Gael Monfils is “praying” he does not face fellow Frenchman Jo-Wilfred Tsonga when he retires from tennis at Roland Garros.
Monfils and Tsonga, along with Gilles Simon and Richard Gasquet, have largely carried men’s French tennis for the last 15 years.
Tsonga, 36, is the first of the quartet to announce that he will be calling time on his career.
Tsonga and Monfils have met eight times on the ATP Tour, with their last meeting coming in 2018.
“I’ve been wondering about playing Jo at Roland Garros,” Monfils told Radio France Internationale after announcing his withdrawal from this week’s Monte Carlo Masters due to a foot injury.
“Honestly, I’d have a really hard time playing Jo. I’m praying that it doesn’t happen.
“Jo, since he was very young, has always been the driving force, the big brother, even if we are only one year apart.
“I have never been so happy as when I was selected for the French Davis Cup team: I had the chance to play with Jo and for me it was exceptional.
“In training at the national sport institute, he was the only one who was allowed to wear his cap backwards, he was the strongest guy. You are 14-years-old and you want to be Jo Tsonga.”
The head-to-head record between Tsonga and Monfils stands at 4-4 after their most recent meeting in Antwerp.
Monfils says he put his foot injury to the test during a session with Tsonga ahead of Monte Carlo.
“I said to myself: ‘I don’t care, I’m training with him because these are his last training sessions. These will be the last moments when we are still players together even if we are friends for life.
“As a fan I want to see him play a little bit more because these last years have been harder for him physically. These last years do not represent the great player he is.”
Former world No. 5 Tsonga, who has won 18 singles titles, has said he is retiring from tennis as his body cannot continue to compete at the highest level.
He was beaten 6-2 6-2 in his opening match in Monte Carlo this week by Marin Cilic.
Monfils made the Australian Open quarter-finals earlier this year, losing to Matteo Berrettini in five sets, and is ranked No. 21 in the world.
He says he jokes with Simon, 37, and Gasquet, 35, about retirement, but is still planning to continue for a few more years.
“We talk about retiring openly. We joke about it. One of them will say to me: ‘You’re not making any progress, what are you doing here?’ “But at the end of the day, we all love tennis. Letting go is not easy.
“But retirement is coming … I’m the only one for whom it’s a bit different. I’m younger physically so they know that if everything goes well, I will be the last to say goodbye.
“I plan to push on until I’m 40 if my body allows it … I’ve got four more years of giving the youngsters a hard time!”
Stan Wawrinka bowed out in the first round of the Monte Carlo Masters while Jannik Sinner and Diego Schwartzman both advanced in three sets.
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic plays his opening match against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina on Tuesday.
“I still feel motivated to be on the Tour and compete with young guys and try to challenge the best players in the world for the biggest titles,” said Djokovic.
“I’m very pleased to be here and Monaco has been home for over ten years. I have been eagerly waiting for the moment when I will be out competing again, so this is the best place where I could possibly start.”