By Greg Stutchbury
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Gael Monfils was hailed as 'Superman' after another customary acrobatic dive filled photographers' lenses and set social media alight at the Australian Open on Monday.
Monfils, however, was more satisfied with the fact that he had gone on to beat Andrey Kuznetsov 7-5 3-6 6-3 7-6(4) to advance to his first quarter-final at Melbourne Park, against Milos Raonic.
And while he had no regrets with the spectacular dive, he admitted that it did hurt.
"It's very painful," he told reporters. "I cannot even grip
anything right now.
"I have a deep cut. That's nothing. But I have a bruise. I'm lucky to not have a fracture.
"I am not a rock."
Monfils was indeed lucky.
Having been wrong footed by Kuznetsov at 2-2 in the second set with the Russian serving at 40-40 he changed direction and flung himself full length at the ball in an attempt to make a return. He failed.
The decision to dive, despite the potential risk of injury, however, was not calculated, he said as every time he flamboyantly slid or dived on court, he was acting purely on instinct.
"During the point, I feel that I can have it," he said.
"I just go for it. I'm just a competitor, I want to win every point and I think I can get it and I just fly.
"People need to understand that if I dive, it's because I know I can dive. There is no practice. It's instinct."
Kuznetsov held serve to take a 3-2 lead in the second set before Monfils called a medical time out to have the bleeding stopped. The pain caused him some issues in the set, which he feared could have changed the momentum of the game.
"He had a good second set," Monfils said.
"I lost a bit of the momentum because at this period I thought I had him. It was a bit tough for me to grip my racquet.
"Then it was a bit tougher to play."
The world number 25, who was a junior world champion in 2004 when he won three of the boys grand slam titles, has failed to fulfill his early potential in the senior ranks, though he is still the one player that some want to watch over all others.
"When he starts doing some Gael stuff, it hits me in my heart, really, like I'm emotional," twice Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka said.
"I'm glad I didn't see that (fall)," she added.
"I probably would be in a worse mood right now."
(Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)