- 14 Nov 2020
In the first of a week-long series of Twitch live streams, Gael Monfils and Andy Murray got together to talk about the 2020 #NittoATPFinals and share stories about their experiences with the other players competing in this year’s field. Monfils dressed for the occasion, wearing a snazzy grey blazer as he hosted from his in-home studio, while Murray lounged comfortably in bed. If their fashion lacked chemistry, the pair more than made up for it with over 100 minutes of insightful conversation and tennis banter.
They plan to pick it up on Sunday after the first day of play in London.
Here are five things that we learned from the first #MuzzMonfATP chat on Twitch.
Neither player found it easy to play tennis during a global pandemic
Tennis post coronavirus has been hard for many players, and Monfils and Murray were two who struggled to adjust to the new reality.
“I found it difficult,” said Murray, of playing the US Open without fans. “Just being there without the fans, it was just sad.”
Murray says it just didn’t feel right playing on Arthur Ashe Stadium, the sports’ biggest stage, after it had gone silent.
“It was difficult without the fans, like playing on Arthur Ashe,” he said. “That was the stadium I always wanted to play on when I was a kid. I went to play the US Open juniors and I went and sat on that court to watch the women’s final between Henin and Clijsters [in 2003], and I sat right up at the top, it was a night match … to go onto a court like that with no one there – it was hard.”
Monfils’ struggles with tennis during the pandemic have been well-documented. He could have been at the ATP Finals as an alternate this year but instead opted to shut his season down in order to “reconnect with himself.”
“I found it tough, to be honest,” he said. “I haven’t won a match … I like to entertain, I like to be happy on the court. I felt sad a little bit. I cannot share all the emotion that I have – it was really tough.”
Come and Join @andy_murray and myself tomorrow at 8PM (7PM GMT) on https://t.co/Tk1TNA4qYm We will do a preview of the Nitto ATP Finals to be held in London from Sunday onwards. #NittoATPFinals 1/2 pic.twitter.com/ucD5kT632s
— Gael Monfils (@Gael_Monfils) November 12, 2020
Andrey Rublev has unbelievable power, but not enough to get past Nadal
The players spent time breaking down all eight of the players in the #NittoATPFinals draw. Murray had lots to say about Andrey Rublev, the ATP’s win and title leader in 2020.
“I’ve actually practiced with him a lot,” said Murray. “I get on well with him. Unbelievable power. Huge hitter. He hits the ball at that pace from the first ball of every practice session. He’s got great intensity. He loves the game. He had a brilliant year and I think he will like the conditions in London so it will be interesting to see how he gets on there.”
Despite Rublev’s hot form, both Murray and Monfils agree that Rafa will have the edge against Rublev when they meet on Sunday in round robin play.
“I think Rafa will deal with his game quite well, with the power side,” Murray said. “Rafa doesn’t always get enough credit for how much he makes his opponents move and how he makes them work, and I think he will force Andrey to defend a lot.
“I think Rafa defends very well with the slice backhand as well, which keeps the ball low and makes it difficult to hit winners off those sorts of shots.”
Playing Rafa on clay is the biggest challenge in tennis
The two “Twitchers” agree that there is no experience in tennis like facing Rafael Nadal on the terre battue of Paris. Monfils started the conversation:
“[We use] the word ‘sick’ – it’s not even sick, it’s phenomenal, what do you think about that?” Monfils asked Murray, eager to get his take on Nadal’s achievement in Paris.
“For me that will never be broken,” said Murray.
Monfils challenged him, saying it was a “big call” to make. The Frenchman reminded Murray that once it was believed that Bjorn Borg’s accomplishments would never be topped, and that Pete Sampras’ 14 majors were viewed as the end-all for a time as well.
“We’ve obviously played at that level, at the top of the game for many years,” Murray replied. “The French Open is an incredibly difficult tournament to win, physically it’s tough, mentally it’s very demanding, and I just don’t see that happening again.”
Murray says it isn’t just Nadal’s titles in Paris, it is the apparent ease with which the Spaniard wins them.
“To win it 13 times – and he may win more. I just don’t see that being broken, certainly not in my lifetime,” Murray said. “Maybe someone will come along in 100 years time or whatever. I just don’t believe it. It’s incredible what he’s done there, and also how easily he’s done it as well. It’s just been very easy – that’s also what’s been very impressive.”
My favourite thing about the @Gael_Monfils and @andy_murray twitch stream is that Gael has his headphones and mic set up perfectly professionally, sitting on a computer chair facing a monitor and then you just have Andy clearly lounging on his bed, using his phone as a camera. 😂 pic.twitter.com/41hCFMYrVO
— Scott Barclay (@BarclayCard18) November 13, 2020
Murray closed the topic by saying that there is no bigger challenge in tennis than facing Nadal at Roland-Garros.
“Playing Roger at Wimbledon on grass would have been considered the biggest test on grass,” Murray said. “Novak on a hard court and Rafa on clay. But I would say that Rafa on clay, at the French Open especially, is probably the biggest challenge in our sport.”
Murray was embarrassed when he was crushed by Federer at the 02 in 2014
Near the end of the session Murray was answering a question about which player would be the toughest to face at the ATP Finals. His answer turned into a humorous description of one of the worst losses he ever suffered in London – or anywhere else.
“It was absolutely horrible-ugly,” Murray said of the 6-0, 6-1 drubbing he took at the hands of Roger Federer in London in 2014. “I felt a little bit embarrassed on the court. I was down 6-0, 5-0 and I managed to win a game and lost 6-0, 6-1. I was embarrassed, even when I won the game – the match was over, the match was done! I think everyone that was in there was pretty disappointed as well, people that bought tickets and stuff, the match was pretty much done in an hour, it wasn’t competitive at all. There was a lot of people that came to watch, too.”
Murray says legendary football coach José Mourinho, who was the coach of Chelsea at the time, was in attendance at the O2 Arena on that day. The Scot remembered an oddly therapeutic meeting with the Portuguese coach near the locker room.
“I showered and came out of the locker room and José Mourinho was there standing in the hallway,” he said. “He just gave me a hug, he didn’t say anything, he just hugged me – that made me feel a little bit better.”
Monfils’ English is vastly improved and he has Elina Svitolina to thank
After several minutes of conversation Andy Murray took time to compliment the Frenchman’s fluent english.
“Your english is on fire,” said Murray. “What happened there? How have you been learning?”
Monfils says that his english has improved because it is his language of choice when he speaks with his #GemsLife companion, Elina Svitolina.
“All credit to Elina,” Monfils said. “I had to learn a little bit better.”
Murray: Your English is on fire. What happened there?
Monfils: I have to go give credit to Elina pic.twitter.com/nGTyEsORoI
— Reem Abulleil (@ReemAbulleil) November 13, 2020