In front of a partisan crowd at the Open de Nice Cote D’Azur, Richard Gasquet upset world number 9 Fernando Verdasco 6-3,5-7,7-6 to win his first ATP title since Mumbai in 2007 and the sixth of his career.
Meeting for the 10th time, the last being Barcelona, Verdasco was going for his sixth consecutive victory over Gasquet. A titlist in Barcelona and a finalist in Monte-Carlo, Verdasco was unquestionably the favorite. Still, in carrying the challenger tournament in Bordeaux last week, Gasquet must have felt hopeful.
After a prior love service game, at 2-3, Verdasco gifted Gasquet a double fault giving him break point. When the Spaniard misfired on a backhand down the line, Gasquet secured the break for 4-2. Then, with a love game, Gasquet consolidated for 5-2. After being unable to capitalize on four break points, Gasquet closed out the set by holding serve.
Subsequent to Verdasco arriving at 40-0 with three successive winners, Gasquet connected on a couple of winners for deuce. Yet, on his fifth game point, Verdasco provoked an error from Gasquet to inch ahead 2-1. Next, after erasing two game points by Gasquet, Verdasco forced his rival to dump a backhand volley into the net for his first break point. By firing a forehand up the line winner, Verdasco broke for 3-1. However, with a backhand mistake off a long rally and a double fault, Verdasco handed Gasquet double break point. When Verdasco’s backhand sailed long, Gasquet was back in the set. Promptly, with a love game, Gasquet squared the set at 3 all. Later, Gasquet struck a backhand winner behind Verdasco for double break point. After a net court salvaged the first break point, Verdasco flubbed a forehand off another net court to give Gasquet the break and a 5-4 advantage. But serving for the match, Gasquet made three unforced errors in a row and was broken at love. Following an easy hold for 6-5, Verdasco hit four sequential winners to take the set.
Verdasco guarded serve at love to start the third set. When Gasquet double faulted, his counterpart had double break point. As the Frenchman’s backhand crosscourt flew long, Verdasco took a 2-0 lead. On cruise control, Verdasco ended a love game with an ace to extend the difference to 3-0. At this point, Gasquet requested a time out to have a left knee/hamstring injury addressed. When Gasquet returned, with three forehand winners and an ace, he stopped a run of six straight games by Verdasco. But, with another easy game, Verdasco maintained serve for 4-1. Conversely, Gasquet wiped out two break points, before holding serve with a forehand winner for 2-4. Next, Gasquet induced four blunders from Verdasco to break at love. Unfortunately, despite a game point, Gasquet went on to surrender his serve. Serving for the championship, Verdasco committed four back to back forehand mistakes to allow Gasquet back in the match. Soon, with a massive second serve at 40-30, Gasquet tied the set at 5 all. After a crosscourt forehand winner put Verdasco ahead 6-5, despite struggling, Gasquet maintained serve thereby sending the decisive set into a tiebreaker.
After Verdasco began with a double fault to donate a mini-break, he rubbed out the disadvantage with a forehand winner. From then on, each point was won by the server. By causing Verdasco to make an error off a superb volley, Gasquet arrived at 6-5 for his first championship point. In utilizing a sliced backhand to prolong the rally, Gasquet forced Verdasco into a forehand miscue capturing the mini-break to take the championship.
Earlier in the year, Gasquet reached the finals in Sydney going down to Marcos Baghdatis. By beating Verdasco, Gasquet, formerly ranked 7th, collected his first victory over a top ten competitor since Rome 2009. Gasquet required three sets in the second round versus Alexandr Dolgopolov and had a tough semifinal match against Potito Starace. Surviving these types of matches will help restore Gasquet’s belief that he can hang with the big guys as he moves on to the French Open where Andy Murray is his first round opponent.