Gael Monfils has left tennis fans heartbroken after revealing he won't play the Australian Open in January in order to protect his ranking. The French fan favourite hasn't played on the ATP tour since suffering an ankle injury at the Canadian Open in August.
The 36-year-old, who was ranked World No.20 at the time, has since fallen to World No.50 due to his lengthy layoff. Fans had been holding out hope that Monfils would be back in action for the start of the 2023 season in Australia, however the French veteran has revealed that won't happen.
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Monfils announced on Sunday that he's skipping the Australian Open in order to qualify for a protected ranking. Players who are out of action for at least six months can use their ranking at the time of the injury in order to enter tournaments when they return.
Monfils would need to be out until at least February in order to get a protected ranking, meaning it doesn't make sense for him to attempt a comeback at the Australian Open. If he stays sidelined one more month, he would be able to use his World No.20 ranking to qualify for tournaments. At 50th in the world or lower he would struggle to get automatic entry into a number of tournaments around the world.
“I think that you know, there is the protected ranking, when you don’t play for a certain amount of months. I know that if I take it, I have to not play the Australian Open to reach the six months needed and that will be my decision,” Monfils said.
Amid rumours he will soon retire from tennis, the two-time grand slam semi-finalist said he's keen to play at his home Olympics in Paris in 2024. “2023 is an important year for me, a year of transition, transition between my injuries and the fact to be competitive to try to qualify for Paris 2024," he said. "I would not like to miss them (the Olympics), it would be my last ones."
Monfils, who recently welcomed a baby girl with fellow tennis star Elina Svitolina, said the more time he spends at home with his family the more he thinks about hanging up the racquet. He had previously said he wanted to play until he was 40, but maybe not after starting a family.
"I hope that 2024 would not be my last year but maybe the one after that. Before, I said that I wanted to play until I’m 40 but the more time I spend with my daughter, the more I’m thinking that maybe I’ll play a bit less," he said.
Gael Monfils says injury layoff a blessing in disguise
Monfils had earlier posted an update on his blog about his frustrations over the length of time it was taking for him to recover from his injury. The 36-year-old rolled his ankle during a rally against Jack Draper in Toronto.
However he said it was a huge blessing in disguise because he's been able to spend so much time with Svitolina and baby Skai. “I’ve been off the court the last few months recovering from an injury - a torn fascia I got last August, right in the middle of a match. (Basically, I busted my foot in front of 10,000 people. Yeah, you can find the video online)," he wrote.
"I’ve also got what’s called a calcaneal spur, so, lucky me! Obviously, it’s been super frustrating - especially since I was playing some of my best games at the start of this year, getting up to #20 in the world rankings. I’m lucky that I’m surrounded by awesome physios who are helping me get back on track for next year (though I’m thinking protected ranking is likely in the cards for me).
“That said, in one huge way, this injury has been an incredible blessing in disguise. I’m a dad! Elina and I welcomed our first baby, Skaï, about a month and a half ago. Because of my injury, I was able to spend much more time with both her and our new daughter than I ever could have in a normal season where I was traveling, training, and playing.
“I got to be with Elina every day throughout the end of her pregnancy and be there for her completely during the birth. People ask me how it feels to be a father, and to be honest, I don’t really have the words. It’s indescribable, incredible love. I get joy from the smallest interaction with Skaï - sometimes I’m tempted to wake her up from a nap just to play with her (don’t worry guys, I don’t).”
Despite the uplifting words, fans were left saddened that they won't be seeing Monfils in Australia in January. The news was confirmed on Tuesday when the official entry list was released.
Monfils is going through hell 🥲
— Abdul.mkt👨💻 (@Omope_Abdul) December 6, 2022
Sad for Gael
— Mason 💙💛 (@masonyo25) December 6, 2022
He said recently he was probably gonna skip Australian Open to get Protected ranking, sadly
— 𝕸𝖆𝖙𝖍 𝕾𝖐𝖎𝖑𝖑𝖊𝖗 (@SkillerMath) December 4, 2022
@josemorgado Monfils will skip Australian Open to have protect ranking. Curious choice…
— Clément (@Clementmgrt) December 3, 2022
Monfils will not play AO to leverage protected ranking. Not sure what the advantage is here other than additional rest/recuperation? https://t.co/kCpyMm7YCs
— Sandy (@nycsandygirl) December 3, 2022
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