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Le Coq Sportif

 Priority: Serve

Presse (Francais)Puschkin a écrit : "The French number one has to improve its serve, in particular, its power, but also its refinement.

In three days, he will be the tip of the sword of the DC team which will recieve Rumania in Clermont-Ferrand. Unquestioned French number 1, Richard Gasquet, has now arrived at a level which is at a minimum repectable, but still seems to be away from the top due to some obstacles. His serve, in particular, is right now not at par with the principal rivals of his generation....

Is the serve Gasquet's handicap? Yes. During his defeat against Robredo in the 4th round of the AO, the Frenchman hit one ace in four sets. Even if he opted on that day for a high percentage of first serves, he lost that way a number of occasions to "economise" by winning cheap points. Eric Deblicker, his coach, confirmed after the match: "Richard has to hit harder, this is obvious. I'd prefer 65% of first serves instead of 78%, but with 12 aces and 12 service winners. At this level, serving at 170-180 km/h is not sufficient. What is even worse, Richard can do it. At the end of 2005, he was regularly above 200 km/h."

"For the moment this is his weak point" thinks Patrice Hagelauer (DTN, those French acronyms :devil: )). The top players hit 700-800 aces per year, the best Frenchman reaches 400, this is insufficient. Today, the serve is 60-70% of the game. According to Deblicker, everything is a question of time and mental investment. "He has to be more relaxed (let lose) on his serve" he says. "I tell him often, but he has to make the decision. In fact, he has to do with his serve as with the rest of his game, i.e. to install him as the boss on the court. He has to gain 15 km/h, my speech is always the same: One has to dare. But I am not concerned, it will come."

Is the problem of a technical nature? No. Since the change of his movement 2 1/2 years ago, during the short time with Tarik Benhabiles on his side, Gasquet possesses a clean technique. "I have moved from a movement with a very low ellbow to a more compact serve, like Roddick or Monfils", explains the French number 1. The weakness might be more of a physical nature. "I have no more concerns, following my ellbow injury", Gasquet adds. "But it is necessary to reinforce my upper body. I am working on it, but this is not done in three days."

"As much as Richard is hyper strong in his lower body, as much he has to add above" confirms his father Francis. "He feels it when he has to play many matches as he has done in Australia (1/4 in Adelaide, 1/2 in Sydney, 4th round in Melbourne). Like all the top players he begins to feel it in his hands, his ellbow, hi shoulder. And he holds himself back." "It is difficult to hit with at least 200 km/h for four hours", concludes the son.

Harder or more variety? The future of Gasquet depends not only and fully on an important gain in service speed. This is at least what Patrick Hagelauer, the trainer of the French DC team thinks. According to him, the French number 1 possesses a better serve than one might think. "For example, in his match against Monfils in Melbourne, it was Richard who benefitted more from his serve. Of course, Gael hits a first serve with 220 km/h and the crowd goes "wow", but what really counts is efficiency (Gasquet winning 79% of his first serve points, Monfils 63%). He has a better utilisation of court geometry. This not only allows him to economise on is arm, but this also creates more uncertainty for the returner. The ideal is to master perfectly the three zones (out wide, middle and T) and the three "spins"(flat, slice, topspin). Then it will be difficult to anticipate.

With his medium size (1,85m) Gasquet will never hit as hard as e.g. Roddick. "His size is not a handicap" says his father. "But he has to be very precise. With his serve, Richard has still a big margin of progress". In the mind of Deblicker, the " playground" serve is one of the 2007 priorities. Because it is the most certain way to establish himself in the top ten.

Translated by Puschkin from the L'Equipe article posted by Lily on 6 February 2007"



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