Q & A with Richard Gasquet

Richard Gasquet, the 26 year old Frenchman reached a career high no. 7 and made it to the semis at Wimbledon in 2007:

TL- What do you think about the Andy Roddick retirement?
RG: For 8 or 9 years he was on top. He was no. 1 in the world. He is a great one.

TL:Do you know that because of your game you have been called a little Federer?
RG:Yes people have said that.

TL:What do you think of Federer?
RG:He is no. 1. He is never sick. He never retires.He talks to every player and is the President of the Tennis Council. Everyone respects him.

TL:How have you done against him?
RG:I have beaten him twice on clay. I have lost many other times (10).

TL:Roland Garros is a great site,especially court no.one.
RG:Yes it is but they are tearing that one down and I don’t know why.

TL:Are the top four really that much better?
RG:Yes they are. They are very strong mentally. They have a big advantage at Slams.

Life Comes To Ferrero At The Open

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – With all the focus on the young players at this year’s US Open, it is almost easy to overlook Juan Carlos Ferrero, who went back to the future and partied like it was 2003 today in Queens.

Ferrero didn’t drive a DeLorean, nor did he take some sort of youth pills in his five set classic over the 7th seed Gael Monfils, winning, 7-6(5) 5-7 6-7(5) 6-4 6-4. Rather he did it the old fashioned way – he became healthy.

“I still having little bit problems with my hip,” he said.  “I have some pain.  But I played two matches, five sets.  I’ve been testing too much right now.  But I think I’ll be okay to play in good conditions next round.”

After winning his first round match against the 45th ranked Pablo Andujar, Ferrero fought through against Monfils, the highly ranked Frenchman, who many had pegged to go to at least the quarterfinals.

The 2003 US Open runner-up had different plans.

“I mean, this match means a lot for me because, like I said, it was a long time that I didn’t enjoy inside the court,” said Ferrero, who is now ranked 105th in the world. “Today was very physically match all the time, but I think I played the whole match a very good level.

“Maybe the serve wasn’t work very well in the whole match.  But from the baseline I was trying to be very aggressive all the time and move him because, you know, his moves are very good.  So it’s always tough to play against such a good player.”

Ferrero fought through trainer’s visits early in the match for his foot and then later on to treat blisters on his hands, but nothing that will hinder him in the later rounds. Instead, he thought it was the humidity at Flushing Meadows Park which caused the problems.

“Yeah, it was only, you know, maybe because it was a long time that I didn’t play such a long match,” he thought. “Also because of the humid.  For skin, it’s tough to get normal all the time.  Is, you know, problems of the matches.  I think I’ll be okay.”

Today Ferrero reminded the packed Luis Armstrong Stadium of the player who beat Andre Agassi back in 2003 and then lost to that up and comer Andy Roddick.

“Of course the year that I get No. 1 here in semifinals against, you know, I beat Agassi,” he recalled. “I always like to watch him on the TV when I was young.  So was big opportunity for me that year. Was a pity to not win the tournament.  But, you know, was great.”

Yet, it was a career that was derailed by injuries recently and had surgery on his left wrist and right knee last October. After losing in the first round in Madrid, Ferrero was hinting at retirement at the tender age of 31, but held on for this Open run.

And today, the man nicknamed the Mosquito because of his fancy footwork around the baseline fought back the younger Monfils delivering back all the Frenchman could give him.

He only had two aces to Monfils 21 while keeping his unforced errors down to 52 compared to his opponent’s 81.

Ferrero will try to keep it going in the third round against 31st ranked Marcel Granollers.

Sliderman To Take on the Djoker

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Gael Monfils was so far back behind the baseline he could have leaned on it and left his silhouette of sweat against the blue back wall like a chalk outline of a corpse. But when it mattered most, an exuberant Monfils elevated his competitive spirit leaving Richard Gasquet looking emotionally dead on arrival.

In a match of friends and former doubles partners who ooze French flair with each swing of the racquet, Monfils broke Gasquet’s serve, nerve and mind in an entertaining 6-4, 7-5, 7-5 victory. Monfils saved a set point in the second set and roared back from a 3-5 deficit in the third set to become the first Frenchman to reach the US Open quarterfinals since Arnaud Clement in 2000.

“I tried to be very tough and hard with him, showing him that I’m the man and I’m the leader,” Monfils said of Gasquet. “So I think I try also to get him a bit in the head, to show him like I will be strong and he might hit a good shot, but it’s okay. For me it’s nothing. I will try to reach every ball and show him…if he come in I will be everywhere.”

