Thursday February 16th, 2012

Gael Monfils, shown here at an exhibition Monday, withdrew from the SAP Open on Wednesday. (Icon SMI)

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Gael Monfils on Wednesday withdrew from the SAP Open and next week’s Morgan Keenan Tennis Championships in Memphis because of “big inflammation” in his right knee.

The announcement capped an odd series of recent events for the Frenchman, who is ranked 13th. After losing a final in Montpellier, France, two weeks ago, Monfils revealed that he was struggling with knee pain that was “ruining” his life. He said he would be examined before heading to Canada for Davis Cup because “I don’t want to take any risks for the rest of the season.”

But, after sitting out the first day of singles against Canada, Monfils played a dead Davis Cup rubber against Vasek Pospisil on Sunday in Vancouver. He then flew to San Jose, where he was the top seed at the SAP Open, to play in a doubles exhibition on Monday night.

While some players might treat an exhibition as an easy walk-through, those players are not Gael Monfils. He dashed around the court, leaping and hitting trick shots, and in one instance he went down in the splits trying to get to a ball. Then, less than 24 hours later, he played his first-round doubles match with Julien Benneteau, which they lost. Finally, on Wednesday night, between the second and third set of Andy Roddick’s match against Denis Kudla, Monfils announced his withdrawal.

That’s an odd schedule for a man who was complaining that his knees were ruining his life. Monfils said he didn’t regret his decision to play Davis Cup and the exhibition. “My only regret is I have the pain,” he said.

“All the time people think I am normal,” Monfils said when asked why he can be so athletic on the court while suffering from injury. “But when I feel myself, I feel like I’m running not that fast, that I can reach more balls. In the doubles, I think a couple of balls I can reach easier, and I didn’t.”

Monfils will return to Europe to get his knees checked, rest and rehabilitate. He was unsure about his status for next month’s Masters 1000 tournaments in Indian Wells, Calif., and Miami.

“I will try to get back there but the knee, only the doctor can tell me I can,” Monfils said.

And what about Davis Cup? France is set to play host to the Americans, presumably on clay, in April. Monfils said he would not return to competition in Indian Wells or Miami if it meant jeopardizing Davis Cup.

“No. Davis Cup is important,” he said with a sly smile. Despite the long and winding road it took to get here, it’s good that Monfils is taking some time off. He hasn’t been the same player in 2012, hobbled by injuries and generally looking unfocused. (Not to beat a dead horse, but the guy chose to play three exhibitions during the offseason rather than rest.) That lack of focus can come from knowing your body isn’t 100 percent.

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