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At the Net: Gasquet's hitting his stride

1:24 PM, Feb 14, 2013   |    comments
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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Richard Gasquet was always expected to be a Top-10 star, and just maybe he's gonna stay there for a while now.

The Frenchman actually came up a second-round loser in Rotterdam this week, but that's understandable, considering he was coming off a busy week that saw him capture his second title of 2013.

The nifty racquet man opened his year with a championship in Doha, this after closing out his 2012 campaign as one of the more in-form players heading down the stretch.

And the veteran Gasquet has been showing a resolve that many thought had been to be lacking from his game. He beat former world No. 3 star Nikolay Davydenko in the Doha finale, only after being down a set and a break in that improbable victory.

Note: With his second-round win in Doha last month, Gasquet became the eighth Frenchman in the Open Era to win at least 300 matches on the ATP World Tour.

His second title of '13 came on home soil in Montpellier, France last week, and he currently has an ATP-best 15 match wins this season (15-2), with his only losses coming against a pair of former Aussie Open runners-up -- fellow French star Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at last month's Oz Open and Marcos Baghdatis this week in The Netherlands.

"Three years ago, it was an incredible feeling to know that an event was going to take place in Montpellier, knowing that I would have a few opportunities to win it," said Gasquet, (an only child) who was born only 40 miles away from Montpellier in Beziers in the Languedoc-Roussillon region in France.

"It was one of my goals. I won in front of my friends, my family who were all in the stands. It's wonderful to have won two titles this season."

Gasquet also won a pair of singles rubbers in France's opening-round Davis Cup tie against Israel two weeks ago, but he has yet to beat a fellow "star" to this point in the year. As a matter of fact, he's only played one fellow Top-10 performer, and that resulted in a loss against Tsonga in Melbourne.

The speedy 26-year-old Gasquet boasts a solid all-court game, highlighted by long-winding groundstrokes and arguably the prettiest one-handed backhand in the sport, a powerful and precise weapon to be sure.

He's earned a lot of praise for his "natural ability." So much so that during a Davis Cup match against former world No. 1 Marat Safin back in 2006, British TV commentator Barry Cowan described Gasquet as "naturally more talented than Federer." Roger Federer, that is.

And Gasquet actually made the cover of French Tennis Magazine as a nine-year- old back in 1996.

Note: The former world No. 1 junior was an Olympic bronze medalist for France in doubles at last year's London Summer Games and captured a mixed doubles title at the French Open in 2004.

The current world No. 10/former world No. 7 Gasquet has appeared in 19 career finals, including his ninth ATP title last week. And for the first time since 2006, he's a multiple titlist on tour in a season ... and it's still only February.

He's the only man to win two titles so far this year.

But even with all Gasquet's recent success, he still needs to step it up the big shows ... the Grand Slams. He's only ever reached one major quarterfinal, which came via a semifinal appearance at Wimbledon six years ago, and he's never advanced beyond the fourth round at his home Slam, the French Open, and the same can be said for him at both the Aussie and U.S. Opens.

I think Gasquet's lack of a powerful and consistent forehand will probably keep him from reaching such heights as the Top 5 ... but the Top 10's still pretty good.

The Sports Network

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