The quarterfinal match between Monfils and Novak Djokovic, who dismissed Mardy Fish, 6-3, 6-4, 6-1 to reach his sixth straight Grand Slam quarterfinal, should be a shot-making spectacle between two players who cover the court as quickly as if playing on roller blades.

It sounds like a battle of the super heroes pitting the Djoker against Slider Man, Monfils’ nickname for his sliding, skidding retrievals across the court.

“He’s physically one of the most prepared and strongest guys on the tour,” Djokovic said. “We have a lot of respect for each other. We grew up together….He’s kind of flashy. If he starts playing well, he can beat anyone because he’s so fast and so athletic and so strong that he can get a lot of balls back. I just have to be patient and wait for my chances.”

When he’s on his game and playing with confidence Gasquet is one of the most spectacular shotmakers in the sport. Winners can stream from his racquet like all the right answers on a test, but the Frenchman has a fragile psyche at times and must add some grit to accompany his glamorous stroke production in order to return to the top 20.

Gasquet’s brilliant one-handed backhand is one of the most beautiful strokes in the sport, but when he missed a challenging backhand pass up the line on set point, Monfils knew he could break Gasquet mentally.

“I got lucky in the first set point he had in the second set because he could like pass me easy,” Monfils said. “But he showed me at the time he was not that good mentally. He show me he was, I won’t say weak, but it was like shaky a bit. Then I knew he missed and I knew if I closed this game then (I) will break for sure if I put pressure on him and I was right.”

Monfils, who is not exactly a pillar of mental strength himself, exchanged a French kiss with Gasquet after the match and said the fact Gasquet doesn’t embrace pressure or loud crowds played to his advantage.

“Richard, he doesn’t really like pressure. He love like good play not (tough) play,” Monfils said. “He don’t like a lot of crowd around, the crowd involved. He doesn’t like to see the opponent like show emotions. (I) just played with that, play with his mind and that was it.”

Seeing Gasquet crumble across the net, Monfils did what he does best: stirred the crowd up with both his eye-popping speed and sprinting shots and by exhorting the fans with the wave of his arms.

“They helped me for sure in the second set.  After I served the set point, I think I ask a bit the crowd to get involved, and they did,” Monfils said. “Then was great.  That’s why, you know, I broke him straightaway, because I had like positive energy.  I love when it’s intense.  I love it.  It make me feel like I’m stronger again. So for sure when the crowd get involved I play my best tennis.”

Seeking his fourth consecutive trip to the US Open semifinals, Djokovic is a decided favorite against quarterfinal opponent Gael Monfils.

In an all-French fourth round meeting, the 17th-seeded Monfils broke Richard Gasquet mentally in scoring an entertaining 6-4, 7-5, 7-5 victory. Monfils saved a set point in the second set and roared back from a 3-5 deficit in the third set to send the fragile fellow Frenchman packing and become the first French quarterfinalist since Arnaud Clement in 2000.

“I tried to be very tough and hard with him, showing him that I’m the man and I’m the leader,” Monfils said of Gasquet. “So I think I try also to get him a bit in the head, to show him like I will be strong and he might hit a good shot, but it’s okay. For me it’s nothing. I will try to reach every ball and show him…if he come in I will be everywhere.”

The Djokovic-Monfils match pits two of the fastest, most charismatic, flamboyant and sometimes flakiest players in men’s tennis. They are two men who play as if empowered by the belief that no ball is beyond their reach which should create a highly entertaining match.

“Gael is very charismatic and very athletic,” Djokovic said. “He slides a lot and so do I so I guess there’s going to he a lot of sliding between him and me.”

Djokovic is 4-0 lifetime vs. Monfils, including a controversial 7-5, 4-6, 7-6(5), 0-6, 7-5 triumph in the 2005 US Open first round in which some spectators believed Djokovic resorted to gamesmanship in pulling a lengthy injury time out to rest and recover.

Their most recent encounter saw Djokovic outduel Monfils and silence the Parisian crowd in an explosively entertaining, 6-2, 5-7, 7-6(3), victory in the Paris Indoor final last November.

Master showman Monfils, who has entertained the New York City crowd with his electrifying shotmaking skills on the run, his expressiveness and even his impromptu post-match dance moves, is hoping he can work the crowd into a festive frenzy.

“I can get the crowd behind me,” Monfils said. “I know him perfectly. We had like always a tough match. And then, damn I had revenge to take it because he won against me at home in Bercy (Paris). So this time I hope to win.”

Richard Pagliaro is the editor of TennisNow.com.

Nadal Sweeps Himself Into The Third Round

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – The ball gleamed like a yellow splotch of paint popping off a blue canvas as Denis Istomin streaked forward, his eyes riveted on the ball. Skidding into a sliding split, Istomin somehow dug out a winner, popped up from the court like a jack-in-the box and pumped his fist furiously seizing a 5-1 strong hold in the second-set tie breaker against Rafael Nadal tonight.

