500 career wins: An interview with tennis pro and eToro investor Gael Monfils

A long-time partner of eToro, tennis superstar Gael Monfils recently celebrated a rare feat: 500 career wins! We sat down with him for a chat about his tennis career, his investing habits and his everyday life.

Monfils is an accomplished player, who has been active for more than 17 years. Known for his flamboyant on-court antics, off the court he is the exact opposite: cool, calm, collected and extremely pleasant. His focus on his profession, coupled with his extracurricular passions, make him a truly admirable individual.

“I knew just before the match”

In August this year, Monfils reached a milestone most professional athletes can only dream about: 500 career wins. This positions Gael as the 10th winningest active player in the world and 53rd all-time. “I knew just before the match that if I win, it will be 500. It didn’t add pressure,” Gael tells me in a video interview.

With his broadcast-grade microphone and colourful background, riddled with Funko Pop! vinyl figures of his favourite pop-culture icons, Gael looks much younger than his 34 years and more like a Twitch streamer (which he actually is) than a professional athlete. However, when it’s game time, he is a lethal and efficient winning machine, as indicated by what he told me about his mindset ahead of his 500th victory: “At one stage, I knew it was very close and I knew I would reach it, but I was focused on going deeper into the (Western & Southern Open) tournament.”

“It took me a year and a half to regain my momentum”

“It was hard for me to play in empty stadiums. I like to feel the energy, to feel the crowd behind me.” Known to many as “The Showman of Tennis,” Gael has a unique relationship with the crowd and draws much of his energy from the courtside fans — which is why the global pandemic hit him harder than some. “The Covid situation broke my momentum. It was a tough part for me to manage. Just before Covid, I was playing my best tennis and reached nearly the highest ranking I ever had. It took me a year and a half to regain my momentum.”

During this time, Gael’s significant social media activity on Instagram, Twitch, Twitter and TikTok included active feeds and live streams of video games and impromptu talk shows, which kept him in contact with his fans. “The relationship became virtual. I actually grew closer with fans through social media, because I can talk to them.”

However, despite finding the silver lining in an otherwise dire situation, going back to playing in front of a live audience was something Gael couldn’t wait to experience. “It was honestly unreal to have them back in the stadium. Going from playing in front of 10,000 people to playing in front of no one was quite tough. My first game back was in Toronto… It was amazing. I was waiting years for that. Obviously, it was very special.”

“The word that’s most important to me is ‘discipline’”

Gael has many different hobbies, including watch collecting, video games and making music. “People sometimes say: ‘You play tennis, so stick to tennis.’ Yes, I’m a good tennis player, but I have my hobbies. They want to put us athletes in a box, but most of us can become great at other things too.

“The word that’s most important to me is ‘discipline,’” he explains. “I know I have my 6–7 hours of practice every day, so I manage my life around them. The discipline came from my parents. My parents always taught me how to pursue my passion, but also to let go, to see that life is beautiful if you’re curious and want to learn.

“People see me as a showman, which is great, it’s who I am, but they forget that (athletes) are human beings with emotions and families,” Gael says. It is no wonder that he places such a strong emphasis on this, as his wife, Elina Svitolina, is also a professional tennis player.

“We share a goal: to be high-level athletes,” Gael says. “We understand the sacrifices necessary, we train together and we always try to bring the best out of each other. Sometimes it’s tougher because for some tournaments we’re apart, but we try to find tournaments in the same areas, just so we can be together.”

“My portfolio is strong because of shares that I believe in”

Alongside his aforementioned hobbies, Gael is also an eToro investor. He has been investing on the platform since 2017 and has been quite consistent. “In my eToro portfolio, I focus on the medium- and long-term. I usually don’t do short-term investments,” he says.

“My portfolio is strong because of shares that I believe in. You need a little bit of luck, but you also need to trust the companies you invest in. I got a lot of tech (in my portfolio). I think our generation believes in tech and these companies are behind some of the biggest changes in our lives.”

I asked him about the similarities between being a professional athlete and a good investor, to which he replied: “In both cases, you have to be very careful. As an athlete, you need to be very aware before, after and during games. It is the same with investment: you need to read quite a lot, before, during and even after you invest.”

“You need to be very disciplined (when investing), which is the hardest thing for many people. Tennis is quite the same. You can’t stop practising and you have to be careful not to practise too much — you must have a plan. Both tennis and investment are very risky, but if you’re disciplined, you can succeed.”

“I’m very blessed to live my passion”

Gael has been playing professionally for 17 years and has managed to stay on top for nearly his entire career, continuously ranked as one of the 20 best players in the world. “It’s pretty natural, to be honest,” he says with a smile. “I love my sport, I love what I do. I’m very blessed to live my passion. I am blessed to succeed in what I dreamed of when I was young. I guess that when the day comes when I don’t feel like waking up for practice, when I lose my discipline, I think that will be the end of being a professional tennis player. But I feel that I’m far from that. I definitely want to reach 600 wins before my career is over,” he concludes.