PARIS -- Argentine qualifier Facundo Bagnis came through with the first marathon win at the French Open, saving a match point to defeat French veteran Julien Benneteau 6-1, 6-2, 1-6, 3-6, 18-16 in the first round in a match that lasted four hours and 26 minutes. That's one heck of a Grand Slam debut.
No. 143-rankied Bagnis was playing in his first-career Grand Slam match -- just his second ATP Tour-level event of the season. After winning three matches to qualify for the first time at a major -- it was his 10th attempt -- the 24-year-old stormed quickly to 2-0 lead in an hour, but just over an hour later found himself locked in a fifth set with Benneteau, who was competing in his 13th French Open.
The two traded breaks before the set went into extra innings after 6-all. Bagnis showed tremendous poise that belied his rookie status, taking his clay court game to the 32-year-old, who had the entirety of the crowd at the bullring-style Court 1 behind him. As Benneteau began to struggle physically -- he called the doctor for an extended timeout and subsequently got his legs rubbed down on changeovers -- Bagnis kept his composure.
Benneteau earned a match point with Bagnis serving at 30-40 at 10-11, but the Argentinian stayed cool and saved it amidst the raucous crowd supporting the Frenchman. He finally earned the break in the 32nd game of the set and served it out for the win. On match point he stuck a volley winner and fell to the ground in celebration after a final set that lasted two hours and 24 minutes. Bagnis spent the next 20 minutes crying into his shirt and talking on his cell phone, presumably to family and friends back home.
Bagnis will play Ernests Gulbis in the second round. Gulbis arrived in Paris on Saturday evening after winning his second title of the season in Nice, and came back from a set down to defeat Lukasz Kubot 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-1.
"I took a day off because I was really tired," Gulbis said. "I came here and hit for half an hour [before my match]. How can I start well? After a couple points I got my grind on," he said laughing.