MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Frenchman Gael Monfils completed a great escape in the first round of the Australian Open on Monday after his opponent paid the price for 'tanking' the fourth set.

Dutchman Thiemo de Bakker had led by two sets and 5-3 but Monfils returned from the brink of elimination by pulling off a 6-7 2-6 7-5 6-2 6-1 win in Melbourne.

"I saw he was tanking in the fourth set," Monfils told reporters. "I thought maybe if I break early, he would tank to get ready for the fifth."

"Before the match my coach (Roger Rasheed) told me Thiemo is not a big believer. When I saw that, you get it," added the Frenchman, snapping his fingers. "So you tank and be ready in the fifth, because I will."

Monfils, who has never gone beyond the last 16 in the year's first grand slam, called it one of the best wins of his career after surviving a humiliating early exit.

"I just tried to hold and believe in myself and try to think about simple things, like moving a bit faster and moving my legs more and just fire up a bit," he said.

"Then it actually turned a bit and Thiemo got tight. I'd be happier to win in three sets but a couple of years ago I would have been, like, 'Okay, I'm done' in three sets.

"I think it's the first time I have come back from two sets down and a break. It's a great win."

De Bakker blamed a tight groin for his sudden meltdown.

"At 4-1 in the third, when I went for a ball, (pain) came a little bit in my groin," said the world number 47. "From that moment I had problems to play rallies and to serve.

"The only thing I could do is hopefully get better in the fourth or to let it go a little bit when I was a break down and hope it went better in the fifth.

(Editing by Ossian Shine)