It was a great day to be French at the US Open on Monday with unheralded Benoit Paire stealing the headlines by knocking out fourth seed Kei Nishikori, last year’s runner-up.
Joining the world number 41 in a demolition of the seeds were Kristina Mladenovic, who knocked out 2004 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, and teenager Oceane Dodin, who put out Jelena Jankovic, the 2008 runner-up.
Paire saved two match points to beat Nishikori 6-4 3-6 4-6 7-6 (8/6) 6-4, firing 21 aces and 64 winners as an ambitious policy of all-out attack paid dividends for the 26-year-old.
It was also revenge for a loss he suffered at the hands of the Japanese at the 2013 French Open.
“When I come on the court, I say, come on. You can beat Kei,” said Paire.
“He has a game – but it’s not like if I play against Roger Federer.”
Paire, one of 11 Frenchmen in the draw, came into New York buoyed by a first career title at Bastad in Sweden.
But before Monday, he had never defeated a top-10 player at the majors in four attempts.
“The thing is you have to have pleasure in the match. You have to feel good on court, to have fun, you know,” he said after his stunning win on Louis Armstrong Stadium.
“My coach told me the most important thing is when you go out of the court, you win, you lose, you don’t care, just have fun.”
World number 40 Mladenovic cruised past Russian 30th seed Kuznetsova 6-3 7-5 to make the second round for the third time.
“I expected a tough, physical battle,” said world No.40 Mladenovic, who has a steady year in the Slams, making the third round at the French Open and Wimbledon.
“I was focused when necessary and aggressive on the key moments.
“Each win at a Grand Slam is to be cherished. It didn’t matter who I was facing today. She has won two major titles and she is a player who is well respected.
“I remember watching her win the US Open in 2004 on TV.”
Dodin, just 18 and ranked at 128 in the world, was just seven when 21st seed Jankovic made the final in 2008.
But the wildcard showed great determination to carve out a 2-6 7-5 6-3 win on her US Open debut and just her fifth main tour event of 2015.
In contrast, former world No.1 Jankovic was playing the US Open for a 12th successive year.
“It’s the finest win of my little Grand Slam career,” said Dodin.
“I was down 6-2 4-3 at one stage and I saw it slipping away. I didn’t know what to do.
“But I just believed in myself and told myself it was possible.”
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the 19th seed and a quarter-finalist in 2009, also struck a blow for France, although his was far more predictable.
He swept to a 6-3 6-1 6-1 win over Jarkko Nieminen, the veteran Finn who was playing his last Grand Slam event before retirement.