Tsonga keeps cool as Mahut sizzles at French Open
Nicolas Mahut entertained with a swashbuckling performance, Nicolas Devilder got the crowd behind him, Gilles Simon battled for almost five hours but, on day six, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was the only one of four Frenchmen to reach the Roland Garros last 16.sports Updated: Jun 02, 2012 10:47 IST
Nicolas Mahut entertained with a swashbuckling performance, Nicolas Devilder got the crowd behind him, Gilles Simon battled for almost five hours but, on day six, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was the only one of four Frenchmen to reach the Roland Garros last 16.
Mahut had already declared he had "very few chances" of beating Roger Federer in Friday's third-round showdown but that did not stop the 30-year-old from producing a type of crowd-pleasing tennis that is becoming a rarity on the world stage.
He served and volleyed with abandon, rushed to the net 53 times and snatched a set from the 16-times grand-slam champion, but his hopes gradually vanished as dusk crept across Court Philippe Chatrier.
The wiry grasscourt specialist left the court a 6-3 4-6 6-2 7-5 loser but with his head held high.
"It was a contest," Mahut told a news conference.
"I had said that to beat him I would need to play the match of my career and he had to play an average match. Well, he played an average match but I came up a bit short.
"I have the satisfaction of thinking I am the one who made him play average. I have no regrets."
Mahut was joined in defeat by Simon as the 11th seed lost focus against another Swiss, Stanislas Wawrinka, to slump to a 7-5 6-7 6-7 6-3 6-2 loss against the 18th seed.
Unsurprisingly, qualifier Devilder was no match for world number one Novak Djokovic, suffering a 6-1 6-2 6-2 drubbing on Court Suzanne Lenglen but winning huge sympathy from the crowd.
Equally expected was Tsonga's victory against flamboyant Italian Fabio Fognini, although the fifth seed had to stay focused throughout and not let himself be distracted by his rival's antics to prevail 7-5 6-4 6-4.
There could be, however, yet be four Frenchmen in the fourth round if all goes according to plan on Saturday.
Richard Gasquet, the 17th seed, will be up against German veteran Tommy Haas, while Julien Benneteau, seeded 29th, will be second on Court Philippe Chatrier against Serbian eighth seed Janko Tipsarevic.
Paul-Henri Mathieu, who beat John Isner in a 76-game thriller in the previous round as he continued his comeback from a 15-month injury layoff, is due on Court One against claycourt specialist Marcel Granollers.
For the fourth time in five years, no Frenchwoman will be in the fourth round after Mathilde Johansson was beaten in straight sets by American teenager Sloane Stephens.