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By Julien Pretot
PARIS, May 27 (Reuters) - Wild card Gael Monfils confirmed there is never a dull moment when he takes part in the French Open by upsetting Czech fifth seed Tomas Berdych in a first-round marathon at Roland Garros on Monday.
The Frenchman, whose career has been recently plagued by a knee injury, prevailed 7-6 6-4 6-7 6-7 7-5 in front of an ecstatic Court Philippe Chatrier after four hours three minutes.
The result marked a spectacular reverse in fortune for Berdych, who reached the Madrid Masters last four by beating world number one Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals.
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 into the night, until almost 10 o’clock 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, it was Andy Roddick who lost his temper, complaining to the umpire that it was too dark to play and, after both were forced to continue playing, Monfils sealed a fourth-round win in straight sets as dusk settled.
On Monday Monfils did not wait for the dark.
“It’s magical here, it’s a place where I feel good, where I manage to transcend myself,” Monfils, who saw off four break points in the decider, told a news conference.
Asked how he pulled it off, the Frenchman said: ”My only answer is I worked. I worked. And I believed in myself.
“I have gone through very difficult moments, so necessarily, you know, you get tougher.”
Berdych barely offered an explanation for his performance.
“If you’re asking for (what made) the difference, then I think that, well, I had one chance in the fifth set,” he said.
“I didn’t make it. He made one, so he made it. That’s absolutely what was the difference between us today.”
The result capped a good day for Frenchmen as Richard Gasquet, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Julien Benneteau also advanced into the second round.
Seventh seed Gasquet produced a classy performance to dismiss Ukraine’s Sergiy Stakhovsky 6-1 6-4 6-3, while Tsonga, the sixth seed, made light work of Slovenian Aljaz Bedene 6-2 6-2 6-3.
Benneteau, the 30th seed, survived a minor scare to see off Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis 7-6 6-3 5-7 7-6. (Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by John Mehaffey)