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October 31, 2016

Gael Monfils

Paris, France

An interview with:

GAËL MONFILS (through translation)

GAËL MONFILS: Good evening. Well, thank you for coming, all of you. Thank you for everything.

I wanted to have a press conference to explain my present situation. I would like also to take advantage of this to talk about the results of this season.

So to start this press conference, I would like to mention two or three points first. You will be able to ask questions, of course. We will start with the doctor on my left, Bernard Montalvan, you all know him.

There were many uncertain things that were said, and those many things were said during the year that I would like to clarify tonight because I want us to be on the same lines. Some things were said. Some things were not said, and other things were invented. So that's what I want to clarify tonight.

So I'm going to go step by step. First, the virus I had at the French Open. I don't know the name of the virus, so Bernard will say that. He will tell you exactly what you need to know.

DR. MONTALVAN: Gaël asked me to talk about his injuries and his health problems. I never talk about it. He always says, Don't talk about it, but now we can talk about it.

He had fever. He was vomiting. He went to the hospital. I even thought it was appendicitis. So we went to the hospital. And for four days he was not able to sleep and drink the day he was undergoing examinations. A scan, everything, and nothing was found. We tried to find the serologies that were possible and nothing was found. It was a virus that was not explained.

He started feeling better in the beginning of June. He started being able to eat a little bit, to stop vomiting, and then he started practice again during the month of June.

I have a blood test from the 24th of June, just before Wimbledon, that was normal. So this is for his virus. It remains unexplained.

GAËL MONFILS: If you have questions, go ahead.

Q. In modern medicine, it's rare to have an unexplained virus syndrome.
DR. MONTALVAN: We were not able to have a precise diagnosis. It happens often. It's not rare. You can talk with doctors. Sometimes you have fever for two weeks, three weeks. You think it's hepatitis. You find no explanations. You are vomiting, you don't feel good, and the serology gives you no clue.

We tried to do the test, but we didn't find anything. And it's not rare. You can ask to the faculty of medicine.

Q. The fact that you didn't have a name for your disease, did it affect you?
GAËL MONFILS: Well, at the time I was sick. So tennis was far from me. It was life. I mean, the only thing I wanted was to feel better.

It cost me my hair. I had long hair. So it cost me my hair.

But now, you know, I just wanted to be better. I didn't care about having a name for the disease. When I was told I was healthy again, that I had no risks, that was the important thing. The rest was not important.

So I wanted to make these things clear. Really, there was no name for what I had. You were asking and asking, and so I just wanted to confirm this.

Questions about the virus?

Q. Why didn't you say that before?
GAËL MONFILS: Because I told you several times I didn't have a name for it, and people thought maybe I didn't want to say it but just -- there was no name for it.

Q. So you don't know what it is? But it goes away? Can it come back any time?
DR. MONTALVAN: Well, if you're in contact with a virus and you overcame it, normally it never happens again.

GAËL MONFILS: Well, we have many other things to say. So second thing I wanted to mention, I had an injury. The second time I had to stop playing tennis. That was arriving to Wimbledon. I tried to start playing again. I was in the States at the time.

I started practicing three, four days over there on grass. And when I came in to Europe, I felt bad again just before Wimbledon. I had a relapse.

So I said, I was able to play three or four days in the States. What is happening now?

He said, Try to play.

So I said, I will think about it and make a decision.

So I decided to play and I was not 100%. I felt weak, too weak. I saw the doctor again. He told me to rest. And I think it was a very bad report in the newspaper saying on the 14th of July I was having holidays in the South of France with my family.

And many times people say, He won Washington. He could have gone to Trinec, but I was not selected. The captain called me. He didn't select me because I had not played for a while. I didn't play Wimbledon. I was still in a period of recovery.

I would really have liked to play that match. But I was just not on the team. It was not me. The guys that played on the team had had good results in the Grand Slams, were playing well, and they deserved to be on the team.

So people were talking about Trinec to me all the time, but I didn't have enough -- I was not good enough to play there.

So at the end of Toronto, then, I didn't talk about it to my team. I started talking about it in the beginning of the Olympics. I said to the doctor, My knee is hurting. I don't know why.

So my knee was hurting. My back was hurting. So I was thinking about this ongoing injury I had in my knee and what happened in the US Open last year where I couldn't play because my back was hurting.

