An entertainer at heart, Monfils pounded his chest with his right fist repeatedly and, after hugging opponent Diego Schwartzman at the net, used his right shoe to etch a sketch of a smiley face on the
Needless to say, his adoring public loved that, too.
Since 1983, when Yannick Noah became the most recent man from France to win the championship at Roland Garros, the locals have not had a whole lot to cheer about at their Grand Slam tennis tournament. So mark Wednesday as a rare bright light along the way: All five of the host country's men in action advanced to the third round, including three who were seeded — No. 12
"Everybody," Tsonga said, "remembers Yannick's victory."
Monfils trailed Argentina's Schwartzman two sets to one, before coming back and improving to 14-10 in five-setters with a 4-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 win filled with loud cheers between points.
"Actually, today I won because I had the crowd behind me," Monfils said. "They give me, let's say, some wings."
The 5-foot-7 Schwartzman, who is nine inches shorter than Monfils, noticed the fans' effect, saying: "He always uses the people [to his advantage], in all his matches."
While some French players through the years have found the expectations of their countrymen too much to bear during these two weeks — Amelie Mauresmo comes to mind — Monfils and Tsonga occasionally thrive in the setting.
Both men have reached the semifinals in Paris — Monfils in 2008, and Tsonga in 2013. And both say they find the attention from the crowds more help than hindrance.
"For me," Tsonga said, "it's something positive."
What, he was asked, might the reaction in France be if someone could end its 32-year wait for a men's French Open title?
"First of all, I would be interested in winning! What would happen next? I don't really know. I have absolutely no idea. The fans are happy when we win a first-round match," a grinning Tsonga replied, enjoying his own one-liner, "so I guess winning the tournament would be something extraordinary for a country like ours."
"If everything goes fine," Simon said, "I feel capable of doing great things."
He'll next face the 116th-ranked Mahut, best known for losing the longest match in tennis history to
The only seeded Frenchwoman, No. 29