Swiss players Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka both eased into the last 16 of the Men's Singles Draw at the French Open on Friday as hopes grew of seeing a first home winner of the men's singles title in 32 years.
Second-seeded Federer, whose sole title win in Paris came in 2009, reached the fourth round for the 11th straight year with a straightforward 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 win over Bosnian Damir Dzumhur.
That set up a blockbuster fourth-round match against Frenchman Gael Monfils, who came back from two sets to one and down 1-4 in the fourth set to defeat Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay 4-6, 7-6 (7/1), 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 in a late-finishing thriller.
By that time, already set in the same quarter of the draw at the round-of-16 stage was another Franco-Swiss encounter, between Wawrinka and Gilles Simon. Former Australian Open champion Wawrinka blasted past American Steve Johnson, while Simon saw off a tough challenge from fellow Frenchman Nicolas Mahut 6-2, 6-7 (6/8), 6-7 (6/8), 6-3, 6-1.
The French will be out for some semblance of revenge on Federer and Wawrinka who combined to inflict a painful defeat on France in the Davis Cup final in Lille last November. Talking of Monfils, Federer said: "He's played me tough throughout my career, I thought. Especially the last four, five years now. He's been tougher for me to play against. We have played against each other here (Roland Garros) on a few occasions as well. Semis, quarters, some of my big years here. So clearly I'd love to play against him."
Earlier in the day, Richard Gasquet became the seventh French player into the third round of the tournament, stirring hopes of a realistic home title challenge this year. That number equalled the second best showing for French players at the last 32 stage in Paris in the Open-era (since 1968), beaten only by the eight men who made it that far in 1971.
Gasquet, a former Wimbledon semi-finalist and world top-ten player, finally saw off the challenge of Argentine claycourter Carlos Berlocq 3-6, 6-3, 6-1, 4-6, 6-1 after the match had been suspended overnight at two sets all. His reward is a third-round tie against South African Kevin Anderson."Yeah, we are a lot in the third round. I saw maybe six or seven. It's a lot," Gasquet said of the French charge. "It's not the record. The record was eight. So, yeah, it's very good for French tennis. It's a good start for us. But I think we can go farther in the draw."
France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga celebrates after defeating Spain's Pablo Andujar during the men's singles third round at the 2015 French Open in Paris. (AFP Photo)
Also through to the third round in the top half of the draw is Jeremy Chardy, who takes on Belgium's David Goffin on Saturday, while five other French hopes were in action in the bottom half of the draw on Friday.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, a semi-finalist in 2013, comfortably went through with a 7-6 (7/3), 6-4, 6-3 win over Pablo Andujar of Spain on a cold and overcast Philippe Chatrier centre court.
"The conditions were difficult, but I was very pleased with my level of play," he said. "For the moment it could not be better for me. I have yet to lose a set."
But Benoit Paire failed to make it four French into the last 16 in the bottom half of the draw when he lost 6-1, 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 6-4 to fourth seed Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic. Berdych and Tsonga will play each other in the last 16.
The last home winner of the men's singles at the French Open, and of any Grand Slam tournament, was Yannick Noah in 1983 with Henri Leconte the last to reach the final in 1988 where he lost to Mats Wilander. Since then, Leconte in 1992, Cedric Pioline (1998), Sebastien Grosjean (2001), Monfils (2008) and Tsonga (2013) all fell at the semi-final stage.
Also into the last 16 in Paris -- for the second time in his career - was Georgian-born Russian Teymuraz Gabashvili who was too good for Czech player Lukas Rosol, winning 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. He will next play Japanese fifth seed Kei Nishikori, who moved through when third round opponent Benjamin Becker withdrew from the tournament with a shoulder injury.