Every Slam has its lurking former-top-player-back-from-injury darkhorse ready to do damage, and on Monday at Roland Garros it was France’s own Gael Monfils.
Needing a wildcard to get into the event, the former Top 10er took a 2-0 sets lead on No. 5 seed Tomas Berdych, then held on to defeat the Czech 7-5 in the fifth set.
“I always say they give me wings,” Monfils said of the French crowd and his histrionics during the match. “I feel like I’m flying on the court. It’s something special. I can’t really explain it…I’m a fighter, a competitor, so that’s my spirit.”
Berdych had a hot claycourt lead-up to the French, defeating world No. 1 Novak Djokovic. Monfils will next face the unpredictable Ernests Gulbis, another winner Monday.
Others on the upset tip Monday were Spaniard Daniel Gimeno-Traver toppling No. 17 Juan Monaco in five from 0-2 sets down, and Spaniard Feliciano “F-Lo” Lopez downing No. 31 Marcel Granollers 6-4 in the fifth.
Top 10 winners on the day were No. 3 Rafael Nadal from a set down over German Daniel Brands in four, and No. 6 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, No. 7 Richard Gasquet and No. 10 Marin Cilic advancing in straight sets.
“That was really tough,” Nadal said of trailing a set and 0-3 in the second set tiebreak. “He was trying to hit every ball as hard as he can. From the first ball, you know, there was not one ball I felt I had time to prepare for. The problem was he was executing that tactic really well. I am seriously happy to be through. I really haven’t seen him play a lot before. I respect everyone I play. But playing like this, I don’t know why he’s ranked where he is.”
In Gasquet’s win over Sergiy Stakhovsky, Stakhovsky grabbed his cell phone from the sideline to take a photo of what he thought was an offending line call during the match.
“He’s a funny guy, smart guy,” said Gasquet of Stakhovsky. “He’s one of the funniest on tour. I have no problem with it. He was pretty sure the ball was on the line. Maybe it’s good, maybe it’s out. I’ve had these problems too. I can understand when a guy is becoming crazy sometimes.”
Other seeded winners of note were No. 13 Kei Nishikori, No. 19 John Isner, and No. 30 Julien Benneteau over young comer Rich Berankis of Lithuania 7-6 in the fourth.
Isner will next face fellow American Ryan Harrison.
“No matter what tournament it is, if I’m playing with a lot of enthusiasm and confidence like that, normally it bodes well for me,” Isner said. “I’ve been playing well, just not really putting it together. Now I play Ryan. I would never have thought we would play one another, coming into the tournament. He had a good win in the first round and is very talented. I would probably rather not play him. It’s tough playing your good friend, especially at a Grand Slam.”
On the women’s side the Top 10 seeds in action advanced in typical straight-set WTA fashion, but some of the lower seeds had some issues against opponents established and surprising.
Moving into the second round in straight sets were No. 2 Maria Sharapova, No. 4 Aggie Radwanska, No. 6 Li Na putting down a stern test from Spaniard Anabel “Funky Cold” Medina Garrigues, No. 8 Angie Kerber, and No. 10 Caroline Wozniacki downing Brit upstart Laura Robson.
“My confidence has always been good,” said Wozniacki, who broke a five-match losing streak. “Experience means a lot. I have been on the tour a very long time and played a lot of matches. I know how to play my best but sometimes it’s not as easy to execute as it is in my head. Laura is a great girl. I’m just glad to be through and feeling like I’m in the tournament.”
Sharapova retired in her most recent match in Rome with illness.
“I was just happy that I was able to finish the match,” Sharapova said. “The last few days and the last week has been really nice just to be able to recharge again and get back out there today.”
Orchestrating upsets were former No. 2 and French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, remembering she is a former champ in dispatching of No. 22 Ekaterina Makarova 6-4, 6-2. Joining in the fun were Slovak qualifier Zuzana Kucova upending No. 24 Julia “Gorgeous” Goerges 7-6(8), 6-0, and oppressed American women’s tennis savior Melanie Oudin sending No. 28 Tamira Paszek to the exit 6-4, 6-3.
Others of note into the second round were former champ Francesca Schiavone, American banger Madison Keys, crafty American veteran Bethanie Mattek-Sands, and Canadian riser Eugenie Bouchard.
Matches to watch for on Tuesday include upset alerts Olga Govortsova vs. the incredibly slumping No. 13 Marion Bartoli, world No. 1 Novak Djokovic coming off a loss in his last tournament match vs. David “The Boffin” Goffin, Russian backboard Elena Vesnina vs. No. 3 Victoria Azarenka, No. 7 Petra Kvitova vs. inspired Frenchwoman Aravane Rezai, the ageless Kimiko Date-Krumm vs. ready-to-clutch-up No. 9 Sam Stosur, No. 18 Jelena Jankovic vs. veteran Daniela Hantuchova, No. 23 Klara Zakopalova vs. upset specialist Kaia Kanepi, No. 29 Mikhail Youzhny vs. Spanish grinder Pablo Andujar, and men’s grinder and No. 22 seed Alexandr Dolgopolov vs. shotmaker Dmitry Tursunov.
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