2. Style Points: Richard Gasquet
Age: 19 — Turned pro: 2002
Last year, Richard Gasquet defeated the king, Roger Federer. It happened at the Masters Series in Monte Carlo, where the French teenager fought off three match points to topple the world’s best player in three pass-the-Mylanta sets. “He was just hitting clean winners,” Federer said. “He played into this zone where you had the feeling there was nothing you could do.” That match was the defining achievement of a coming-of-age season that saw Gasquet soar up the rankings, starting outside the Top 100 and reaching a career high of No. 12 by mid-September.
Get backhand: While Gasquet looks like a ball boy compared to his muscular contemporary Rafael Nadal, he can dazzle with the racquet. His one-handed topspin backhand is a point-ender that John McEnroe says is the best on the men’s tour. But he’s no one-stroke wonder. Gasquet (who works with Andy Roddick’s former coach, Tarik Benhabiles) can make the game look easy with his fluid groundies, and his instinctual understanding of court geometry and willingness to change pace are reminiscent of Martina Hingis.
Prodigy no more: When Gasquet was 9, he was on the cover of a French tennis magazine with the headline RICHARD G.: THE CHAMPION FRANCE IS WAITING FOR? No pressure or anything. But Gasquet is starting to live up to the hype. He already holds one record: At age 15, he was the youngest player to qualify for a Masters event. And in 2004, he won his first Slam, the French Open mixed doubles, with compatriot Tatiana Golovin. With a combined age of 33, they were the youngest mixed-doubles champions in Paris in 23 years.
Trés cool: In many ways, Gasquet is the typical French player, stylish and idiosyncratic. He’s also a bit of a hothead—he once defaulted a match for no other reason than he was frustrated, and he was disqualified from the 2004 U.S. Open qualies after he threw a racquet that ended up hitting a linesperson in the face. But last year Gasquet showed a more mature side, reaching the fourth round of the Open, beating Ivan Ljubicic in the process.
Source: Smash Tennis Magazine
Author: Allen St. John