Brilliant and hugely unpredictable, one can never be sure which of Gael Monfils’ alter egos will show up for the job on any given day.
Gael the Showman dazzles with court speed and shot selection so removed from the text book it has his fans on their feet.
Gael the Fighter wins eight of his 10 five-set matches at Roland Garros, when it seems he is down and out.
Then there’s Gael Whose Ticker Goes Missing, be it for a set or before he’s even set foot on the court.
Cue his bizarre third-round five-setter against Fabio Fognini, where he admitted to giving up in the fourth set so he could serve first in the fifth. Fair to call that one a mixture of all three Gaels.
Fortunately for the French faithful in the last 16 on Monday, it was Gael the Brilliant.
With no sign of Gael Whose Ticker Goes Missing, it was a pleasing hybrid of Gael the Showman and Gael the Fighter as the 27-year-old claimed a 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 triumph over Stan Wawrinka’s conqueror Guillermo Garcia-Lopez on Philippe Chatrier Court.
Racing to 2-0 in the opener, the French 23rd seed broke for 3-0 running down a drop shot before flicking a backhand in behind the unseeded Spaniard.
He would break again for 5-0 and served out the opener, a long Garcia-Lopez forehand sealing the bagel.
Monfils would pass with a forehand crosscourt to break again for 4-1 in the second, and with a backhand winner down the line bringing him to within a game of the set.
He surged to triple set point at 5-2 and held with a backhand drop shot winner; the first two sets done in just 54 minutes.
Up a break in the third, Monfils looked a certainty to be romping to his first quarter-final appearance in his home Slam since 2011.
Time for Monfils the Unpredictable to show up.
Garcia-Lopez would secure his first break of the match following a short ball in for the putaway to level at 2-2. Four games in a row for the Spaniard had Gael the Fighter ready to takeover.
He broke back and held for 4-4. Serving to stay in it, three times he found himself just a couple of points from dropping the set.
The Frenchman certainly wasn’t helping his cause. A pair of double faults either side of a freakish dropshot winner from behind the baseline punctuated his service hold.
Garcia Lopez sprayed a forehand wide to hand the Frenchman two break points at 5-5, but survived both before surrendering serve on a fourth; Monfils breaking when the Spaniard missed a low-dipping forehand volley.
Fortunately, there would be no such hassle serving out the match. Monfils brought up three match points when Garcia-Lopez whipped a forehand return well wide and secured victory on his second attempt; a 213km/h ace down the T booking a quarter-final showdown with seventh seed Andy Murray.
Gael the Brilliant will want to show up for that one. There’s no telling just which Gael Monfils it will be.