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Frenchman posts 5-set win, joins fans' wave
By TIMES WIRES
Published June 2, 2006
PARIS - Gael Monfils hopped out of his changeover chair and stood with his back to the stands, raising his arms to join the French Open fans - his fans - as they did the wave.
At age 19, Monfils is giving locals hope of a long-awaited homegrown champion, and he was part of a pack of youngsters who brought some exuberance to another dreary, rainy day at Roland Garros.
Facing the oldest man in the field, 35-year-old Dick Norman, Monfils overcame a 2-1 deficit in sets for the second consecutive match and won 4-6, 6-3, 6-7 (4-7), 6-0, 7-5 Thursday to reach the third round, equaling his best Grand Slam showing.
"This is the kind of match that happens just a few times in a career," Monfils had the wherewithal to recognize.
Another 19-year-old, Novak Djokovic of Serbia-Montenegro, pulled off the day's biggest upset, eliminating No. 9 Fernando Gonzalez 6-4, 6-1, 3-6, 4-6, 6-1.
Gonzalez said he had never faced an opponent who maintained his intensity so consistently for so long. "He was all over me. I've never seen anything like it."
Two other, more modest, surprises came when qualifier Martin Vassallo Arguello beat No. 21 Sebastien Grosjean 1-6, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2, and Julien Benneteau defeated No. 19 Marcos Baghdatis 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-7 (1-7), 6-4.
Baghdatis, who entered the day 6-0 in five-setters, reached the Australian Open final in January.
A rain delay of nearly two hours caused a backlog of matches. Play between No. 8 James Blake of Tampa - one of only two U.S. men left - and Nicolas Almagro was halted with light fading and the temperature in the low 50s after the Spaniard won the first set 7-6 (7-5).
That was one of five singles matches suspended in progress. Five others were postponed, including defending champion Rafael Nadal vs. American Kevin Kim, and matches involving No. 2 Kim Clijsters and five-time major champion Martina Hingis. Martina Navratilova, competing in doubles at age 49, had her first-round match pushed back a second straight day.
Among those who did play, and won: Justine Henin-Hardenne and Anastasia Myskina, winners of the past three women's titles in Paris. Two-time major champion Lleyton Hewitt and No. 4 Ivan Ljubicic also advanced.
Mario Ancic and Paul Capdeville were fined $3,000 each for their shoving spat after No. 12-seeded Ancic won in the second round Wednesday. The players had to be separated by the chair umpire.
Capdeville complained about several rulings and was talking to the chair umpire as the players approached the net to shake hands. Ancic told Capdeville to drop it. Capdeville said he thought Ancic lunged at him, so he shoved Ancic.