Frenchman Gael Monfils shocked world number six Tomas Berdych 7-6 6-4 6-7 6-7 7-5 in a riveting first round encounter which lasted over four hours.

A semifinalist here in 2008, the local favourite started the proceedings ominously, clinching a tight first set 7-6 and opened up a two sets lead by taking the second 6-4.

With Berdych staring at a tall mountain to climb, the Czech staged a strong comeback, winning the next two sets on tiebreaks, but ended up short of crossing the finish line, as Monfils kept his cool in the decider, breaking Berdych in the penultimate game before sealing the contest with a comfortable hold to 15.

Monfils missed the last year’s French Open due to a knee injury, which sidelined him for most of the season.

However, the 26-year-old has made an impressive comeback recently, lifting the ATP Challenger Tour title in Bordeaux and finishing runner up in the Open de Nice Cote d’Azur last week. It has allowed him to break into the Top 100 of the ATP rankings.

Speaking to reporters after the match, Monfils revealed his delight on once again being able to compete at the highest level, but was at the same time keeping his feet on the ground and turned his focus towards his next assignment.

He told reporters: “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. 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."

Meanwhile, Berdych, who squandered four break points in the final set, was left ruing his chances, but nonetheless lavished praise on his opponent.

The Czech assessed: “I had one chance in the fifth set. I didn't make it. 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 faces another potential teaser against Ernest Gulbis in the second round, who himself made a notable return to professional circuitry.

 

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