Photo: Paul ZimmerPaul-Henri Mathieu (FRA)
DAY 5: Paul-Henri Mathieu downed 10th seed John Isner in a dramatic encounter on Court Philippe Chatrier on Thursday at Roland Garros to progress to the third round winning 67(2) 64 64 36 1816.
Having lost the opening set Mathieu, still recovering from surgery in March 2011 which saw his shinbones broken to repair a knee problem, bounced back to win the next two only to see the American draw back level and send the match into a deciding set.
The plight of Mathieu was made even harder by an injury he incurred just four days before the start of the tournament in which he broke his toe when he stubbed it against a bench.
With the parallels to Isner’s 2010 Wimbledon encounter with Nicholas Mahut, a close friend of Mathieu, obvious to all the pair traded holds of serve throughout the fifth set until the world No.11 began to look fatigued and offer up chances.
“I asked Nicolas for some advice,” the French world no.261 joked later. “I asked him where did he serve on break points, and he said, ‘He serves everywhere.’”
Serving second the American was forced to fight off three match points to hold from 0-40 with the score at 10-11, and saved a further three match points before finally succumbing in 5 hours 41 minutes – the longest ever match on Philippe Chatrier and second longest in Roland Garros history.
“We played for more than five hours, and I thought it was not going to finish,” said Mathieu. “I used to become very tense at the end of a match like this. I have more experience now. But in the fifth set I was always ahead. I was up in the scores and I was serving first so that it was an advantage.”
Isner hit over 100 winners in the match and 41 aces but was still not happy with the way in which he played during the match.
“I never felt comfortable. It's been like that since I've been in Europe, really. Bit of a, I don't know, slump, I guess you could say… I'm going to go home. I don't even want to think about tennis right now. “
There were also wins on Thursday for Andy Murray, who recovered from a back injury and losing the first set to Finn Jarkko Nieminen to come through, as well as Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Janko Tipsarevic.
The other seeds alongside Isner to fall were Viktor Troicki who was defeated by Fabio Fognini 62 36 46 63 86, Bernard Tomic crashed out in straight sets to Santiago Giraldo, and Germans Philipp Kohlschreiber and Florian Mayer also saw their hopes ended.
Jelena Jankovic and Maria Kirilenko were the most high profile names to exit the women’s draw while Caroline Wozniacki, Petra Kvitova and defending champion Li Na were amongst those to progress.
Follow all action from Paris on the official tournament website: RolandGarros.com