So the doctor started treating me during some rehabilitation. Things went well. I went to Cincy, and it was not so good.

I decided not to continue playing, because my back was blocked. I didn't add that my knee was hurting. I couldn't say I was hurting everywhere.

And then I went to the US Open. And the doc, I told him, My knee is hurting. He said, Take anti-inflammatories. Do the usual treatment.

And I started playing on the Thursday just before the US Open. Because I had abandoned on the Thursday of Cincinnati. I wanted to take time, and things went well.

And when I was about to play the Cup, I told the doc, My knee is hurting. I'm tired. And then I make the decision -- I made the decision not to play because my knee was hurting. And people say, Why is his knee hurting? He was not talking about it.

So I had the test done, and the doc will explain.

DR. MONTALVAN: So for the knee injuries of Gaël, he has two problems. He has a tendinitis on the left knee. The tendon is quite damaged since 2004 -- 2007. And on the right knee, his patella is in two pieces. In 2012, it was a recurrent pain. You know he stopped for that.

So we said he's going to be -- we're going to do a surgery so that he won't have pain anymore. Dr. Kiami (phonetic) and another doctor were there. He was almost operated on, and in the end we didn't do that. We rather chose to do rehabilitation to reinforce his knee, because we were not able to answer to the question, Would it be better with the surgery?

And of course because of his knees that are fragile, when he plays too much, it hurts. So after the Olympics, his left knee was more painful. So we had a portable ultrasound machine in the Davis Cup, and I saw that he was inflamed. I told him it was his tendon hurting. So if he had to play, he needed anti-inflammatories and bandages.

He said, Am I injured? I said, Yes, your tendon is injured.

The match was important, so I told him it's his decision whether you play it or not. It was a long discussion for the knee.

Do you have questions about the knees?

Q. So in Zadar, what happened? There was a sort of bad feeling. So what can we do to avoid those bad communications? The captain seemed not happy with Gaël, it appeared, clearly. So could you do something about it to avoid this type of bad communication?
DR. MONTALVAN: We discussed about the injury together. The decision was made the next day. Gaël said, I can't play.

So it was sad. We did communicate.

Q. The explanation at Zadar was that Gaël might have hurt himself going down the stairs or something.
GAËL MONFILS: Why I did not answer that earlier, sometimes things happen and other things happen and other things are -- maybe I went down the stairs and hurt myself, but there were other things. And I don't know why people just stuck with a story of the stairs.

So this is why I'm here, to clarify things. My knee was injured, so people were talking about those stairs, but the injury at the knee was there. That's why I'm saying, Ask the doc. I had tests. I can't say more because I don't know it.

Q. In fact, what happened was Yannick's communication. He talked about the stairs, and just before you were playing basketball.
GAËL MONFILS: I think it's also my bad communication. Every time I'm injured, I played basketball. It's not good what I'm doing. It's a bad habit I have.

I just did a dunk. I didn't really play basketball. I practiced one hour tennis with a bandage, but nobody talks about that.

When he said I hurt myself in the stairs, because I did hurt myself a little bit in the stairs, I think he just wanted to say the least possible things. So it's not his communication that is bad. It's my communication. Very often I'm very brief and I don't say much about my injuries.

This is something I'm doing wrong, but I would say I'm the guilty one, not him.

Q. Why didn't you stay in Zadar to explain to the press? Do you regret it?
GAËL MONFILS: I wanted to stay in Zadar, but he asked me to go away. I said I wanted to stay. I said to Yannick I would be happy to be here and support the guys, and he explained that this is not the way he wanted to manage the team, and I had to listen to my captain.

Q. But do you feel Yannick believed you had pain?
GAËL MONFILS: I don't know whether he believed it or not. But the only thing I know is that it was hurting, and I told him, so he knows.

And what Yannick wanted and I talked about it was for me to go beyond the pain and play all the same. I don't know if I should have done that.

I think people also said that the Croatian were playing on one leg, and now that particular player is having a surgery. So okay. That's not a very good idea, either.

Q. So during the year, you decided not to talk about your injuries, and now we are in November and you have to explain all this. It was a bad choice?
GAËL MONFILS: Sometimes people don't really understand me, because people are impatient or expect a lot from me. And sometimes I don't want to say all the truth or take my time.

So I think it was a matter of bad timing. The day before yesterday there was a bad report in the newspapers, so I said, I'm going to come to Bercy and talk about my year. I want to defend myself, and I'm happy to talk openly about all this.

