September 5, 2013
It was refreshing to see the wonderful natural talent of Richard Gasquet shine through against David Ferrer. One of those strange five-setters when none of the sets was really close. The Frenchman prevailed 6-3, 6-1, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3 to reach his first US semi-final…and now he faces his good friend Rafa Nadal.
That one is going to make for fascinating viewing – and not because the result should be in much doubt. The question is this: just how ruthless is Rafa going to be?
Remember, these guys have been great mates since they were boys – which was the last time Gasquet won a match between the pair. Rafa was extremely supportive to Richard when he faced those cocaine allegations back in 2009 (and was ultimately cleared). Gasquet returned the compliment when Rafa’s career was in doubt last year due to injury.
The last man Nadal wants to humiliate is Gasquet. But bludgeoning, bullying forehands are the foundation to Rafa’s game. He seeks to subjugate opponents like no one else. He beat fellow coutryman Tommy Robredo 6-0, 6-2, 6-2 just like that to reach the semi-final himself.
So what’s going to happen when two gladiatorial pals go head to head like a scene from Spartacus and have to try to destroy each other?
Gasquet only has two hopes. The first is that he attacks fearlessly, knows he has nothing to lose, plays the tennis of his life and finally fulfils the potential we always knew he had.
The second is that somewhere deep inside, Rafa Nadal softens slightly and loses his appetite for the humiliation of an opponent, because the man on the other side of the net is one of his favourite people.
These elements have to combine to give Gasquet a chance. If they do, we could be in for a memorable five-setter, the human interest only adding to the drama.
More likely, Nadal will annihilate Gasquet and give him an apologetic hug at the end. Business is business, right? And he has to conserve his energy for a probable final against Novak Djokovic.
How will it all play out? We don’t know for sure, do we? Could we be any more lucky, with all this to look forward to ?!