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Mathieu Goes The Distance To Beat Isner

Paris, France

Mathieu© AFP/Getty ImagesPaul-Henri Mathieu celebrates his win over John Isner.

Two years on from John Isner's marathon win over Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon, a different Frenchman - Paul-Henri Mathieu - outlasted the American 6-7(2), 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 18-16 Thursday to reach the Roland Garros third round.

"I remember Mahut's match, so I just couldn't believe it was over," admitted Mathieu. "I had match point. It was tough. Every time I needed to concentrate and focus again on my serve, so when the match was over, I had trouble realising it was really over."

Mathieu put the match away on his seventh match point after five hours and 41 minutes, recording his fourth straight win in a match determined in a fifth set. He had rallied from two sets down in his first-round match against Bjorn Phau on Monday.

After losing his first two break points on serve, in the first and fourth sets, Mathieu coolly faced down two at 7-all in the fifth set. Isner also came up with crucial saves to keep his hopes alive. The World No. 11 fought off triple match point for Mathieu at 11-10, two more at 15-14 and one in the final game.

"Before I used to become very tense at the end of a match like this," said Mathieu, whose streak in five-set matches includes victories against Lleyton Hewitt and Mikhail Youzhny in 2010 at the US Open and Wimbledon. "I have more experience now. But in the fifth set I was always ahead. I was up in the scores and I was serving first so that it was an advantage."

Isner had famously won the longest match in Grand Slam history in a 70-68 fifth set. The first-round match lasted 11 hours and five minutes over a three-day stretch, with the final set alone taking more than eight hours.

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"I escaped a lot today; it could have been worse," said Isner, who saved 20 of 24 break points faced on serve. "But I just didn't get it done. I felt like I got caught in patterns that weren't ideal for me. I was hitting every return to his backhand and he was stepping up and running me around. I'm not gonna win the point when I'm running side to side."

Mathieu, 30, is making his seventh tour-level appearance after returning from a knee injury that sidelined him all of 2011. The former World No. 12 had entered Paris at No. 261 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings.

"Having the opportunity of experiencing such a thing as I did tonight, it's incredible," he said. "Playing like this on a big court like this is fantastic, especially after being injured. This is why I fought and tried to come back. It's to have those moments again."

Richard Gasquet, the No. 20 seed, advanced to the third round for the second straight year, defeating Grigor Dimitrov 5-7, 7-5, 6-2, 6-3. Gasquet won 44 per cent of his return points to break serve seven times, improving to 2-0 against Dimitrov.

The 25-year-old Frenchman will look to equal his best showing from last year when he faces German Tommy Haas. The 33 year old, who came through the qualifying rounds, dismissed Sergiy Stakhovsky 6-2, 6-3, 6-2. Haas is looking to appear in the second week of a major tournament for the first time since 2009, when he reached the Wimbledon semi-finals.

Frenchman Julien Benneteau, the No. 29 seed, joined his countrymen in the third round with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 win over Russian Dmitry Tursunov. He will next play eighth-seeded Serbian Janko Tipsarevic, who knocked out France's Jeremy Chardy 7-6(4), 6-1, 7-5.

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