French Open: Andy Murray set to resume battle with Gael Monfils
Andy Murray will today renew a rivalry with Gael Monfils that began 16 years ago in Rouen.
Murray was 10 and Monfils 11 when they met in the semi-finals of a junior tournament, the Frenchman winning before losing to Murray's brother Jamie in the final.
"He used to play with glasses," said the Wimbledon champion. "He had shaved hair, but quite a high cut. He was the same as he is now. He was just a great athlete, moved unbelievably well, smiling on the court.
"He enjoyed playing in front of a crowd, even though it was a small crowd. When you're 10, 11 years old, playing in front of 40, 50 people feels like it's loads.
"He's just always been a great entertainer, and he's great for the sport."
The pair have been friends ever since those early days and if Murray had to pick one player to watch, it would probably be Monfils.
The Frenchman, who is eight months older, also has fond memories of matches against Murray.
He said: "We grew up pretty much together. It's always fun to play against him. He's the same, he didn't change at all."
Eighty miles down the road from Rouen, the pair will meet for a sixth time in the adult ranks with a much bigger prize at stake – a probable semi-final against Rafael Nadal.
Murray leads their head-to-heads 3-2 but Monfils has won both matches in Paris, one at Roland Garros and one at Bercy.
They have not faced each other for three and a half years, making this an even more intriguing clash.
"It's a tough match," said Murray. "I think in the grand slams he's played his best tennis here by far. He loves playing in front of a big crowd. He's a great athlete, maybe the best we have had in tennis. It's going to be an exciting match."