The 36-year-old made his partisan French crowd proud during the night-session show on Court Philippe-Chatrier. The veteran met Sebastian Baez in the Roland Larros first round and performed a 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 1-6, 7-5 victory in three hours and 47 minutes!
Gael gave everything to beat the rival and cramps, bouncing back from 4-0, 40-30 down in the decider to emerge at the top and celebrate one of his most emotional wins in a career! Ranked 394th, Monfils produced some of his old magic in front of an incredible crowd and earned his first triumph since August last year!
Gael injured his foot in Montreal last year and missed seven months. As was expected, he made slow progress once he returned in March, heading to Roland Garros with a 0-4 score on the ATP level! Monfils changed that in style at Roland Garros, refusing to surrender and celebrating an epic victory at 12:19 am.
Gael was on the verge of defeat thanks to his shaky second serve, facing 20 break points and losing serve nine times. Baez also grabbed nine breaks, opening a massive advantage in the decider but failing to endure the pressure from the other side and the stands.
Instead of moving 5-0 up and toward the victory, the Argentine dropped seven of the final eight games to experience a blow and hit the exit door. Gael sprayed 70 unforced errors, but they came before that fifth set's fifth game.
The Frenchman made an incredible comeback and controlled the pace in the rest of the duel, playing aggressive tennis and moving over the top with a lucky net cord winner. Sebastian won more points and had the upper hand in the mid-range and most extended rallies.
However, he needed more power in the closing stages, waiting for Gael's mistakes and not receiving them. They traded breaks in the middle of the opener, and Baez secured another in the eighth game after Monfils' loose forehand.
The Argentine held at love at 5-3 after the Frenchman's forehand mistake to wrap up the opener in 36 minutes.
Gael Monfils defeated Sebastian Baez in the Roland Garros thriller!
Both players got broken at love in the second set's games six and seven, and Gael earned another return game for 5-3.
The crowd favorite held at 30 in the ninth game to clinch the set and gain a boost. Monfils grabbed an early break in the third set and kept the advantage until game eight, when he landed a wild forehand to experience a break at love.
The home hero faced three set points at 4-5, denied them with powerful serves and took five straight points for an escape. Gael took charge and fired a backhand winner in game 11 for a break at love and a 6-5 lead. The Frenchman saved two set points while serving in the 12th game and held with a service winner to move two sets to one in front after two hours and 22 minutes!
Baez made a fresh start in the fourth set, barely losing a point behind the initial shot and delivering two breaks. The Argentine opened a 5-1 lead after the rival's terrible backhand and wrapped up the set on his serve in the next one, forcing a decider and becoming the favorite.
Monfils had nothing more left in the tank, losing serve two times in the fifth set and trailing 4-0, 40-30! The veteran made one last push and forced the rival's mistake to avoid a complete disaster and guaranteed defeat!
Instead, Gael raised his level and held with a backhand winner at the net. The crowd stood by their hero, who pulled one break back at love in game six for 2-4. Monfils held at love in game seven and locked the result at 4-4 after Baez's wayward forehand that would cost him dearly.
Suddenly, Sebastian broke at love in game nine and served for the victory. Struggling physically, Gael made one last push at 4-5 and cracked a forehand winner to secure a break at 15 and prolong the battle! The Frenchman held at 15 in game 11 with a backhand down the line winner, giving everything and asking for more energy from the spectators.
Baez served to stay in the match and squandered a game point. Monfils earned two match points and seized the second with a backhand down the line winner after a lucky net cord to celebrate his 526th and one of the most cherished ATP wins.
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