Quirky French tennis star Gaël Monfils is wowing crowds at the US Open


The "Sliderman," Gael Monfils, in action against Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria during their fourth round match at the US Open on Tuesday.


Adam Hunger/Reuters

Historians think tennis was invented in France, so maybe that's why Frenchman Gaël Monfils is so comfortable — some tennis fans say too comfortable — playing the game.

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Monfils is one of the most colorful characters to grace the courts at the US Open in a while. The 28-year-old electrifies the crowds with both his game and his showman's antics.

“A lot of people say he’s more interested in being an entertainer than he is in being a tennis player, and that’s fairly accurate,” says tennis writer Ricky Dimon. “Sometimes he goes out there dancing during changeovers and sometimes even in between points.”

So while he's a hit with fans at the US Open, Dimon thinks he's unlikely to win the tournament: "He’s been more interested in putting on a show than he has in winning tournaments, or even Grand Slams, which he certainly has the potential to do."

In some ways, says Dimon this makes Monfils a frustrating player to watch, “because we know he could be so good. But at the same time it also makes him an amazing player to watch, because he is so entertaining.”

Even beyond his dance moves — he claims Beyonce is his current inspiration — Monfils has earned the nickname "Sliderman" for the way he throws his body all over the court. It's an exhilarating but injury-prone style: Monfils was ranked seventh in the world in 2011 but has lost significant time to injuries since then

Now Monfils has fought his way to the quarter-finals at Flushing Meadows, where he will face the legendary Swiss machine that is Roger Federer. Federer's calm, consistent style is a stark contrast to Montfils' anything-goes presence on the court.

Monfils has the talent to take on Federer, Dimon says — but he'll have to leave the showmanship at home.