After his experience at Wimbledon two years ago, today's match may have felt like a leisurely hit to John Isner. The big man was surely mentally prepared for today's 5 hour, 41 minute battle, but toward the end of the fifth set, his faltering legs and errant forehands told a much different story. The man on the other side of the net, France's 30-year-old Paul Henri Mathieu, was known in his home country for a shaky 6-9 five-set record, including a pivotal Davis Cup Final appearance against Mikhail Youzhny in 2002, in which Mathieu had a 2-0 set lead before giving the match away.
Few would've expected Mathieu to prevail in a test of endurance against the powerful American. Mathieu, who earned a wild card into Roland Garros, was playing just his twelfth match since missing the entire 2011 season due to injury. He had already toughed out a five-setter against Bjorn Phau just two days earlier, in which he came back from a 0-2 deficit. Against the odds, the Frenchman emerged the victor of an 18-16 fifth set that lasted nearly two and a half hours. His win was less surprising in the end than it appeared on paper. Mathieu consistently outplayed Isner throughout the match, picking up 24 break point chances compared to Isner's 4. The American's movement was sluggish, and his serve and forehand, while stile a powerful 1-2 punch, lacked their typical explosiveness. In spite of Isner's lackluster end to a disappointing clay season, Mathieu deserves plenty of credit for his win. His groundstrokes were in fine form, and he won over 80% of his 42 net points. He kept his errors low even while playing aggressively, and for that he has a ticket to the third round. Advancing further isn't out of the question, as he'll face either Marcel Granollers or Malek Jaziri, who resume in their decisive fifth set tomorrow.
Elsewhere, seeded players Maria Kirilenko and Jelena Jankovic were dismissed from the women's draw, the latter's loss coming at the hands of American Varvara Lepchenko, who's having a good run. She and Christina McHale are the only two Americans, men or women, remaining in contention. Andy Murray survived a 1-6 deficit against Jarkko Nieminen, dropping just seven games in the next three sets.