Over the course of his 53 matches covering nearly two decades at Roland-Garros, Gael Monfils has already played for a spot in a major final, in 2008. He’s also faced Roger Federer here (four times, actually), Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray – and Roddick – and enthralled countless fans, French and international alike.
Monfils forced to withdraw following 'gutsy' match
The 36-year-old pulls out of RG2023 with a wrist injury, calling his first-round triumph his top win at Roland-Garros
But unfortunately for Monfils and his legions of fans, there will be no more matches for the 36-year-old at Roland-Garros 2023.
While he had recovered well from the physical effort of Tuesday's extraordinary three hour 47 minute first-round rollercoaster, the flare-up of an injury to his left wrist has left him unable to continue.
"Physically, I'm quite fine," he said on Wednesday night. "I was quite happy this morning. I woke up quite good. But I had the problem with my wrist that I cannot solve.
"The doctor says it was not good to play with that type of injury. Yesterday was actually very risky, and then today definitely [he] say I should stop."
But that come-from-behind triumph in the first round on Tuesday night will long stay in the minds of tennis fans. It is unlike any match he’s played in Paris, Monfils said, a special kind of internal fire creating the most memorable of Grand Slam moments.
“It's definitely in the top two [here],” he said after the match, remembering a similar encounter in the third round in 2015 against Pablo Cuevas. “This one was another flavour: I'm older, and [had] even less chance to win this match today.”
He added, on second thoughts: “Yeah, top two, top one.”
A Monfilsian comeback on court
Monfils’ masterful fightback on Tuesday night was something never quite seen before, particularly in the still-fresh time slot of the evening session on Court Philippe-Chatrier.
Trailing Baez 0-4 and by two breaks of serve in the fifth set, the 36-year-old French veteran dug his heels deep into the familiar Chatrier clay. And wouldn’t budge.
“What I did was very gutsy, from my guts,” Monfils said of his 38th win at this event, where he debuted in 2005. “I thought, ‘Oh, hell no... I don't want to have a love-six [fifth set].”
“I was dead,” he said. “I couldn’t do anything.”
Yet as he began to turn the tide, Chatrier became not just his home court but his own personal cheering section, thousands strong. Horns blared, “Allez Gael!” rang out, the national anthem was sung.
“It's one of my best matches, the best sports moment I could experience,” he said. “I loved it. I didn't expect this at all.”
At one point in the fifth, “I didn't even know where I was,” he admitted.