PARIS Gael Monfils cantered into the French Open third round, easing concerns he had going into his home grand slam with a 6-1 6-4 6-1 victory over Brazil's Thiago Monteiro on Thursday to set up a mouth-watering clash with compatriot Richard Gasquet.
The 15th seed conceded he had no points of reference after losing his only two matches on clay in an injured-plagued season, but another straight sets win was enough to boost the Frenchman's confidence.
"Today I played a very solid match. There were not many long rallies in my previous match but now I'm more confident on my level and it bodes well for the rest of the tournament," said Monfils.
His performance brought some relief -- and possibly hope -- to the home crowd after French number one Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was sent packing in the first round on Wednesday.
"It was a very good match from my end, with great strikes. I liked to feel that I could hit the ball well from both sides, that I was able to stick to the plan," said Monfils.
No Frenchman has won the title at Roland Garros since Yannick Noah lifted the Musketeers Cup in 1983.
There will be three in the third round, and at least one in the fourth with Monfils taking on 24th seed Gasquet on Sunday after his countryman sailed past Victor Estrella Burgos 6-1 6-0 6-4, winning the first 13 points of a one-sided match.
"I started well and had no physical pain, I wanted to get it over with before the night," said Gasquet, who like Monfils is now 30 years old.
"Gael is one of my best friends, we're both getting better physically and let's hope we'll play a great match."
In the women's draw, Kristina Mladenovic, one of the pre-tournament favourites, was joined in the third round on Thursday by compatriots Caroline Garcia and Alize Cornet.
Garcia had to work hard to beat fellow Frenchwoman Chloe Paquet 7-5 6-4 to reach the third round here for the first time, while Cornet upset Czech 20th seed Barbora Strycova 6-4 6-1.
It is only the third time in 10 years that three French women have made it into the third round.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ken Ferris)