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Behind Every Successful Man, There Is A Woman • Just Ask Roger Federer And Gael Monfils

Gael Monfils of France in action against Leonardo Mayer of Argentina during the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California, USA, 09 March 2019. The men's and women's final will be played, 17 March 2019. EPA-EFE/JOHN G. MABANGLO
Gael Monfils of France in action against Leonardo Mayer of Argentina during the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California, USA, 09 March 2019. The men’s and women’s final will be played, 17 March 2019. EPA-EFE/JOHN G. MABANGLO

 

 

By Alix Ramsay

 

We have a confession to make. The Thursday schedule at the BNP Paribas Open was, shall we say, a little thinner than in previous days and with no UK deadlines pressing, we decided to play hooky and go on a little road trip.

 

Well, Cabazon is only up the road and with bargains a-go-go on offer up there, it seems rude to pass them by. So we went shopping.

 

As a brief aside, Cabazon is a great place to go but not when you are in a hurry. It seems other people, more dedicated shoppers than us, consider a trip to the outlet malls as a vacation in itself. They go in vast numbers, spend the entire day there, stopping for many a refreshment. They even film themselves as they shop. We do not do this.

 

While we live in a multi-cultural world where globalisation is the name of the business game, each nationality shows its true colours when it comes to the checkout queue. Here every national characteristic is laid bare.

 

My people queue as a matter of course. In the event there is no queue to be seen, we Brits will go and stand behind a complete stranger and wait patiently for something to happen. It’s in our genes. We are just made that way. But we are sticklers for queue etiquette.

 

Other nations – and we are naming no names here – are less formal in such circumstances. There are the nations of queue bargers, other nations of checkout counter chargers and yet more nations who just mass around the till, waving wads of cash. We Brits do not do that, either. But we really don’t like it when others do.

 

However, if you want to spot a Brit in a slow moving queue, you have to look carefully. We do not moan, we do not shout and we do not make a fuss. Instead, we sigh. My race has three levels of fury beginning with sighing, moving on to tutting and finally, when enough is enough, we sigh, tut and roll our eyes all at once. That is when it is time to run for your lives – a sighing tutting, eye-rolling Brit is not to be messed with. There were quite a few miffed Brits in Cabazon on Thursday.

 

Anyway, on the way to this shopping bonanza, the mind started to wander.

 

Gael Monfils has been in the form of his life since the start of the year (he has lost only three matches and won the title in Rotterdam last month). This new vein of form has coincided with his new relationship with Elina Svitolina. They announced that they were an item back in January and this past week in Indian Wells, they have been inseparable. He is blissfully happy off the court and playing like a man possessed on it.

 

He is not alone in attributing his success to his other half. Roger Federer has often confessed that his remarkable career simply would not be possible without his wife, Mirka. They have been together for almost 20 years, two decades in which he has rewritten almost every record in the book. And the fact that he is still doing it at the age of 37 is down to Mirka.

 

Roger Federer of Switzerland in action against Kyle Edmund of Great Britain during the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California, USA, 13 March 2019. The men's and women's final will be played, 17 March 2019.  EPA-EFE/RAY ACEVEDO

Roger Federer of Switzerland in action against Kyle Edmund of Great Britain during the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California, USA, 13 March 2019. The men’s and women’s final will be played, 17 March 2019. EPA-EFE/RAY ACEVEDO

“It’s my wife who makes it all possible,” Federer said last summer. “Without her support, I wouldn’t be playing tennis no more since many years. But we had a very open conversation, if she was happy to do this or not, years ago. This life wouldn’t work if she said no.”

 

Even the other day, he was heaping praise on Mrs F. Yes, he had made some smart decisions over the course of his career but the biggest stroke of luck he had had was meeting his wife.

 

“I think I definitely got lucky to have met Mirka so early, too,” he said. “If you speak professionally speaking, for my life, gave me great consistency. And she was very professional as a player herself, which I can’t say of myself early on in my career.”

 

But back to La Monf. He and his beloved could not be more different as players. He is all instinct, ridiculous athleticism and pizzazz. Svitolina is solid, methodical and doggedly determined. Gael knows he can never be like that and yet the detailed and dedicated approach of his nearest and dearest is rubbing off a little. His results have been consistently good over the past three months and that, he thinks, is because he wants his missus to be proud of him. Ah, bless.

 

“The only motivation that I will say that we have is to make the other proud,” he said. “I love it when she wins. I’m very proud of her. I think it’s the same for her.”

 

Mikhail Kukushkin may not have the same celebrity status as the Mighty Fed and La Monf but he is still the world No.43. He lost here in the first round to Filip Krajinovic and, presumably, then had a long and detailed debrief with his coach about what went wrong. That coach also just happens to be his wife.

 

“Of course it can be tough to combine [being husband and wife] with life on the tennis court, but we have been together for many years,” Kukushkin said. “We are used to dividing the tennis and normal life.

 

“Sometimes it’s difficult, especially when I’m not playing well, or losing tough matches, but we are used to it so we try to separate things. In tennis we are just player and coach and outside it we are just family. For us, it’s a good relationship like that. It’s working out.

 

“What is important for me is that she knows me very well and knows what I have to do to improve as a player. If I brought in another coach they might be a very good coach, but they might not know when I play badly what I have to do to come back to my level.”

 

As the saying goes, behind every successful man, there is a strong woman. And never more so than in tennis.

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