From London into the Limelight
Date: 23 juillet 2007 à 13:14:27 CEST
Sujet: Press (English)

We had left him close to tears in Roland Garros after an incomprehensible defeat on centre court against Kristof Vliegen in the second round. We had also considered him in a very bad state in Halle where he lost his first round match against Pakistani Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi, 304th in the world, then in Nottingham, where he lost his title against Arnaud Clément in the quarterfinals. We have finally found him back in Wimbledon as a semi-finalist in a grand slam tournament for the first time having never passed the 4th round before.

Some days after his 21st birthday (18 June), Richard Gasquet has thus become what one expected him to be: a player always to be reckoned with at the late stages of a grand slam – simply one of the world’s best. He made his entrance into the Top Ten for the first time and is now 7th. And all this, after having played the match, one has always dreamt of: this big match on the big stage with a huge result. This “sublime” match, as Roger Federer himself called it.

By defeating Andy Roddick in the quarter finals on court no.1 after being behind 4-6 4-6 2-4, the French number 1 obtained this decisive result, coming back from being two sets down for the first time. And he did it a spectacular war. A festival of 93 winners in the whole match which made the American who had won their previous two encounters, dizzy. Defeated on court, Roddick was still k.o. in the press conference room where he had difficulties to understand what had happened to him. “I think, I played a good match”, he said, pale. “I did twice as many winners than unforced errors, but I lost. When doing a perfect approach and picking up passes from the shoe-laces is bad play – I don’t understand tennis anymore.”

This crazy demonstration, after four solid rounds during which he did not lose a set in a mini-national [championship] against Mahut, Roger-Vasselin and Tsonga was one of the great moments of this Wimbledon. On the microphone of the BBC, John McEnroe was impressed enough to say that REALLY the four best players of the world were in the Wimbledon semis: Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Gasquet.

However, it is impossible not to regret that Richard did not have an additional day to digest his emotions due to the rain delays. A winner at 8.00 pm on Friday, he was on centre court at noon the next day against Roger Federer who did not need this additional advantage. Richard played with the few resources he had left. And this was clearly not enough, even if he had two break points at 5 all. “I fell asleep at 2.30, I got up five hours later”, he explained. “I did a “correct” match in spite of it, even if it was tough to come back after a day like this. “

Why then this change from Roland Garros to Wimbledon? The surface is definitely a reason to mention. On grass, one does not ask oneself questions like on clay where he has time to see and recognise those millions of pairs of eyes scrutinising him on Philippe Chartrier court. In Wimbledon, Gasquet became again the instinct player he has always been. But how to convince him that from a historical perspective, it is more prestigious to win Wimbledon than Roland Garros? Amélie Mauresmo, herself suffering on Parisian clay, could tell him a word about this issue which does not mean that he will never be able to win the International Championships of France. He just will have to approach them differently hoping that he will have sorted out the way he starts his matches because in the end he paid dearly for his bad start against Roddick which reminded at two of his last grand slam matches against Hewitt (US Open 2006) and Robredo (Australia 2007). “These are my two sides”, he analysed. “I am caught up with myself and I don’t play well. And then, I decide to let lose my emotions”. He added then a note of humour to come back to his initial timidity against Roddick. “At 2-0 in sets and 3-2 for Roddick, I turned versus Eric. I wanted to tell him that it is over, but he was like a piece of wood, so I said nothing.”

This was also one of the other good news of this year’s Wimbledon concerning Gasquet. The young man opened up and is more relaxed in front of the micros, including questions asked in English. It is not that long ago that he went into hiding deliberately under the press conference rooms. Now, he dares, in the style of Rafael Nadal, to jump into the water, even if he makes mistakes. But at least he expresses things without fearing to be judged for his difficulties in mastering the language of Shakespeare. “Richard progresses at his own speed on court and in life” explains Eric Deblicker who was supported him after Roland Garros “by long conversations”.

In Wimbledon, Richard Gasquet came back to Andy Murray’s level, but is still behind the other rivals of his generation: Djokovic and Nadal. He will compensate for his delay as he will win a grand slam one day. Those who have seen his quarter final against Andy Roddick will not be able to doubt anymore….

Source: French Tennis Magazine, August 2007, translated by Puschkin

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