June 16, 2021

Richard Gasquet bites Gaston and prepares to find his nemesis

We don’t hang around when we have a date, if only to face the ogre of the clay in his den. The kind of scarecrow that we try to avoid at all costs in normal times. Richard Gasquet did not hang around, Tuesday 1is June, on the Suzanne-Lenglen court. In three dry innings and barely more than an hour and a half of play, the French veteran, once nicknamed the “Little Mozart of tennis” hexagonal, erased his compatriot Hugo Gaston (6-1, 6-4, 6-2) to join the second round of Roland-Garros. Where awaits an equation that he has never solved: Rafael Nadal.

Unlike his statue, inaugurated on the edge of this edition on the esplanade facing the Philippe-Chatrier court, Rafael Nadal is not made of metal. But, for Richard Gasquet, the difference between the Mallorcan and a Terminator may seem small. “Rafa, he’s the only player I’ve never beaten. I’ve been facing him for seventeen years and I’ve never won. It’s very unpleasant ”, confessed the French after his meeting. Especially since he is the only player on the circuit to resist, again and again to his malice: Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic have already given in (rarely), not Nadal.

Read our column (from 2018): Richard, France is with you

At the end of his victory – an expeditious debut before a third set that almost escaped him – against the Australian Alexei Popyrin (6-3, 6-3, 7-6 [7-3]), the three-time winner of the Parisian Grand Slam was delighted to find an opponent he “Known since childhood”. And despite his titles in spades, the Manacor bull forgets nothing. He recalled having been beaten, in 1999, by Richard Gasquet, during the Petits As, in Tarbes (Hautes-Pyrénées), the unofficial world championship for under 14s. “After that, we both had great careers. ” Both players were 13 years old and references to the Tarbais tournament are starting to run over the Frenchman’s bean. “This is such bullshit! Honestly, the “you beat him at 13”, I have heard it a thousand times “, dodged the player – where his opponent was going back in time on his own.

Seventeenth clash, so far one-sided

In terms of an overhauled course, Hugo Gaston still has a few years ahead of him before competing with his compatriot. On Tuesday, the Frenchman closed his enchanted interlude of autumn 2020. Eight months after having reached the knockout stages by eliminating in particular the former winner Stan Wawrinka and very close to repeating the feat against Dominic Thiem, the Toulouse player n ‘ has not found the conditions that allowed his game to surprise the circuit. And if he expressed “A lot of frustration” for not having managed to put his game in place – well helped by Gasquet -, the French blew.

His defeat in the first round allows him to put his good course in the previous edition. And the young player will not complain: “It’s heavy, because I was told a lot about it, at any press conference. I want to move on, and just focus on the future. “ If Richard Gasquet predicts that this future will be beautiful for Gaston, “The next generation of French tennis”, he will have to come back to Porte d’Auteuil and shine again. To no longer be qualified as « surprise ». After his elimination, combined in particular with that of Lucas Pouille on Tuesday, the French contingent is shrinking. They are only three, in the men, to have crossed the first round – a sad historical record -, and four in the women.

Read also Roland-Garros: Gaël Monfils, Fiona Ferro and Kristina Mladenovic pass the first round

Thursday, Richard Gasquet has an appointment. Not with the story, the Bitterois admits that he no longer has his legs of yesteryear and gasped, in a press conference, at the time of ” to pose [sa] old rind “, but with its most intimate adversary. “Three years ago, it was a jerk off, so I hope to have fun”, whispered the Frenchman, ” happy to [se] to be able to play it at Roland-Garros ” once more.

Because at both 35 years old, “And clearly not the same level”, smiled Gasquet, nobody knows if and when an eighteenth meeting will follow this seventeenth game between the two men. “I don’t have a lot of Roland Garros to play yet, so I want to take advantage of it. ” A great belote player in front of the eternal – he even paid for his passion with isolation during the last US Open – Richard Gasquet would hate to end up in the hood. Was it against the undisputed master of Roland-Garros.