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Monfils blinks first as Fognini wins Parisian shootout

PARIS (Reuters) - Fabio Fognini claimed the best win of his career on Thursday after Gael Monfils blinked first in their shoot-out of a French Open match, which had been halted in the Parisian dusk the night before amid astonishing scenes.

Fabio Fognini of Italy reacts after winning his match against Gael Monfils of France during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris May 27, 2010. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

The Italian clinched a 2-6 4-6 7-5 6-4 9-7 win to conclude a four hour 16 minute gunfight after the bad-tempered match was halted just before 2200 local time on Wednesday with the fifth set poised at 5-5.

Both had argued with officials at 4-4 the previous night about the darkness that cloaked Court Philippe Chatrier, Fognini eventually being docked a time penalty point.

Monfils, seeded 13th, saved three match points before umpire called it a day, sending the match into extra-time on Thursday when another 31 minutes of play saw the Italian reach the third round for the first time.

“At 5-4, I was knackered, I just wanted to go home, but I like to play,” Monfils told reporters.

The ill-feeling resurfaced before the first point on Thursday when Fognini, who was booed by the partisan crowd when he entered the court, fired a shot into Monfils’s feet as the Frenchman was on his way to practice at the net.

Monfils, usually up for a good show, looked at his opponent a surprised look on his face. When his opponent hit a routine shot shortly afterwards, Monfils let the ball hit his chest and again stared at Fognini as atmosphere simmered in the warm-up.

Asked whether there was tension between them, Fognini said: “No, not with Gael. I know Gael very well. We’ve known each other since the juniors. We know each other very well, and there was a bit of clash with the crowd, but that’s normal.”

The Frenchman, who reached the quarter-finals in Paris last year and the last four in 2008, had two break points on Fognini’s serve in the final act but the Italian, mixing his game with cunning drop shots, saw them off, sticking out his chest at the change of ends.

He got the last word, however, on his first match point of the day when Monfils’s forehand sailed long.

“I lost, that’s all. I am disappointed, I lost, and voilà,” said Monfils.

“But I like Fabio. I have nothing to say (about his behaviour). Every athlete behaves like he wants. He beat me fair and square.”

At the end of the day, it was a match to remember.

“Yes, I think so. It’s a great match. Look at the score.

It’s an incredible match,” said Fognini.

“The first time I’ve won such a match with such a crowd on the grand court.”

Editing by Miles Evans; To query or comment on this story email