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Monfils Magic! French Star Surges Past Baez In Roland Garros Epic
Gael Monfils produced a moment of magic in the early moments of Wednesday morning that fans will not soon forget.
The French star rallied from 0-4, 30/40 down in the fifth set of his first-round Roland Garros clash with Sebastian Baez to triumph 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 1-6, 7-5 at 12:18 a.m.
The former World No. 6 scrambled throughout to deal with Baez and his aggressive forehand, then battled his body deep into the fifth set, in which he struggled to walk in between points due to cramps. But the Court Philippe-Chatrier crowd propped up the 36-year-old with unrelenting support and urged him to victory after three hours and 47 minutes.
The scene after Monfils clinched the match with a backhand passing shot up the line — which bounced off the top of the net and in — is one those watching will retain for years to come. Initially he pulled his shirt over his face in disbelief, then revealed a massive smile.
After shaking hands with Baez and the chair umpire, he returned to the court and held his arms out to embrace the thousands of fans who had pushed him to fight on for the previous four hours. The Frenchman, who has long prided himself on performing for the fans, then laid down on his back and began sobbing.
Monfils faced 20 break points in the match and appeared out of gas late in the fourth set and early in the fifth. His Argentine opponent was pummeling forehand after forehand, running the home favourite all around the tournament's centre court.
But some how, some way, Monfils found the energy to make another push. Having lost all four of his previous tour-level matches this year as he returned from a right foot injury, the 36-year-old defended beautifully and won critical points to stay within touch.
Once it became a battle of wills, Monfils simply refused to capitulate, no matter what his body told him to do. The Frenchman will next play sixth seed Holger Rune, who defeated Christopher Eubanks on Tuesday.
Did You Know?
Monfils is now 11-4 in five-setters at Roland Garros. The Frenchman and Stan Wawrinka share the Open Era mark for most five-set wins at the clay-court major.
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