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Who’s on Your Tennis Dream Team?

Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon completes a fun little hypothetical exercise.

In these bleak times of isolation and absolutely no tennis played, we have little choice but to let our imagination run free and give in to the hypotheticals.

Would Novak Djokovic still be unbeaten if tennis hadn’t stopped last month? Might Rafael Nadal be on its way to sweeping everything on clay court? What other, new stupid nonsense BS might Nick Kyrgios have treated us to in the meantime? How blessed by the Gods is Roger Federer to have taken four months off to nurse an injury right at the onset of a world pandemic? (Oops, that last one isn’t exactly hypothetical lol.)

All important questions to varying degrees in the sense that they take us away from our daily routine of not doing a lot of things and transport us to an alternate reality where things are still happening.

This is precisely what the below tweet from Tennis TV accomplishes when they ask their fans what their dream team would look like.

If you would play this game with us for just a minute, let’s run through our all-important choices in this fully hypothetical exercise in order to create the ultimate dream team of the #TennisElbow column.

Big 3 – Novak Djokovic

We’re picking our choice for the current best men’s player of all time and we’re not even blinking twice. In all likelihood, Novak Djokovic will finish his career as the man with the most Grand Slam titles in history, with the most prize money won and with the most weeks spent at No. 1 in the world. He also has a firm grasp on everything central that unfolds on the ATP, not to mention a winning head-to-head record against both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer here.

But mostly we’re picking Djokovic because this exercise asks us to create our dream team. Our dream wouldn’t be complete without our favourite player ever.

Young Guns: Daniil Medvedev

The thing about this category is that, like, Dominic Thiem is a full two years older than the other three listed? You might look at our choice and think that we’re underrating Thiem’s candidacy, his 16 career titles, 3 Grand Slam finals and No. 3 ranking spot.

But we feel like Medvedev should be the clear choice. Not only has the 24-year-old managed to grab seven career titles, he’s also made one Grand Slam final (and did just about everything but capture the title once there) at last year’s US Open.

Giving him the edge, above all, is the Russian’s dominance over the latter half of the 2019 season, when Medvedev reached six straight tournament finals, including three Masters event to go along with his US Open nod. Right or wrong, we just don’t see Thiem going on such a run.

Legends: Bjorn Borg

Justice for Bjorn Borg, please. The Swede was perhaps the first “best player ever” in men’s tennis—or at the very least, its first ever true superstar. Borg turned pro in 1973 and, starting the year after that, proceeded to pretty much rule men’s tennis like his own kingdom. Not only was Borg ranked No. 1 in the world from 1977 through 1980, he also was the first in the sport to grab over $1 million in prize money in a single season and also the first to capture 11 Grand Slam titles. By no means the lone star in the sport, he was certainly among those most responsible for making tennis that much more popular in the 1970s. (That’s what tends to happen when you grab six Roland-Garros titles and another five at Wimbledon.)

And my god, such glorious hair!

Trick shotters: Gael Monfils

Look, this is both not complicated but also heartbreaking. We absolutely keep renewing our membership on the Nick Kyrgios’s hype train, but it’s been nothing but an easy ride; the fact that the Kyrgios experience is such a relentless and thankless is probably half the fun. On any day, the Australian can trounce any other player on tour…or he can lose an easy matchup, like, 6-1, 6-0.

But since this category calls for us to pick one player known for his trick-shot ability specifically, Gael Monfils is the only possible choice; the man’s prowess is unequaled. He’s also, you know, himself quite the accomplished singles player.

Grand Slam Champions: Stanislas Wawrinka

Is this our hottest of takes here? All of our lives we’ve been told that this current era of men’s tennis was the golden age built around the career and presence of a big four: the three names you think of, alongside the name of Andy Murray.

But looking at the underlying numbers of Murray’s career, he stands much closer to fellow competitors inside this group of Grand Slam champions than he does of Djokovic, Federer or Nadal.

Meanwhile, Stanislas Wawrinka was for a time in the middle of the last decade perhaps the most destructive force in men’s tennis. We’re also trying to be proactive here: adding Wawrinka to our team would guarantee us that he wouldn’t foil Djokovic’s plans, as he has done no fewer than three times at the three Grand Slam events he won.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG

Watch Magic Man Monfils Shock Even Himself With Halle Stunner

Would it be a Gael Monfils match without a highlight-reel shot?

Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert beat his countryman Monfils 7-6(6), 6-4 on Monday at the NOVENTI OPEN, but it was the latter who provided the moment of the match. Herbert sent the veteran running towards the baseline with a lob, but instead of turning around to hit a standard backhand passing shot, Monfils — still facing the back of the court — flicked a crosscourt winner on the forehand side of his racquet.

Monfils immediately held his arms out in celebration, revelling in the crowd’s cheers. His friend Herbert cracked a smile and clapped to acknowledge the shot. 

Watch Live

Watch Magic Man Monfils Shock Even Himself With Halle Stunner

Would it be a Gael Monfils match without a highlight-reel shot?

Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert beat his countryman Monfils 7-6(6), 6-4 on Monday at the NOVENTI OPEN, but it was the latter who provided the moment of the match. Herbert sent the veteran running towards the baseline with a lob, but instead of turning around to hit a standard backhand passing shot, Monfils — still facing the back of the court — flicked a crosscourt winner on the forehand side of his racquet.

Monfils immediately held his arms out in celebration, revelling in the crowd’s cheers. His friend Herbert cracked a smile and clapped to acknowledge the shot. 

Watch Live

Monfils Beats Daniel & The Sunset At Roland Garros

No light? No problem for Gael Monfils.

