An exhausted Gael Monfils said his epic five-set comeback victory over Sebastian Baez at the French Open on Tuesday was one of the greatest matches of his career.
The 36-year-old Frenchman was one point away from going 5-0 down in the deciding set of the near four-hour match before mounting a sensational comeback to win 3-6 6-3 7-5 1-6 7-5 under the lights at Court Philippe Chatrier.
Monfils, who reached a career-high sixth in the world in 2016, last appeared at a Grand Slam in the 2022 Australian Open quarter-finals before missing much of last season due to heel surgery.
He said Tuesday’s match would live long in the memory.
“It’s definitely in like top two (matches in my career),” Monfils said at his press conference after the match ended after midnight.
“Of course this one is another flavour. I’m older and (had) even less chances to win this match today. Top two, top one. It was a great atmosphere tonight.”
Monfils, who lost in the second round in 2021 and is now ranked number 394, was visibly cramping at the end of the match and credited the Paris crowd for inspiring him to a victory that earned a second-round encounter with sixth seed Holger Rune.
“I’m playing full adrenaline, like honestly I asked the crowd to scream and somehow I juice up,” he added. “I know on one hand I will pay and I had to hold it at the end.
“But I hope to have a good night today and tomorrow, heavy recovery. No matter what, I will be ready for him on Thursday.”
He said it had been difficult getting back into court shape after the long recovery from his injury and that it took time to shake off any unease about the pain.
“At a certain age it’s a bit tough when you start again, when you’re back on the courts,” added Monfils, a semi-finalist at Roland Garros in 2008.
“Last week in Lyon was really good for me. Even though I was defeated, I could run. I could run without this apprehension.”
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