Gael Monfils has a flair for the dramatic, and the last French contender in the men's singles certainly provided plenty of excitement in a charged-up 6-4, 2-6, 7-5, 1-6, 8-6 win over Spanish seventh seed David Ferrer on Monday.
Monfils needed four match points to close the match out, but even though the Spaniard is known as one of the toughest men on tour, the 24-year-old out-gutted him when it mattered most.
He fought off a break point in the 13th game of the final set and after flubbing his first two match points with nervous ground strokes and watching Ferrer nail a flying down-the-line forehand winner on the third, Monfils played a brilliant final game and took the match with sliding forehand winner. The Parisian went wild, as did the sell-out crowd on Suzanne Lenglen.
"It's one of my best matches of my career," Monfils said. "Every time I have a tough fight here and I play five-setters here."
The match was suspended for darkness after three hours on Sunday with Monfils leading 6-4, 2-6, 7-5, 0-2. He had twisted his ankle in the final game but, after a rocky fourth set where he was not moving comfortably at all, he recovered nicely in the fifth.
Ferrer, who was attempting to reach his first Roland Garros semi-final, said that failing to convert the break point at 6-6 in the decider was crucial in the outcome of the match. "Maybe a bit of a stress and anxiety," said Ferrer. "I had three forehands that were off the court and also I was not perhaps focusing enough. I had this break point which unfortunately I couldn't control. I wanted to win this point, but I didn't do it."
Monfils had spent two months battling a wrist injury in the winter and early spring, but has been a force at Roland Garros almost regardless of his condition. He seems to have set up residence at Suzanne Lenglen court where he has pulled off some monumental victories.
"I don't know if it's my favourite court - I like them both - Chatrier and Lenglen," he said. "But whatever the time, whatever the court, whenever I'm in Roland, I love playing."
Big test to come
Monfils will face no.3 Roger Federer in the quarter-finals on Tuesday, to whom he lost in the semi-finals in 2008 and in the quarter-finals in 2009. While he knows that he has a huge task ahead, Monfils did score a win over the Swiss great last autumn in Bercy.
"It's a different match altogether," he said. "People don't talk about Roger a lot, but he's had very easy wins against all his opponents since the beginning of this tournament. So it's going to be a very difficult match, even more difficult than the ones I played in the past.
"It does matter for me, knowing I managed to beat him here in [Bercy]. It's going to be favourable because it's going to help me relax more. This is something I knew in the past, but I also thought he played better than I did. I was also younger in my head, so it's going to be a bit different this time."