French wild card Mathias Bourgue nearly pulled off the win of his life on Wednesday in front of his home crowd.
After dropping the first set to world No. 2 Andy Murray in the second round of the French Open, the 22-year-old took the next two in commanding fashion. Murray—as he did in his first-round duel with Radek Stepanek—forced a fifth set and ran away with the decider for a 6-2, 2-6, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 victory.
During one dominating—and, frankly, shocking stretch—the underdog rattled off eight straight games and won 16 consecutive points.
"I couldn't believe it myself," Bourgue admitted of that surreal experience, according to the Associated Press. "I was very happy. I was very proud. I knew I was on top of things at that point."
It wasn’t meant to be for the 164th-ranked player in the world, but he deserves a ton of credit for taking the two-time Grand Slam champion the distance and making him earn every ball.
After the three-and-a-half-hour marathon concluded, Bourgue revealed his secret weapon: Muhammad Ali.
Bourgue told reporters during his post-match press conference that his coach, Olivier Malcor, instructed him to watch footage of the iconic boxer before taking Philippe-Chatrier Court for the biggest match of his career.
“He said, ‘When I box, I want to box in front of a big crowd,’” Bourgue told reporters about the Ali video. “It was very emotional. I think I entered the court with the right mindset, even if I was a bit tense in the first set. I felt good.”
Maybe Bourgue—who defeated Jordi Samper-Montana, 7-5, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (6), in the first round for his maiden Grand Slam victory—should listen to Ali speak before all of his matches. It certainly worked on this day.
Murray will take on 27th seed Ivo Karlovic, who needed five sets himself to advance past Jordan Thompson, in the third round.