Juan Carlos Ferrero outlasted seventh-seeded Gael Monfils 7-6 (5), 5-7, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4 on Thursday to reach the U.S. Open third round after a thrilling match that lasted nearly five hours.
The crowd of more than 10,000 in Louis Armstrong Stadium saluted both players with a standing ovation that lasted more than a minute before the final game, which the 31-year-old Ferrero served out at love. He briefly reached No. 1 eight years ago, but the Spaniard has missed most of this season with a series of injuries and is ranked 105th.
"When it was 5-4 in the fifth set, I felt very special on the court," he said. "I mean, when you saw this crowd enjoying all the time during the match. They love this kind of match, so it's great to be in there."
The ovation came at the tail end of a match that lasted 4 hours, 48 minutes, with momentum swings galore and, finally, exhaustion. It was Ferrero's second straight five-setter. His next match is against 31st-seeded Marcel Granollers.
"I've been testing too much right now," Ferrero said. "But I think I'll be OK."
For Ferrero, the latest win was a rare highlight in a season full of disappointments and injuries. This is the first Grand Slam tournament of the season for the 105th-ranked Spaniard, whose No. 1 ranking came in 2003, the year he won the French Open and was U.S. Open runner-up.
"This match means a lot for me because it was a long time that I didn't enjoy myself inside the court," Ferrero said.
Monfils, the Frenchman known for diving and sliding even when he's not playing on clay, had trouble keeping his feet moving in the fifth set. He saved four break points in that set, but could never make up the service game he lost at the very beginning.
Monfils finished with 81 winners but also 81 unforced errors, while Ferrero had 34 winners and 52 unforced errors.
After closing out the fourth set, Ferrero was the demonstrative one, pumping his fist and screaming, while Monfils sagged toward the sideline.
It was the same scene after match point, though Monfils said he wasn't too dispirited after the loss. Thursday was his 25th birthday.
"My mom was there," he said. "All the time, my mom says, 'You win, you lose, you give your best.' I think today I could sort of smile at my mom even though I lost, so I was happy.