May/10

23

French Open–Pick a Match

The first round match of Andy Murray and Richard Gasquet on the red dirt of Roland Garros is a beauty. There was a time not long ago that this match up could only be counted on late in a Slam, but here the Scot and the Frenchman meet in the opener. Gasquet comes off his nice Nice tournament win over Verdasco. Murray has faltered big-time of late, surprisingly going out meekly in Indian Wells and Miami and not going far in any of the clay court events preceding the French. He has Alex Corretja on his team, but it still hasn’t helped much his clay-court showings.

Gasquet is exactly 11 months older than Murray, who just turned 23 a couple of weeks ago. To throw in a Yogi Berra, it’s getting late early for both of these once-phenoms to capture that elusive Slam that they were both, in their teens, expected to have bagged by now. This might be Gasquet’s best chance to win one now, he’s 24 and although older first-time French champions have broken through in Paris (think Andres Gomez and Andre Agassi) he’s become something of an after-thought in the game’s elite. But Gasquet has shown that he can play well at Wimbledon, too, so maybe his Slam breakthrough could occur in London. Still, after last year’s suspension and then quick re-admission (I mean, I saw this guy play in the New Haven qualis last August, he had fallen so far), Gasquet has to be the sentimental favorite in Paris. He holds a 2-1 pro career advantage over Murray, but they have never faced each other on the dirt.

I pick Gasquet in five. What do you think?

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4 comments

  • RIP · May 24, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    Well said, Dan. As much as it pains me to agree with you, I will go with Gasquet in five too. A few factors that could hurt Gasquet:

    1. He is notoriously flaky and may be perturbed by the fact the French Federation denied his request to give him another day off after the Nice final on Saturday (Tsonga also asked for another day, they did not give it to him and Tsonga barely scraped by Brands yesterday).

    2. If it goes 5, Murray is fitter and has been a better fighter throughout his career.

    3. Gasquet, with the exception of winning a French Open mixed doubles title, has chronically underachieved in Paris.

    I agree with your point about the drug suspension. I think Gasquet is smart enough to realize he has been given a second lease on life on the pro tour and this is a major opportunity for him. If he wins the first set the fickle French fans should really get behind him. I just thikn Gasquet not only has more variety in his game, he is often more willing to use it, his serve is underrated as well.
    Murray is a much better competitors, still I go wtih Gasquet in give perhaps the sentimental pick as you say.

  • Scoop Malinowski · May 24, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    Very hard to call this. Gasquet wins if he plays like he did in Nice which was a phenomenal display. But the pressure and expectations are now on the historically inconsistent French underachiever. Gasquet so often seems to play subpar tennis in the big moments. Once in a while he shocks you with magic (Roddick win at Wimbledon from two sets down). Gotta think a letdown is likely from the Verdasco win in Nice. And Murray is cagey enough to exploit it.

  • Dan Markowitz · May 24, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    Well, the experts were wrong in Round 1, except for Scoop, who sort of, not definitively, picked Murray in the first round. Gasquet scorched to a two-set-to-love lead, but then either his let-down, or Murray’s renaissance led to Murray winning easily, 6-1 in the fifth set. So it was Murray in five and not Gasquet in five.

    I’m eying a possible second-round encounter of the tall American, Sam Querry, facing the fine Italian dirt-baller, Polito Starace.

  • Scoop Malinowski · May 24, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    Another strange match from Gasquet. So close but so far. Limitless marvelous talent but his tenacity for the fight just wasn’t there enough today. Murray wanted it more. Thought I called it just about perfectly Dan 🙂 Murray eventually got his opportunities and exploited them to pull off the comeback win.

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