Rafael Nadal and Richard Gasquet have been friends and rivals, on amateur as well as professional tours, since their teenage. Quite cinematic! Richard Gasquet was touted as one of the most talented kids around those late 1990s, while Rafael Nadal was still getting accustomed to playing with his weaker hand. Their journeys have started as a “prodigy” and “less than prodigy” respectively. Gasquet has taken Rafael Nadal out at Tarbes, France in 1999. People, who had been awed by the magic of his backhand, were expressing warm approval of the emergence of a future champion. They were astonished by the purest form of striking, which only gifted ones can bring to the court. Gasquet was one heck of a player on amateur tour and entered the professional tour as the one to be beaten. Reality check awaited Gasquet!
Turn the page over and that victory in Tarbes happened to be the last time Gasquet has triumphed over Nadal. Professional H2H record says 10-0 in favor of Nadal. 14 years have passed by and Gasquet has presented himself with another opportunity to justify his potential. He would dearly love to erase that ‘0’ in H2H and that demands a brilliant act of snatching an US Open final berth from the 12 time major champion. While Gasquet should be delighted with his own form and consistency, he has a bigger threat to handle in Nadal, the man of the moment. Nadal is yet to drop his serve in 67 service games en route to semi-final and his serve placement, more than anything, has been the core to this achievement. Nadal has managed to summon his mighty forehand as a killer weapon to tame his opponents, and it’s not hard to notice that serve was being backed by a solid game. One would have imagined that Nadal would struggle at the Flushing Meadows, considering the pace of the court and time of the year. But knock, knock…surprise! It is a silencing achievement for someone who has had to carry the ‘dust’ of clay for being a GOD on that surface!
Nadal has more than Gasquet backhand alone to be mindful about. While Gasquet is terrific on his backhand wing, you would be surprised to know the balance he has managed to maintain on his forehand side. [54 FH winners – 63 BH winners] is pretty close to a balanced game. On contrast, Nadal has, as always, been using his lethal forehand to dominating effect and been barely tested on his shield-like backhand. [97 FH winners – 22 BH winners] tells you everything! Gasquet’s backhand down the line shall be a sharp pin to puncture the heaviness in Nadal’s forehand wing. Deflation can eventually be assured, provided Gasquet persists with the solidity he has displayed throughout the tourney. Nadal has been outplaying his opponents from the baseline and outsmarting them at the net. It takes a stellar performance from Richard Gasquet to counter Nadal in either ploy. He looks hungry and he needs to fetch his food, because Nadal is not going to serve it to him!