Of course we are talking about the injuries, and after we will talk about the rest. Here I was injured again, and again I was told, Come on, you practice at home? I don't have the feeling I'm practicing.

In Stockholm I lost to a player. In the first point of the tiebreaker I tried something I shouldn't have tried, because I fell and I hurt myself.

And I really hurt myself. I just made a little gesture to my team to say, It's tougher than usual. I lost 7-6, 6-1. I'm not saying I wouldn't have lost anyway, but it's a tough score.

And I couldn't run anymore on the court. I went back home. And during the weekend, I felt I had trouble breathing. It was hurting. And I said to the doctor, Something is wrong with my ribs.

So I told him I tried something and I fell. And he said, Well, we'll have some tests done.

I went, and I think something happened with my ribs and the doctor again will confirm.

DR. MONTALVAN: So he had several tests carried out on the ribs, MRI, a scan, et cetera. And many players have that right now. He had a tear of his cross-muscles and it's a problem when you play tennis. So other players have that. They had this a long time.

That was the 24th of October and the diagnosis was made, and I told him, No way you can play in Paris here.

So we called his team. He does treatment. This week he's going to start athletics again, and he might start to play on Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday for the next tournament. Not before.

Q. What will happen in London?
GAËL MONFILS: I'm a worrier, and I'm able to recuperate quickly. I am injured often, but on the other hand I'm able to get better quite quickly.

So I really think I'm going to be in London, and I hope I will be 100% there. I want to be 100%. This is really my goal.

Q. In Zadar, Yannick said that he needed to explain a few things to some players. We thought about you. Was he thinking about you? What did he tell you?
GAËL MONFILS: I don't know what it was. I'm not interested in the press enough maybe. Of course we spoke with Yannick. He explained his point of view on Davis Cup. He explained what he was feeling about what I was giving to the Davis Cup.

And after that, we agreed. He has expectations from me that I even didn't think about. There are things Yannick sees differently, and, you know, when you change captains, you have to learn how to know your new captain and what he expects.

But what was not easy is that things were going very fast, and I didn't -- sometimes maybe didn't make the right choices for him. Maybe the way I'm managing things is a bit different, but generally I adapt pretty well to each captain. And I apologized to him for disappointing him, because Yannick is a very important person for me. It's not only because he's the captain. I already said that. He's an important person for me. It affected me a lot that he felt disappointed.

So I said, well, the first time it was my fault and I regretted it deeply. But there's nothing special. I just understood better what he was expecting from me after we talked, and I already said I was sorry for these misunderstandings, and then it was cool.

Q. Next year Davis Cup will be your priority?
GAËL MONFILS: As I said, it's already my priority. But what I understood is that for Yan, for the team, when we say Davis Cup is a priority, it is not of course to the detriment of your physical condition, but -- how can I say? It's more important than any, any, anything else. I understood that. I understood what he was explaining.

I was not that far. But we needed, you know, to agree on a certain number of things. When you say you give it all for the Davis Cup, I remind you that in 2014 I had not played for the whole year when we were in the final. I didn't play the whole season to be ready.

I remember a conversation here with Guy Forget. He said, You should play one or two matches before the Cup.

I said, It's going to be okay. And the captain said, You should play.

I played three matches here. So every time I gave everything I had for that Davis Cup. But maybe I made different choices sometimes that are not quite as my captain thinks it should be, but I said I would do what he expects for next year.

Q. We understood that the exercise today was to end any doubts. So now, each time you will be injured, do we have the doctor coming with you? You can give us a medical certificate?
GAËL MONFILS: I'm happy you're talking about that. I'm doing that because we are in France and we are lucky to have a tournament in France, and I'm lucky because Bernard is the doctor for Bercy. He's nice because he gave his time. He has a lot of work.

Do you see the doctor of any other tennis player? No. You don't see the doctors. So this time was just, you know, to say that people think I'm light-headed. I'm unstable. But I am a high-level sportsman, and when I'm injured, I do tests. I see the doctor and the doctor accepted to talk about it.

People can say I'm unstable or everything. But I'm still top 7, and I beat seven top 10 recently. So I'm working hard. I'm taking care of myself.

I do make mistakes, but I have competent people around me. And when I'm injured, it is because I'm injured.

