Not often do we come away from a straight-set victory with newfound respect for the loser, but that’s the appropriate reaction today.
Today, for two sets, the Frenchman came as close to going toe-to-toe with Nadal as he probably ever will. From the start, he was playing a much more varied game than we are accustomed to from him, serving aggressively, rushing the net at any provocation, and even standing inside the stadium to return serve.
Despite getting broken three times, Gasquet never really went away. After he lost his first service game, it looked like another Nadal-administred drubbing in the works, but Richard held serve for the remainder of the set, finishing at 6-4.
In the second, he once again lost the first game of the set on serve, but went one better. He broke Nadal back, the first service game Nadal has lost in New York. Gasquet took advantage of Rafa’s carelessness to stay on serve until they reached a tiebreak.
Then came the disappointment of the match. Gasquet opened the breaker with a double fault, and serving at 1-6, he doubled once more. That was the only sign of the passive, unthreatening Richard we got all day.
The third set was more lopsided, though Gasquet kept playing aggressive tennis. Nadal was just too good. (Gasquet didn’t help, double faulting twice from 30-30 in the final game, but in the end, it was just the difference between 6-2 and 6-3.)
For Gasquet to beat Rafa, he would have to play the match of a lifetime. He didn’t come close to doing that today, but he did show up with a better set of tactics than he generally brings to bear. While a more varied attack from the Frenchman won’t earn him a spot in the top five, it will ensure he remains in the top ten.
Here are the complete point-by-point stats for the match, and in case you missed it earlier, here’s my recap of the Djokovic-Wawrinka semifinal.