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Le Coq Sportif

 Gasquet begins to display full richness of talent

Press (English)From Neil Harman
IT WILL be a day of varied emotions, mixing the solemnity of an era coming to a close with the vibrancy of the blooming of youth. The funeral of Prince Rainier means that the famed avenues of the principality will be shut, flags furled, security will be ultra-tight and any of the 32,000 citizens leaving a dustbin on view will have the offending eyesore pulped...

Once the ceremonies are over, the first sign of normality will come at the Coupe de SAS le Prince de Monaco, otherwise known as the Monte Carlo Masters. The quarter-finals have been delayed until the afternoon and promise to be a great antidote to tears.

French interest is guaranteed by the arrival in his first Masters quarter-final of Richard Gasquet, who burst forth here at 16, stilled at 17 and now, nearing 19, is showing the richness of his capabilities once more.

Gasquet, No 101 in the Indesit ATP rankings, defeated Nikolay Davydenko, the Russian at a career-high No 15, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 yesterday, wearing down his foe with an array of shots, especially a single-handed backhand that ranks with the most pleasing on the eye.

Eric Deblicker has been Gasquet’s coach for six months, when the family went to the French federation seeking a new sense of direction. “I wanted to refine the pleasure he had in playing and I said he had to work really hard because I had the feeling he had not done before,” Deblicker said.

Gasquet, on a run of 15 straight wins, with two Challenger tournament victories, two wins in qualifying and three in the main draw, now meets the man who has lost only once in 52 matches since the Olympics. Roger Federer had to stretch every fibre to reach the last eight with a 6-2, 6-7, 6-4 defeat of Fernando González, of Chile, who plays each shot with a ferocity that could rupture blood vessels.

It was a day of unrelenting marathons. Filippo Volandri, of Italy, finished flat on his back, arms and legs wide in the shape of a star, after a punishing 6-7, 7-6, 6-4 victory over Mariano Puerta, of Argentina, who is piecing back his career after a nine-month suspension over traces of a banned substance found in a urine sample in February 2003.

Puerta won the title in Casablanca last week and defeated Carlos Moyà in the opening round here, but Volandri, who pushes Gasquet close in the beautiful backhand bracket, found remarkable reserves. He conducted his press conference standing up, fearing that his body might cramp completely. Tennis Correspondent in Monte Carlo



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