It was one of the most eye-popping points of this Flushing Meadows fortnight. Istomin left a long black skid mark across the court and Nadal applauded in appreciation for his opponent’s efforts.

Then the top-seeded Spaniard took off the gloves, elevated his intensity even higher and reeled off six straight points to post a highly-entertaining 6-2, 7-6(5), 7-5 victory to roll into the US Open third round.

There’s the physical demands of playing Nadal compounded by the sheer demoralizing fact that even after you give all you can give and hurl your body around the court with abandon, Nadal responds with even great intensity and concentration.

“He fought a good point. He played a great point,” Nadal said of Istomin’s efforts. “I had to win that point three times before, but he did well. Finally, he ws fast going for the drop shot and he pass me. Just a tough point for me…But I think I stayed very well mentally in that moment. I was playing with big calm and big concentration. And finally, I was a little bit lucky for sure. (It) is impossible to come back from 5-1, I had a little bit lucky. It was a very important moment of the match.”

It was Nadal’s 16th consecutive Grand Slam victory and sets up a third-round meeting with Gilles Simon, who topped 29th-seeded German Philipp Kohlschreiber, 4-6, 6-3, 1-6, 6-1, 6-3.

Nadal has beaten the 42nd-ranked Frenchman in three of their four meetings, including a 6-2, 7-5, 7-5 win in the 2009 Australian Open quarterfinals.

The Nadal serve was a key stroke tonight. He struggled at times on serve in Cincinnati, but saved all seven break points he faced tonight and smacked a 134 mph serve, the fastest serve he’s hit at the US Open.

Asked how he’s found his service rhythm, Nadal replied: “Well, (Uncle) Toni arrives and everything under control.”

“Seriously, I don’t know,” Nadal added. “That’s pretty strange because I wasn’t serving very well the previous days. I started to serve well one or two days before the competition. But the week of practice, I wasn’t serving well, no?”

A slight grip change seems to have remedied that issue.

“I changed a little bit the grip, like five or six days ago, because I felt when I played against the wind I didn’t have free points,” Nadal said. “So I needed that. So I tried to play the serve a little more aggressive. For the moment, it’s working really well so I am going to try to keep playing like this. And sure, serve is like big confidence for my game.”

Rich Pagliaro is the editor of TennisNow.com.

Davydenko Dumped by Gasquet

Sixth-seeded Nikolay Davydenko became the highest-seeded man to fall from the US Open field in suffering a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 second-round setback to Richard Gasquet on the Grandstand court. The two-time US Open semifinalist had a visceral response to his loss —  Davydenko is prepared to get trashed.

Actually, the 29-year-old Russian is ready to toss his racquets in the trash. Davydenko, who endorses Dunlop and wears Dunlop apparel has been playing with his old, unmarked Prince frame, but vowed to throw those in the garbage and actually begin playing with Dunlop in his next tournament.

“I talked to my brother and I will change all my racquets,” Davydenko said after the match. “I will completely change to Dunlop and throw all of my (old) racquets in the garbage.”

While the frames will take the fall for the lose, Davydenko, who missed 11 weeks after breaking his left wrist in Indian Wells and has won back-to-back matches just once since launching his comeback in June in Halle, concedes his issues may be more mental than physical or technical.

“I don’t know if it’s a wrist problem or a head problem,” Davydenko said, stretching his legs out before him and staring down at his shoelaces for a moment. “After my injury, I play everything bad. I change from 18-string Prince to play 16-string during hard courts to try to get more control and top spin, but I have no confidence, no baseline game.”

In addition to an equipment change, he’s contemplating a head change.

“Maybe I need to go somewhere to change my brain,” Davydenko deadpanned.

It was the first meeting between the pair in five years and while Davydenko hugs the baseline, takes the ball earlier and theoretically should be able to take the first strike in rallies it was Gasquet who took control in the baseline rallies in registering his second top 10 win of the season and first since he claimed his sixth career title beating Fernando Verdasco in Nice.

The 38th-ranked Frenchman has top 10 talent, who reached the US Open round of 16 in both 2005 and 2006, will play either No. 26 seed Thomaz Bellucci or big-serving Kevin Anderson for a place in the fourth round.

Asked to assess Gasquet’s level of play, Davydenko sounded stumped.

“It’s tough  for me to say because I cannot return first serve. He was just pushing me back in the middle with high balls and I was destroying myself.”

Rich Pagliaro is the editor of TennisNow.com.