Heading into the first round of the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam this week is Frenchman Gael Monfils, whose beginning to 2014 is mirroring the exploits of the little train that could.
Monfils is steadily working away at his game and his ranking.
There’s been no giant killing streak, just a quiet application to playing well, gaining confidence and winning matches.
The Parisian began the year with a consistent Australian Open, defeating Ryan Harrison in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 in the first round.
He took on another American in the second round, defeating Jack Sock 7-6, 7-5, 6-2.
His third round encounter against eventual finalist, Rafael Nadal saw him go down 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 to the Spanish maestro but Monfils must have let the Grand Slam, dubbed the Australian ‘Oven’ with confidence and most importantly he left injury free.
Monfils has also just won his second Open Sud de France title with a convincing 6-4, 6-4 win over compatriot Richard Gasquet.
In getting to the final, Monfils only dropped 2 sets for the whole tournament. The first of these in the opening round against Lukasz Kubot and the other in the semi-final against Jarkko Nieminen, who was the sixth seed for the tournament.
Monfils’s win against Gasquet, the tournament’s number one seed, in the final was relatively pain free with a 6-4, 6-4 straight sets victory.
There is the temptation to argue Gasquet could have been a little sluggish after France’s Davis Cup campaign the weekend before.
Based on France’s scoreline against a young Australian team, though, it’s unlikely Gasquet had been stretched too much.
Gasquet also had a fairly routine route to the final, winning all of his matches in straight sets.
The French number one’s only challenging scoreline coming in the semi final against Jerzy Janowicz, 7-6 (6), 7-6(4).
But Monfils easily won the final 6-4, 6-4.
Now we turn our attention to this week’s tournament in Rotterdam.
The Argentine, del Potro is back to defend his title but after an early exit from Melbourne and a confirmed wrist injury, the world’s number four player is under an injury almost as big as him.
With Monfils moving forward from his victory over the weekend in France and with del Potro’s dodgy left wrist, he must be considered a fair chance for victory today.
The problem with predicting this match is that we know Monfils is in good form but what really do we know about del Potro’s fitness right now?
The reality is, not a lot.
The gentle giant from South America says he’s fine to play and the injury is progressing nicely.
The question is, ‘how hampered is del Potro likely to be and will it be enough for Monfils to take the win?’
I’m not completely convinced Monfils will win this match but now is a good time for Monfils to keep progressing up the mountain, just like the little train that could.