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Friendly fire

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Originally published on 04/06/17 00:00

Friendly fire is a way of life in tennis circles, and certainly nothing new for Gael Monfils. The French No.15 seed advanced to the fourth round on Sunday after compatriot Richard Gasquet retired with a thigh injury in the third set of a tight contest – their first at the French Open.

Nobody wants to win that way, said Monfils – especially against one of his closest friends on tour.

“It's never a good feeling to win with a retirement from your friend,” said the 30-year-old, who is back in the last 16 in Paris for the seventh time in his career. “It's never easy also to get back the next day for the same match. I'm just happy about the win – it was kind of tough to handle it mentally the game today.”

Things don’t get any easier on Monday, when Monfils faces another ATP buddy: fellow Switzerland resident and 2015 French Open champion Stan Wawrinka.

“We are good friends, he and I,” Monfils said of Wawrinka. “We have known each other for a long, long while. I live in Switzerland now and we meet more and more often. We are not just friends on the courts. We are friends, full stop, and therefore we have close relations. Our coaches are friends so we are even closer then.

“But when we are on the courts, it's a different thing, a different story. We have been used to that. Since we have been young we have been playing against each other. It's even tougher when you are younger but we have gained more experience so it's easier.”

With just a dozen men left in the draw after the top half played their fourth-round matches on Saturday, Roland Garros is approaching the business end of proceedings, and action shifts from around the grounds to the main show courts – Court Philippe Chatrier and Court Suzanne Lenglen, with a handful left on No.1 Court – affectionately known as the ‘Bullring’ – which is hosting its last French Open matches before redevelopment work begins on the grounds ahead of next year’s tournament.

As much as Monfils feels at home anywhere at Roland Garros, the game’s leading lights live to play on the sport’s biggest stages.

“At this stage, on Chatrier or Suzanne Lenglen, the crowd are behind me. At the beginning of the tournament, I think Court 1 is great experience, good spirits – Lenglen also a little bit more, and Chatrier a bit less. But at this stage, I think Chatrier is the best place to play.”

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