’s Newcomer of the Year. He had been the top-ranked junior in the world in 2004, winning the Australian Open, Roland Garros and Wimbledon junior titles.
The Winston-Salem Open is scheduled for Aug. 19-25 at the Wake Forest Tennis Complex.