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Wildcard Gaston keeps French flag flying with Wawrinka upset

PARIS (Reuters) - Wildcard Hugo Gaston took down former French Open champion Stan Wawrinka 2-6 6-3 6-3 4-6 6-0 in a riveting contest on Friday to advance to the fourth round and keep the home country’s hopes alive in the men’s draw at this year’s edition.

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The Swiss, whose only loss to a Frenchman in 10 previous matches at Roland Garros was against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 2012, ran out of steam as the 20-year-old, ranked 239th, romped to victory in front of the vociferous Court Suzanne Lenglen fans.

Gaston, albeit at only 1.73 metres, is the last French man standing out of the 18 that started in the main draw at this year’s tournament, and wrapped up the contest with a bagel in the deciding set against the three-time Grand Slam champion.

The Frenchman next faces Austrian third seed and U.S. Open champion Dominic Thiem, runner-up at Roland Garros in the last two years, and is relishing the prospect of more matches.

“It’s difficult to explain, it’s fantastic. It was a great match and I’m very happy today really,” Gaston, who likes the way Australian Nick Kyrgios plays, told reporters.

“I try to go to court believing I can win. I knew it was difficult but it’s possible. I want to play more games, more matches. It’s very important to go in with victory in mind.”

TABLES TURNED

The 25-year-old Wawrinka, seeded 16th, started the match briskly, breaking his opponent’s serve twice in the opening set without facing a single break point on his own.

But Gaston, who made his Grand Slam debut also as a wildcard at this year’s Australian Open, turned the tables on the former world number three in the second set, levelling the match with a double break of serve.

With a steady drizzle coming down, Wawrinka started having problems with his movement and complained of slippery court conditions. The umpire agreed to suspend the match with the players tied at 2-2 in the third set.

When play resumed after a stoppage of two and a half hours, Gaston clinched the third set with a break in the sixth game. But the 2015 champion regrouped and with a third break of serve in the fourth set Wawrinka levelled the match at two sets all.

With the small but loud partisan crowd egging him on, Gaston moved up a gear in the decider while Wawrinka faded away.

The Swiss managed 14 more winners than his opponent during the match but also had 33 more unforced errors.

While Wawrinka heads for the exit, Gaston must prepare for a tough battle with Thiem but he is not overawed by the prospect.

“It’s going to be a crazy experience. I’m going to give everything, just like today and we’ll see the result. I will have nothing to lose,” he said in his on-court interview.

Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; Editing by Ken Ferris

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