PARIS (Reuters) - For the first time since 1971, six French players will play the last 16 at their home slam after Richard Gasquet displayed admirable sang froid to down South African Kevin Anderson at Roland Garros on Saturday.
The blue wave, however, could crash onto the fourth-round wall at the French Open as four of the five men will play against the tournament’s leading quartet for a place in the quarter-finals.
Gasquet joined Jeremy Chardy, Gilles Simon, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gael Monfils as well as Alize Cornet, the only French woman left in the draw, in the fourth round with a 4-6 7-6(4) 7-5 6-4 defeat of 15th seed Anderson on Court Philippe Chatrier.
“I fought hard in the second and third set, it’s difficult because he is a big server,” said the 20th-seeded Gasquet, who could not break his opponent in the first two sets.
“But seeing Gael (Monfils) play such a great match, it motivates you.”
Monfils, the 13th seed, led the French charge on Friday, prevailing in yet another five-set thriller against Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas while Simon, Tsonga and Cornet also progressed.
On Saturday they were joined by Gasquet and Chardy, who continued his brilliant run with a three-set win over 17th seed David Goffin after eliminating American John Isner.
In 1971, five French men and two women reached the last 16 here, and since then, no more than five home players have reached that stage in any single year.
It is only the third time in the Open era, following 1971 and 2008, that five Frenchmen will play in the last 16 at Roland Garros.
“It’s always a good thing to see that many French have reached this level. Five French players, they’ll play against the best players in the world. It’s incredible, it’s good,” said Gasquet, who next faces world number one Novak Djokovic.
“Djoko and then to play Nadal (in a possible quarter-final), it’s not that open, if you see what I mean, not that open for me.”
Things now get complicated for the home guard when Tsonga plays Czech fourth seed Tomas Berdych, Chardy takes on British third seed Andy Murray, Monfils faces Swiss second seed Roger Federer and Simon also tackles Swiss opposition, eighth seed Stan Wawrinka.
It might however be Cornet, the women’s 29th seed, who has the best chance of progressing as she takes on Russian 19th seed Elina Svitolina.
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ian Chadband