First, I have to be more interested in my injury to be able to talk about it. But also, I'm learning to express myself more in details, because these details make a difference.

Q. So that's what I was asking. Are you going to change your way of communicating next year?
GAËL MONFILS: Well, I can't talk about the way I'm working. If you're telling me how Nadal or Federer are training, I'll be happy to hear it and use it.

When I see Andy, if I ask him, How is your practice? He's going to say, I'm doing very well. When he says, I practiced physically, he's not explaining what he did.

Q. But it's a bit complicated.
GAËL MONFILS: Every time you asked me what I was doing in practice, you wanted to know whether I ran 400 meters and things like that, but I was just saying, I'm practicing well. Murray is saying it the same.

I never heard Andy or Rafa or Novak explaining exactly what they are doing. Novak is going to say, I'm doing yoga, but is he going to tell you how he is practicing physically? Do you know what he does?

I'm saying things. I'm saying I'm going to run in the mountains. I never heard Roger talking about running in the mountains, but I saw him in the mountains.

Q. Can you be more precise with your differences with Yannick? Is it about the way you manage your physical condition or is it psychological?
GAËL MONFILS: It's a good question to -- it was said in the newspaper article. On the Wednesday I had a failure, and I said to my staff that I was not feeling like I was going to play. You know, we all panic. It's not easy to play big matches. We like those matches.

But sometimes we have a letdown and we feel like saying to the captain, I'm tense, Yannick. I'm scared because, you know, the team, sometimes you say something, and -- well, we have really a good atmosphere in the team. We are friends.

With Richard, with Jo, it's a luxury we have in France.

So Yannick I think would like me to be more calm, less tense. I talk a lot with my staff.

It's tough for me sometimes to open up. It's not that I don't want to. That's why Mikael does a good job with me, and I'm working well with him. Before Washington I call him and I tell him, Oh, my God, Mikael. He says, What's happening? I said, I didn't practice enough. I don't feel great.

And he's able to assess how I am. So when I say that, it's not because I don't want to play. It's because I'm panicking. I want to play well, and people sometimes don't understand that.

So sometimes I tell him, Mikael, it's a bit complicated. Don't you think we should practice? And he's going to reassure me. And I had a very good summer.

For the Davis Cup, it's the same. People thought I didn't want to play. No, it's not that. It's just sometimes I'm scared. I'm panicking. And Yannick was very good. He assured me. He was really great. He helped me a lot, and I went on the court and I won. He was able to say what I needed to hear and reassure me.

And he would like me to be stronger. When he says Davis Cup is a priority -- when I lost to Novak, well, my impression was that I came immediately to Zadar. I had the antidoping test after the match. I came out at quarter to 9:00 in the evening, and I was not able to catch the 11:00 night flight.

But I was trying hard to get that plane to meet with the team. And that, I need to improve. So he wants me to impose myself a bit more. In WhatsApp, he saw that I was not sending WhatsApp during a match or SMSs. Well, I don't want to text during the match. I sent one before the beginning of the week, I said, Good luck, guys, and at the end to say congratulations.

Even when we are not there, Yannick wants us to participate. I said, it's not really my habit, but I'm going to try to change and try to do that. And sometimes I have a problem because sometimes I don't have a telephone. He knows that. Sometimes I just turn off my phone.

So these are all little things that I adapt. He needs to feel I'm 100% and that I'm going to make great efforts on this. And I really want to do it, because I want to win the Davis Cup and I want to win it with him.

So I made mistakes. There were misunderstandings. And as I said, I'm assuming my responsibilities. I said I'm sorry, and I think now we are here to make progress and go forward.

Q. You announced you were pulling out of this tournament just after learning you were qualified for London.
GAËL MONFILS: I couldn't have possibly played this tournament here. Since the MRI, I know I was done and I couldn't play. The doc wanted me to say that before, earlier, but I always am very optimistic. I always have a hope.

Q. Did you see Yannick here?
GAËL MONFILS: No. I saw no one. I'm just coming from home. I just arrived here. Just a short stay in Paris.

Q. Are you going to see him?
GAËL MONFILS: I don't know. They are playing the tournament, the guys. I'm going to go back home and try and trick myself and try to recuperate.

Q. Because the tradition is that the captain sees the players in Bercy.
GAËL MONFILS: No. We often do that before, but now the guys are all playing the tournament, so I don't know. But if I need to come back for the guys, I will. I will do that.

