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Simon recovers to edge Hewitt in five-set marathon - video

Steven Webb in ATP Videos 27 May 2013

Gilles Simon looked to heading for the exit door of his home slam on Sunday, as he fell behind two-sets-to-love to Aussie veteran Lleyton Hewitt.

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Despite the support of the French crowd, and his status as the 15th seed at this year’s tournament, Simon was run ragged by the former world number one at the beginning of the match. Summoning the energy and determination that characterised his stint at the top of the game just over a decade ago, Hewitt charged to a 6-3, 6-1 lead and looked set for a superb victory. 

The 32-year-old plays a more limited schedule these days, but he is still a considerable force when on form, and someone no top player wants to face early on in a Grand Slam. An hour into the match on Court Suzanne Lenglen, Simon’s prospects looked bleak, especially as he had never before come back from to sets down.

Yet the local favourite managed to turn the momentum around in the third set. Moving better and hitting more aggressive returns off Hewitt’s second serves, he broke serve to move ahead for the first time in the match. Although Hewitt broke back immediately - the Simon service not being one of his great weapons - the Frenchman secured another break to sneak the third set 6-4 and give the fans something to cheer about. 

Simon then dominated the fourth set just as Hewitt had the frst two. With the Australian seeming to suffer physically, Simon kept up the pressure and capitalised on a series of untimely unforced errors to take it 6-1. He then raced to a 5-0 lead in the fifth set, an apparently unassailable lead.

But in spite of throwing away a two set cushion, Hewitt’s legendary fighting instincts remained intact. He reeled off five games in a row, saving two match point in the process, to even the final set score at 5-all. Just as the former Wimbledon champion looked set for one of the most topsy-turvy wins of his career, however, another barrage of mistakes granted Simon a lifeline. 

His confidence and concentration may have wavered with victory in his sights, but the closer score forced Simon to dig deep, and he broke serve in the final game to wrap up a 3-6, 1-6, 6-4, 6-1, 7-5 triumph after three hours of scrappy but enthralling tennis.

Hewitt, his movement hindered by blisters on Sunday, says he will now focus on being ready for Wimbledon next month, and isn’t sure about his future at Roland Garros.

“It’s disappointing to lose, but I didn’t come here with massive expectations. I haven’t thought about whether or not I’ll be back.”

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Simon recovers to edge Hewitt in five-set marathon - video

Watch Gilles Simon scrape past Lleyton Hewitt in the first round of the French Open 2013.

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