Gael Monfils, the best living tennis player from France, was curiously not chosen to play the first round of the Davis Cup, the most important international tournament in the sport. He can blame his long-simmering beef with team coach Yannick Noah, national tennis legend—and father of Knicks sharpshooter Joakim—who felt his star player had been prioritizing his personal career over international play. (Grand Slams pay much better than patriotism, to be fair.)
Fresh off a fourth-round exit at the Australian Open, La Monf was pointedly left out of France’s matchup against Japan this past weekend. Rather than mope idly, the sixth-ranked tennis player in the world picked up a strange, stringless racket to play Padel, a tennis-squash hybrid where the balls have less pressure, the nets are lower, and you can play the ball off the walls of the court. Monfils entered a tournament at Padel Club de Lyon with partner Robin Haziza and lost in the semifinals. Here’s what it looks like:
Here he is swatting that weak shit out of the air:
And here he is splayed out after what was presumably a tough point(?) of Padel:
The image of a reprimanded athlete going off and playing some other sport instead, at risk of injury, might seem shocking—but remember that in singles tennis, you are fully your own boss, accountable only to you and maybe to your coach (whom you pay out of your own pocket), so you can hit whatever balls you want. And the rest of the world benefits, because the best showman in tennis has a knack for everything else, too.
Monfils looks pretty smooth on a basketball court, based on this little one-on-one against Nick Kyrgios in 2014:
You get the feeling he wouldn’t look out of place on a soccer pitch, either, judging by this 2016 clip:
Put this man at wideout, while you’re at it. Dude can get up.