Gael Monfils has always been one for dramatic flair, and he gave an Academy Award-winning performance on Thursday night at Hisense Arena when he edged Yen-Hsun Lu 7-6(5) 4-6 0-6 6-1 8-6 in three hours and 37 minutes in the second round.
It was the Frenchman’s third five-setter in his last eight matches at the Australian Open, and for sheer entertainment value at the conclusion of the match, none of the other ones came close.
The former world No.7, who owns a huge and often very effective serve, double faulted four times in the final game on match points. In fact, the entire game and the result of the match essentially came down to how he served.
Monfils went up 40-15 to gain his first two match points behind two aces and a forehand volley winner, but he also had double faulted.
After the scrappy Lu laced a forehand winner to fight off one match point, Monfils double faulted again on his second match point.
He then nailed a 217km/h ace down the tee to gain his third match point, and then double faulted so badly off his racquet frame that his serve landed to the right of the doubles alley.
That was followed by a 186km/h ace out wide before he sent another double fault into the bottom of the net on his fourth match point, shaking his head as the crowd gasped.
Monfils then forced Lu into a forehand error at deuce and then, almost comically, double-faulted long on his fifth match point.
Finally, after he forced Lu into a backhand error, Monfils whacked an unreturnable serve at the Chinese Tapiei player’s body to win the match.
“It was more like I need to ace because I knew it would be double fault for sure,” said Monfils, who served 11 aces and 14 double faults in the fifth set alone.
The bizarre end to the contest slightly overshadowed what was an extremely competitive match, much of which was played from the baseline, where the two engaged in numerous long cat and mouse rallies.
Lu, the much smaller player, wasn't afraid to charge the net, approaching 39 times and winning 24 of his forays.
The two were nearly even from the baseline and the match clearly could have gone either way, but Lu committed two costly groundstroke errors when he was broken to 6-7 in the fifth set and that proved to be his undoing.
Monfils, who spent much of 2012 off the tour battling knee injuries, will face compatriot and 14th seed Gilles Simon in the third round.