French Open 2014: Andy Murray ready to renew 16-year-old rivalry with Gael Monfils
Last Updated: 03/06/14 5:36pm
Britain's Andy Murray is preparing to resurrect a rivalry going back 16 years as he gears up for Wednesday's French Open quarter-final against home favourite Gael Monfils.
The world No 8 first faced Monfils when they were aged just 10 and 11 respectively at a junior tournament in Rouen.
Frenchman Monfils triumphed in their semi-final clash but went on to lose to Murray's brother Jamie in the final
"Gael used to play with glasses and he had shaved hair, but quite a high cut," reminisced Murray, who is eight months Monfils' junior.
"He was just a great athlete, moved unbelievably well, always 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.
"Gael's just always been a great entertainer, and he's great for the sport."
Monfils added: "We grew up pretty much together. It's always fun to play against him. He's the same, he didn't change at all."
Wednesday's match will be the pair's sixth meeting but their first in three-and-a-half years, since Murray lost to his rival at the Paris Masters in 2010.
"It's a tough match," said Murray, who leads their head-to-head 3-2, a record which also includes a defeat at Roland Garros back in 2006.
"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. I'm sure there will be some fun rallies. There always is when I have played against him.
"We haven't played against each other for quite a while, so I'm looking forward to it."
Monfils, who grew up in Paris is in his fourth French Open quarter-final in six years, will have the vast majority of the fans behind him, but Murray said he was unfazed by a hostile crowd.
"Obviously it's difficult, but it's a great challenge. It's more like a Davis Cup atmosphere," he said
"It's an intense atmosphere but you can also feed off that as well.
"It's the quarter-finals of a slam. I don't care whether no one in the crowd wants me to win or everyone wants me to win. I will fight just as hard to try and get the right outcome."