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January 31, 2011

Gael Monfils

THE MODERATOR: Good morning, and thank you for joining us for today's call from Gael Monfils who joins us from his home in Switzerland. Gael will be participating in the SAP Open for the first time in his career, and is currently ranked No. 12 in the South African Airways ATP rankings.
In his career, Gael captured three single titles, most recently winning the 2010 title at Montpellier, France, where as the tournament's No. 3 seed he defeated 4th seeded Ivan Ljubicic, 6-2, 5-7, 6-1. Monfils will be making his debut in San Jose on Monday February 7 when he'll take on American tennis legend Pete Sampras in an exhibition match.
Before we open up for questions, I'd like to introduce tournament director Bill Rapp who has a few comments to make.
BILL RAPP: Gael, it's your first time to San Jose, and we welcome you.
GAEL MONFILS: Thank you very much. Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: You have never been on a tennis court with Pete Sampras, what are your thoughts about playing Pete on opening night at the SAP Open?
GAEL MONFILS: I mean, for me it will be, I don't know, you know because of course when I was young I saw Pete win a lot of slams, so for me it was an example with Andre. So for me, I will be a bit nervous to be on the court with him. It will be something amazing so it will be a great experience.
THE MODERATOR: Have you ever met Pete?
GAEL MONFILS: Just maybe to say hi and just reach out, but not that much.

Q. So going back a couple months ago in Paris this last November on indoor hard court, you beat three to ten players in succession, Fernando Verdasco, Andy Murray and Roger Federer. Also noticed that two of your three singles titles have come on an indoor hard court. What do you know about the court and about the tournament in San Jose?
GAEL MONFILS: Actually I don't know how the court will be, how fast is the court. But think it will be pretty good. Fernando Verdasco told me it's a great place to be, and actually he won it. So I think my game is not far from his, so I think it should be fine.

Q. What do you look to get out of the exhibition? Do you just go into it looking to have fun or are there things that you'll try to work on?
GAEL MONFILS: I think both, you know. First have fun for sure because it's a good experience, and also it is my first year at the center, so just feel a bit the court and feel the atmosphere.
So it will be a mix of a bit of fun and maybe work on some shots. Because since the Aussie Open, I haven't hit, and I think it will be both, I think.

Q. What made you decide to come to San Jose this year? Why did you decide to come to this tournament this year?
GAEL MONFILS: Because I choose this year to come a bit more in America. Because I saw that I like to be in the States, but I didn't have the results I wanted to have. So before I had choose to come to San Jose, and for me it will be a good experience for the first time. I heard it's a great tournament, so that's why I changed a bit my plans.

Q. Like the Spanish right now, the French, there is so much depth in the tennis with yourself, Tsonga, Llodra, Gasquet, Simone, et cetera. Yet you guys haven't broken through as far as slam titles are concerned. What do you think is missing there and do you see some French players breaking through soon?
GAEL MONFILS: Yes, you're right. But I think you know we've got, for us, we've got like two legendary players. Legendary like Roger Federer, he is the number one, and then Rafael, I think he is also for sure one of the best players ever. But then I think it's really hard for us to breakthrough.
Then you have like Novak as well, like yesterday or Andy Murray. So I think we all work very hard, and I hope to have such a good result like Novak.
But if you see very closely the last few years, it was only Rafa and Roger dominating the tennis and winning the slams, so it was really hard to have a little space. At that time when you get the space, like Novak did it, you have to grab it. It's hard also because you have such a good player like Djokovic or Murray. I think it will come soon, but we need to work harder and still believe that we can manage that to win a slam.
But I think we're not bad. But to be better, we just have to keep working and believe in ourselves.

Q. When you see Roger and Rafa exit a slam like they did at the Australian a little earlier than some people expected, does that give you hope that maybe things are going to start to open up now?
GAEL MONFILS: Yeah, of course. We played them and now we find some way to manage them and how to play them and change the tactic. Then also we get used to what they offer to us. So it really helped that we changed, and we made a bit of turn of the tennis.

Q. How do your preparations differ for a venue you've never played at before?
GAEL MONFILS: To be honest, I'm working hard on my physical preparations, because it will be the most important I think year. (Indiscernible) I think in tennis I will have a long preparation in San Jose when I arrive there. But I just focus more about my physical preparations now.

Q. What can we expect from your match with Sampras? It's the first match. You have a ton of people who are really excited to see you two play. He's clearly someone that you respect. I'm just curious how you're going to prepare to play someone you've never played before?
GAEL MONFILS: Actually, it will be great. To be honest, I've never prepared myself like or something, because I'm pretty natural. So for me it's still I like a mystery. I will walk out on the court. I have a lot of respect for Pete, and I will be for sure nervous. But as you know, I'm pretty relaxed, so I will enjoy and then see how the match will be.

Q. And with respect to nerves, how does a player control them on the court, especially with so many firsts for you. First time for the tournament, first time with Pete. What do you do and what kind of mental process do you go through to get into your state of play?
GAEL MONFILS: I think I won't change like something like much. Like I told you I think I'm pretty relaxed. I would like to play with a free mind. I think I'm playing all right except I'm not really happy about my results lately. But I think I'm in good shape, and physically I feel great.
I will arrive with a lot of confidence, pretty relaxed and just hope, hope like the place, I will really love the place, and the crowd will be very good with me and very nice. I just will be normal. That's it.

Q. When you played Federer in the past, obviously he had gotten the best of you, but you beat him last year in Paris. What was different about that match for you?
GAEL MONFILS: I think because I grew up a bit, and I feel more Roger because I like to feel the player I play against. And maybe I felt him a lot more like I was like definitely ready to beat him I think that day. So I had luck, a lot of luck because I saved like five match points and that wasn't easy.
I would say I think I grew up, and I played a very strong tennis, and I had a bit of luck to finish the match.

Q. What does that do for your confidence when you walk off the court knowing, hey, I finally got over this guy? Does your confidence get a significant boost?
GAEL MONFILS: A little bit, but it was more like, damn, I beat like a legend. It was more like damn, I made it. So it's something like you're very proud of something. Like for sure you talk like, yeah, one day I beat Roger Federer, so it was more that.

Q. I had some tennis fans here ask me when you're playing either against Sampras or in your main draw matches here, will you jump up in the air and spin 180° and hit an overhead smash?
GAEL MONFILS: I will try one. I will try one. I will try. I will try this. I don't know if I will make it good, but I will try.

Q. Well, we're hoping to see that. Also, what are your goals for the 2011 season?
GAEL MONFILS: I never say my goals. I just keep them for me. I think this is like personal, so I always keep the goals for myself.

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