The No. 14 seed beat Japanese Taro Daniel and the Parisian sunset on Tuesday at Roland Garros, advancing to the second round at his home Grand Slam for the 12th time with a 6-0, 6-4, 6-1 victory.

When Monfils and Daniel walked on Court Philippe-Chatrier just short of 8 p.m. local time, it appeared they would need to resume play on Wednesday. But Monfils sped through the opening-round match, striking 38 winners to just 24 unforced errors in his one-hour, 41-minute triumph that ended at 9:33 p.m.

“I really wanted to finish today. I didn’t want to play a set tomorrow,” Monfils said. “I’m happy I managed to play well, and I’m very happy about that.”

Infosys powers real-time insights for every point

The No. 1 Frenchman, a 2008 semi-finalist and two-time quarter-finalist at Roland Garros, has enjoyed a resurgent 2019 after struggling in parts of last season due to injury. Monfils claimed his eighth ATP Tour title in Rotterdam, and recently held two match points against Roger Federer in Madrid before falling in a third-set tie-break. In the next round, he will face countryman Adrian Mannarino, who finished his 6-7(5), 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 victory against Italian qualifier Stefano Travaglia just moments after Monfils.

In the second set, it appeared Daniel might even the match after breaking in the first game and increasing his aggression at points. But in the key moments, Monfils was able to raise his level another notch, showing his incredible athleticism with dogged defence and rapid covering of the net to take a two-sets lead.

“I paid a price at the beginning of the second set because I was too fast from the back of the court, and I could have waited a bit to slow down, ease the pressure. And then luckily I was able to win this very long game at 5-4 and go two sets to love,” Monfils said. “It’s not easy. But two sets to love, I was quite happy to win this game for one good reason. I was serving afterwards, and I was going to put a lot of pressure, serve very hard, to show that I want to go faster.”

More On #RG19

* The Moment Nadal’s Practice Routine Changed Forever
* Federer Relishing ‘Outsider’ Status At Roland Garros
* Dellien Goes From Retirement To Slam Breakthrough

But Monfils was not content with that, locking in even more in the decider, especially on serve (11/11 first-serve points won), to move through in the nick of time. Monfils’ only first-round loss at Roland Garros came on his debut in 2005, when he was 18.

Mannarino, on the other hand, is through to the second round in Paris for only the third time on his 11th appearance. Mannarino leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 2-1, including a five-set win at Wimbledon in 2017.

“It’s never easy to play a French guy, especially Adrian. He has a game which is particularly — he’s left-handed, he plays very flat and low balls in the backhand. And over the past two years he’s been playing better on clay. He’s feeling better. He’s a good warrior,” Monfils said. “It’s always difficult matches in Roland Garros to play against French players, because the audience is shared. It’s not easy.”

Monfils Beats Daniel & The Sunset At Roland Garros

No light? No problem for Gael Monfils.

The No. 14 seed beat Japanese Taro Daniel and the Parisian sunset on Tuesday at Roland Garros, advancing to the second round at his home Grand Slam for the 12th time with a 6-0, 6-4, 6-1 victory.

When Monfils and Daniel walked on Court Philippe-Chatrier just short of 8 p.m. local time, it appeared they would need to resume play on Wednesday. But Monfils sped through the opening-round match, striking 38 winners to just 24 unforced errors in his one-hour, 41-minute triumph that ended at 9:33 p.m.

“I really wanted to finish today. I didn’t want to play a set tomorrow,” Monfils said. “I’m happy I managed to play well, and I’m very happy about that.”

Infosys powers real-time insights for every point

The No. 1 Frenchman, a 2008 semi-finalist and two-time quarter-finalist at Roland Garros, has enjoyed a resurgent 2019 after struggling in parts of last season due to injury. Monfils claimed his eighth ATP Tour title in Rotterdam, and recently held two match points against Roger Federer in Madrid before falling in a third-set tie-break. In the next round, he will face countryman Adrian Mannarino, who finished his 6-7(5), 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 victory against Italian qualifier Stefano Travaglia just moments after Monfils.

In the second set, it appeared Daniel might even the match after breaking in the first game and increasing his aggression at points. But in the key moments, Monfils was able to raise his level another notch, showing his incredible athleticism with dogged defence and rapid covering of the net to take a two-sets lead.

“I paid a price at the beginning of the second set because I was too fast from the back of the court, and I could have waited a bit to slow down, ease the pressure. And then luckily I was able to win this very long game at 5-4 and go two sets to love,” Monfils said. “It’s not easy. But two sets to love, I was quite happy to win this game for one good reason. I was serving afterwards, and I was going to put a lot of pressure, serve very hard, to show that I want to go faster.”

More On #RG19

* The Moment Nadal’s Practice Routine Changed Forever
* Federer Relishing ‘Outsider’ Status At Roland Garros
* Dellien Goes From Retirement To Slam Breakthrough

But Monfils was not content with that, locking in even more in the decider, especially on serve (11/11 first-serve points won), to move through in the nick of time. Monfils’ only first-round loss at Roland Garros came on his debut in 2005, when he was 18.

Mannarino, on the other hand, is through to the second round in Paris for only the third time on his 11th appearance. Mannarino leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 2-1, including a five-set win at Wimbledon in 2017.

“It’s never easy to play a French guy, especially Adrian. He has a game which is particularly — he’s left-handed, he plays very flat and low balls in the backhand. And over the past two years he’s been playing better on clay. He’s feeling better. He’s a good warrior,” Monfils said. “It’s always difficult matches in Roland Garros to play against French players, because the audience is shared. It’s not easy.”