French Open: Gael Monfils survives first-set epic against Tomas Berdych
Last Updated: 28/05/13 1:44pm
Gael Monfils: Needed more than four hours to reach the second round at Roland Garros
Gael Monfils made a memorable return to the French Open with a marathon first-round win over fifth seed Tomas Berdych.
The Frenchman, who missed his home Grand Slam last year with a knee injury, prevailed 7-6 (10-8) 6-4 6-7 (3-7) 6-7 (4-7) 7-5 after four hours and three minutes.
Monfils, ranked 81st in the world, had Court Phillipe Chatrier in raptures as he came good in the decider after squandering a two-set lead, wrapping up a gruelling victory on his fourth match point.
His reward for the win, sealed when a Berdych backhand dropped long, is a clash with Latvia's Ernests Gulbis.
Monfils reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros in 2008.
"There was the adrenaline and the match and the crowd, but I didn't think I would do this well," said Monfils.
"It was a match up there in my top five."
Former world number seven Monfils, who started his freefall in the ATP rankings when he pulled out of last year's French Open, is no stranger to upsets and prolonged ties at his home slam.
In 2010, the Parisian played until almost 10pm against Italian Fabio Fognini in a second-round match which he lost the following day after more than four hours of tennis.
Two years ago, Monfils toyed with David Ferrer's nerves and beat him 8-6 in the fifth set to reach the last eight. In 2009, Andy Roddick lost his temper, complaining to the umpire that it was too dark, after both were forced to continue playing, with Monfils sealing a fourth-round win in straight sets.
Monfils, who survived four break points in the decider, added: "It's magical here, it's a place where I feel good, where I manage to transcend myself."