“I think most of the people expected him to just retire the match and walk out of the court,” Djokovic said. “But he managed to stay. So all the credit for him, and happy birthday.”
The crowd was firmly behind Mahut, cheering loudly anytime he picked up a few points in a row.
Mahut saluted them in return. When he won his first game of the match _ seven games in _ he walked back to the service line with his arms outstretched, soaking up the applause with a smile on his face.
WHAT A CORKER: Perhaps it had to do with watching neighbor Spain rack up all the tennis accolades over the years.
Frederico Gil put his native Portugal on the tennis map by reaching the third round of the Australian Open _ the best result ever for a Portuguese man at a Grand Slam. He fell to former finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on Saturday, 6-2, 6-2, 6-2.
“For my country, it’s a big result,” he said. “It’s the first time, but at the same time, I always felt that it was something possible so I always worked and dreamed to be here.
“I know the people are happy about the result and I feel great that it’s me doing this.”
It wasn’t Gil’s first milestone for Portugal. In 2010, he became the first Portuguese man to reach an ATP Tour final _ in his native Portugal _ and last year reached the highest ranking ever by a Portuguese man at No. 62. (He was later passed by countryman Rui Machado, who hit a career-high ranking of 59.)
Gil was just sorry he didn’t put on a better show for the fans back home on Saturday. “I know a lot of friends and fans, they were all watching today. I didn’t play my best match, but it happens.”
AP Sports Writer Dennis Passa contributed to this report.