He struggled to form words as he brought his hands together on the desk in front of him and dug his fingers around his eyes as though trying to claw them out.
He was the figure of the distraught, his face ashen through with lack of options having searched for solutions long.
Such a strange and sad sight, this man usually filled with so much sun and light, laughter and bright, brought now to a point of anxiousness and searching for something to make everything alright.
When he did speak, it was with acceptance that this would likely continue, that he would roll forwards to the next event and the next event and the one after that too, to be confronted with this terrifyingly same result at all of them.
“I’d like to stand up and tell myself that this nightmare is over but the truth is, I don’t know when it will stop.”
This was Gaël Monfils and this was his real life horror-show, a seventh loss in a row, stretching back to when the ATP Tour had coughed its way back into play following a global pause of movement to counteract Covid-19.
His form prior to that shutdown had been pleasing with results promising, a real push to focus the abilities that everyone knew he had into producing title-taking tournament runs, possibly even maybe perhaps in a major tournament, a notion his detractors would once have scoffed at.
Now though, with crowds gone and atmospheres missing, he was drowning, looking for air in outer space as his game failed him time after time.
The cause of so many smiles and grins with his fun-house circus-act mirror-maze of tennis play, now sat in a press-conference in disrepair and cried tears that told those watching that he was tired of trying.
And how relatable a feeling it was to oh-so-many, how the necessary disruption of the normal had wedged itself into mindsets the world-over, messing with heads and causing doubts that festered here and fostered there, bad thoughts, dark thoughts, scary mad thoughts, the results of spending hours whiling away and whittling away and chipping away at the hours of the day in the hopes that tomorrow might bring better while knowing that it would not.
As he departed the 2021 Australian Open with a cloud hanging dark above him, Gaël Monfils was not at all alone even if in that moment he looked as though he was.
A world rotation later and Monfils is back at Melbourne Park with a wedding ring on his finger and a spark to his step and a flavour that tastes fresh, spider-webbing his way through two rounds of the tournament in a run that’s set tongues wagging with the whispered chat of potential possibilities.
For the Frenchman though, he seems simply content with the turnaround, memories from this time last year not yet consigned to history, even going as far as to offer them up in on-court interviews as a sign that he’s taking nothing for granted.
“I had a tough time, but now I really feel good. Great. Strong. You guys are back. I’m back. Hopefully I’m doing some really great stuff.”
Those who saw themselves in Monfils twelve months ago should be able to take this as a sign that the end of the tunnel that they’re going down may only ever actually be just a tomorrow away.