By Martyn Herman
PARIS May 28 Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli did her best to lift the gloom hanging over a rainy Roland Garros on Tuesday after putting herself and the shivering home fans through agonies in a three-hour victory over Olga Govortsova.
The 13th seed scraped into the second round, clinching a 7-6(8) 4-6 7-5 win on her fifth match point after producing groans from the Chatrier crowd when she double-faulted on her first.
On a day when heavy rain shortened the programme, the twitchy Bartoli, full of ticks and eccentric mannerisms, could have been accused of hogging the stage as she made men's world number one Novak Djokovic wait for his grand entrance.
In the end, however, the crowd did not care as the French number one battled back from 5-3 down in the decider to move through to round two, saving two match points in the process.
"It shows that from a physical and mental perspective I've got the legs for three hours," Bartoli told reporters.
"But to be honest with you, I'd prefer to have won in two straight sets in an hour, but my opponent puts me on my back foot over such a long match.
"And to show at the end of the day that I managed to ramp up a gear and to show that I wasn't tired at all, that's very encouraging for the rest of the season."
Bartoli's victory actually took most of the afternoon because after a rain-delayed start she moved a set and a break ahead before being forced off by yet more showers.
Having started at lunchtime, it was around 1830 local time when Bartoli finally left the stage.
There was no doubting the entertainment value, though.
Going through her full repertoire of baseline shadow boxing in between points, swishing her racket at an invisible ball, Bartoli cuts a comical figure at times.
Occasionally she glared towards her father and coach Walter, whom she banished from the crowd during one of her Wimbledon matches in 2011, at other times she punched the air.
All the expended energy looked to have been futile when Belarussian Govortsova began pinning Bartoli into the corners with some heavy hitting, usually accompanied by loud moans and grunts.
At 5-3, 40-15 Govortsova was poised for victory but a nervy forehand into the net offered Bartoli a lifeline and she saved a second match point with a thumping winner.
Having broken her opponent to lead 6-5 she then took 10 minutes to hold serve, finally edging through when Govortsova framed a service return into the tramlines. (Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)