We could have forgotten the forth Frenchman on the ATP, and he certainly would have loved that quite a lot. But we squeezed him in the corners of the Stade Jean Bouin....
.....where the sad trops of december [rain] are falling. Faithful to his image, Richard Gasquet, 22 years of age, does not burst out in the first light of the morning. Actually he said: „It is tough“ wrapped in his huge anorak. „It is true, this is what he said in the morning when arriving. But as soon as he has started, we don’t stop anymore and then he can lead us into a trap, as he wants to work so hard“ corrects his physical trainer Nicolas Perotte immediately.
For once, he will have had six weeks to refine all the details of a new rehabilitiation. Gasquet wont’t deprive himself of this. On the menu: working session on the forehand, so fragile in dense moments, choices of more courageous returns, strengthening of the body and reforming the mentality without changing it too much. Even a break in the programme – a tenditis in the shoulder which disturbed some exercises during the last days and which forced him to withdraw from the exhibition tournament „Masters of France“ in Toulouse next week - will not be used as an excuse later. „Nothing serious a part from the service and the upper body muscles“ specified Guillaiume Peyre: „It will be better on Monday already. He has nevertheless played 3 hours 30 minutes this morning [yesterday]. As for his physique, he does nothing but work on that, we focus on series and on displacement….“
While Simon and Tsonga are criss-crossing the Pyrenees and Monfils had briefly his lungs puffed in the Jura after a stay in a spa in Bretagne, Richard has decided to stay for six weeks in his cursed city of 2008: Paris, a place where his ambitions were counteracted by a cyste in the knee and a piece of bone in the ellbow, the first eliminating him from Roland Garros, the second from Bercy, two disapointing withdrawals in the last minute. Beyond himself at Davis Cup, living a blues during the spring, skipping the Olympics and just great in spectacular defats against Murray (Wimbledon), Nadal (Toronto) and del Potro (Tokyo), Gasquet has experienced a new journey through the desert in his tormented career.
But at the end of the day, great news awaited him: He was no longer the only „elected“ of French tennis, because Tsonga and Simon largely profited from the vacation of the Béziers-native’s power. Ouff. „Not to be THE Frenchman about whom one talks all the time, I don’t miss that, believe me….“ And damned- we believe him.
In Gasquet’s own dream world it would be necessary to let of some steam whithout which nothing burns [I have serious doubts about this translation, even native Frenchies dispaired at the original „Dans la galaxie révée de Gasquet, il faudrait cracher le feu sans que rien ne brule"] and at the same time allow oneself to forget that one is Mozart while staying excellent at the same time. An impossible task, obviously, which the Frenchman masters in his own way.
Fallen back to nr 25 in the world, he simply hopes to fill the hole without boiling of hatred against his French rivals. „I feel a healthy emulation with healthy guys. This is pleasant and good for Davis Cup as we need many good players to win it. As far as I am concerned, my objective is to return to the Top Ten. To do that, it is necesary to be solid in important moments and find the key to accumulate successful matches.“ In this long period of preparation which Gasquet has not had since 2006, he refines foremost his physique which the insiders still consider his weak point. With endurance in the main focus, he works on his intensity in sprints of 30 seconds at maximum effort, interrupted by breaks of 15 seconds. Those who belittle his athletic potential should go to the edges of Parc St. Cloud on Saturday mornings when the main group of cross-country bikers of the team gasps for air, lead by „Lance Gasqueteaux“, calves made of steel.
„Being on a cross country-bike, is like a walk for Richard, because he has great strength in his lower body“ explains Perotte. It is on the upper part where he has still work to do. He has good values on max oxygen-uptake up to the threshold, not every athlete has it necessarily, but we still have to work in the maximal area. But since two years, his involvement is more and more important.
With reinforced confidence and physically stronger, the French ex-Nr 1 can therefore approach his third weakness „under construction“: the forehand which leaves him sometimes at crucial moments. „This is a focus of our work“ tells Peyre. „Richard has a negative approach to this shot, which causes sometimes tension and he loses his incredible acceleration. But for me he has an atomic bomb in his hands, on condition that he is relaxed.
Committed to this programme regime, the sprints and the gym until the end of next week, Gasquet will have then six light days, before being the first of the bunch to go to Australia, on 26 December. A first sign of impatience?
translated from L'Equipe 11 December 2008 by Puschkin