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Monfils Holds On To Stun Berdych; Cilic, Almagro Advance

Paris, France

Monfils© Getty ImagesGael Monfils celebrates victory over fifth seed Tomas Berdych.

French wild Gael Monfils caused the first major upset of the tournament on Monday evening as he ousted World No. 6 Tomas Berdych in the first round at Roland Garros. Monfils let slip a two-set lead and found himself locked in a five-set battle, but held his nerve to emerge a 7-6(8), 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-7(4), 7-5 winner in just over four hours.

"It's a unique moment because I have not won such matches for a long time, and I have not performed, if I can say, mentally, physically," said Monfils. "It's one of the best ones I have played here. I believed I would win during the whole match. I have gone through very difficult moments, so you get tougher.

"It's magic [here]. It's a place where I feel really good, and I can go beyond myself and play a type of tennis I wouldn't even think of. Today I knew I had to play an excellent match, a big match. It's the ability I have to always adapt and succeed.  

"I'm a fighter, a competitor, so that's my spirit. I think it's a nice victory, but it's only the first round. So now I will have to recover sufficiently. If you defeat a seeded player, it opens up things for me in the draw. But the second round will be difficult for me."

After fighting back to level at two-sets-all, the tide looked to be turning in Berdych’s favour when he held a 0/40 opportunity on Monfils’ serve in the sixth game of the deciding set. Playing fearless tennis and painting the lines, Monfils was rewarded as he scraped through, saving four break points in total to hold serve. The Frenchman then broke Berdych at 5-5 and, to the delight of the French fans on Philippe Chatrier Court, served out victory to 15. 

"I had one chance in the fifth set. I didn't make it," said Berdych. "He made one, so he made it. That's absolutely what was the difference between us today. He's playing at home and he's a great player."

Monfils goes straight from one blockbuster into another as he is due to face Latvian Ernests Gulbis in the second round. Gulbis has made his presence felt on the ATP World Tour this year. After contemplating retirement in February, the 24 year old has turned around his fortunes, winning the Delray Beach title (d. Roger-Vasselin) and contesting two highly entertaining three-set matches with Rafael Nadal in Indian Wells and Rome.

Monfils is riding a wave of form that has seen him return to the Top 100 of the Emirates ATP Rankings. The Paris native won an ATP Challenger Tour title in Bordeaux (d. Llodra) before reaching the final of the Open de Nice Côte d’Azur last week (l. to Montanes). He was forced to miss Roland Garros last year with a right knee injury that hampered him for much of the season, but achieved his best Grand Slam result in 2008 when he reached the semi-finals (l. to Federer).

The man who beat Monfils in the Nice final last week, Albert Montanes, was also a winner in five sets. The Spaniard beat American qualifier Steve Johnson 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 in two hours and 42 minutes.  

CilicMarin Cilic will look to halt the breakthrough run of 18-year-old Australian Nick Kyrgios in the second round. The 10th-seeded Cilic cruised past Philipp Petzschner 6-1, 6-2, 6-3, hitting 35 winners, while World No. 262 Kyrgios won his first tour-level match with a 7-6(4), 7-6(8), 7-6(11) victory over Radek Stepanek.

"My goal today was just to go out there and enjoy every moment and give my best effort from the first point to the last. If I won today it was a bonus," said Kyrgios.

Looking ahead to the Cilic clash, Kyrgios said, "I hit with him a couple days ago before the main draw. He's obviously an unbelievable player. He got to where he is playing world class tennis. I'll focus on what I have to do the next couple days."

Nicolas Almagro, a three-time quarter-finalist at Roland Garros, overcame a slow start to defeat Austrian Andreas Haider-Maurer 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 in two hours and 15 minutes. The 11th-seeded Spaniard set a second-round clash with France’s Edouard Roger-Vasselin, who defeated Martin Alund of Argentina 6-2, 4-6, 6-1, 6-0.

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