But everyone is playing the tournament. They know I don't live here. I have to come back. I have to prepare also.

So we'll see. But I know we are going to meet all together soon.

Q. To talk about something else, you were extremely consistent this year. Every time you had an opportunity in the draw you took it, but your ratio against the top 10 is not great.
So being consistent the way you were, is it an important step for next year to go and beat those top 10 guys?

GAËL MONFILS: You're absolutely right. This is exactly it. The year was good this year because I was able to change certain routines and my vision of the game and the way I was working.

So now we made a step forward, but of course I need to continue. And also, I need to go further. So we have some ideas of how to work, how I can improve.

As to the top 10 players, I didn't play so many times against them. Twice Novak.

Q. In the top 20, you have five victories only.
GAËL MONFILS: Well, I didn't play that often against them. I play a top 20 or a top 30, it's as difficult as a top 10.

But among the top 10, the players are a lot better, but I never thought I was far from them except Novak. Maybe I have a psychological block when I play Novak. Maybe I believe it's so difficult, but we are working on that.

And for the other top 10 players, I didn't feel I was that far from them. I had match points. Against Milos I lost in four sets once and I beat him once. Rafa played an incredible match in Monte-Carlo.

Q. (Off microphone.)
GAËL MONFILS: Against Goffin, I was up, playing well. But then he started playing extremely well, and I had a letdown. I just -- it happens. Nobody's perfect.

Q. How important is it to be qualified for the Masters in London?
GAËL MONFILS: I'm very happy. I had a lot of success this season. Many people said 30 years old is late, but I'm happy. I made it. I'm not thinking about the past. I'm thinking about the present, the future.

We worked well. We are still working well. I hope I'll be able to fight for myself in this tournament.

Q. What is surprising is you were not in the Masters before.
GAËL MONFILS: Sure. But this year I was more consistent, and people were, you know, criticizing me saying, You see? You can do it.

Well, yes and no. Now I'm able to do it because I understood many things, because I'm working differently, because I changed.

Before, I was younger with a different life. I was always told I had talent. And I thought about it, talent, talent. My talent is often seen from my physical ability.

But it's not only that. I had to change my life according to my sport. So I had athletic qualities maybe. Maybe it's a bit better than a basic guy, but I think there are others that feel the game better, that hit the ball better.

A few years ago, when I was younger, I was not able to play a volley. But I worked on that. People were saying, Come closer. Step into the court. But I couldn't because I didn't see the game like that. I was not coordinated enough.

My coordination didn't help me move forward. I think people thought I was strong because physically I was strong. But in tennis I was not that strong. I learned a lot. I improved a lot now. And this is why I'm able to put the two things together.

Q. When did you wear a suit for the last time? Because you'll have to wear one in London. And what images do you have from London?
GAËL MONFILS: Well, I am wearing suits often. I was witness for -- last year in a matrimony, a marriage. And for the Davis Cup I was wearing a suit, and three weeks ago I wore a suit.

So the images I have in my mind about the Masters is the court without the corridors on the side. This is what I remember from the Masters.

It's going to be a great competition. It's the Masters playing there. It's something I never thought about. I never dreamed of playing the Masters, because maybe I didn't even know it existed when I was young.

So I feel very proud I'm able to play it. But I think the pride is more from my parents. When I was qualified, my mother called me and she said something that touched me. She said, It's incredible. I never thought you would be able to play the Masters in your life.

I think it's the first time she really realizes what is happening. She said, I never thought you were going to be a tennis player. (Laughter.)

You're laughing, but from where I started, we have been knowing each other for a long time. So my mother, when she sees what the Masters represents, for her, it's like winning the French Open for her.

It's incredible. When I was young and I said, I want to be a tennis player and we were living in the 19th arrondissement and there were no tennis clubs. There were only soccer clubs. Now she sees me in the Masters, well, she was really touched.

Q. What is your best memory in the Masters of Paris here? Do you remember a match in particular, a moment?
GAËL MONFILS: When I was young, I played against Vince Spadea in mini tennis. I was so happy. It was the first time I played a pro. It was the mini tennis.

Q. When you talk about the Masters, we feel you think you are going there, but you still have medical tests to undergo before. If you have pain, are you going to play there? You might endanger the next season.
GAËL MONFILS: If I still feel pain, I won't be able to play. What scares me is that it might start. The pain might come back again.

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