[Only meeting: Paris Masters 2006 (Carpet), Gasquet won 7-5 6-1]
Single-handed backhands are a treat to behold, even more so when they are well executed. Gasquet and Wawrinka are amongst the finest exponents of that art in the men’s game and that’s why this is a game that you cannot afford to take your eyes off.
2013 has been a revelation for both players; they are having one of their best seasons on tour. They hold almost identical records – Gasquet is 25-8 and Wawrinka is 26-9. Gasquet has 2 titles, at Doha and Montpellier, both on hard courts. Stan won the event at Estoril on clay beating David Ferrer.
As can be seen, there isn’t much to separate the two. Why this year has been special for both is the fact that they are back in the mainstream after a long hiatus. When they initially appeared on the stage, big things were expected from both Gasquet and Wawrinka. It was no surprise considering the quality of their games, somehow they failed to maintain that level and consequently fell out of the top 10. Now they’re back where they belong and ready to take the next step at this event as neither has managed to get past the 4th round here. Wawrinka for 3 years running (2010, 2011, 2012) has succumbed at this stage while his opponent today has done it 2 years in a row (2011, 2012).
Their last meeting was close to eons ago and we can’t really read much into it. Wawrinka had a bit of an injury scare coming into the tournament and almost withdrew. He’s lost a set in 2 out of 3 rounds, whether that’s down to injury we won’t know. Gasquet has been mighty impressive meanwhile with straight sets victories on each occasion.
One of these 2 combatants is going to cross that chasm of the 4th round come the end of the day. The French home support will be behind Gasquet, but Wawrinka is equally well-loved in these parts. Both of their games are just so beautiful to watch that neutrals would have a hard time picking a favourite. A match not to be missed for those who like great shot-making.
[Expected start: 6.30 pm IST]
(2) Maria Sharapova vs (17) Sloane Stephens [Head-to-head: Sharapova leads 2-0]
[Last meeting: Rome 2013 (Clay), R16, Sharapova won 6-2 6-1]
Can Sloane Stephens go one better from last year?
She will have to take out the defending champion Maria Sharapova if she is to meet that objective. The good news is that this is as good a time as any to take out the Russian. Maria hasn’t exactly been cruising; she was not tested in the first 2 rounds, but when Zheng Jie took it to her in Round 3 she appeared a little rattled.
And that serve of her tends to go walkabout when under pressure; she dished out 8 double faults in that match, 6 of which came in that tight second set. Sharapova’s powerful hitting from the back of the court is hard to displace, unless of course you’re Serena Williams who can pretty much do anything.