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Gasquet clinches Open Sud de France title

Anand Datla
FEATURED COLUMNIST
10 Feb 2013, 23:18 IST

TENNIS-FRA-ATP-MONTPELLIER

Richard Gasquet built on a solid start to the year, winning his second title in three tournaments. The world No. 10 was in a dominant mood against the clueless Benoit Paire who succumbed easily to the guiles of his talented compatriot. Gasquet set the indoor hard court inside the Arena on fire with a brilliant 6-2, 6-3 effort over his 43rd ranked opponent to take the ninth title of his career in just 69 minutes. The victory improved Gasquet to 14-1 for the year, his only loss coming at the hands of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the fourth round of the Australian Open.

With Gasquet playing like a man possessed by a sense of urgency, the 23-year-old from Avignon was pushed on the back foot straight off the bat when he surrendered his serve to open the match. Born in Beziers, barely 40 minutes from Montpellier, the world No. 10 took a commanding 5-2 lead when he converted his second break point opportunity with a glorious backhand winner to nudge the first set towards an early closure. He had the set in his bag when he served out in the next game to take the lead in a breezy 23 minute gust that threatened to wipe Paire off the court.

The most competitive phase of the contest was the middle of the second set. A marathon 23-point third game witnessed as many as six break points, before Gasquet eventually broke to take a 2-1 lead. Paire though repaired the damage immediately by breaking back in the very next game. Unfortunately though, the two intense games had sapped Paire and he fell to 0-40 on his serve in the fifth game. Paire could save the first break point but Gasquet took the next to ensure that the match remained on his racket. Serving to stay in the match, Paire squandered a game point in the ninth. Gasquet then stepped up to force match point and even though he missed on the first occasion, he took the next two points to clinch his third title in France.

Gasquet had titles in Lyon (2006) and Nice (2010), but this was a special victory, coming as it did in the presence of his extended family. “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. “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.” The world No. 10 won 85% of his first serve points and converted 7 of 12 break point chances to coast home to victory and pocket $100,000 plus the 250 ranking points.

The Frenchman was once considered a major prospect, but his off court activities derailed his flourishing journey just after he scripted his way into the top ten of tennis. After a steady effort last year, it finally appears that the Frenchman is ready to once again reach or surpass the career best mark of 7th that he had achieved in July 2007. Gasquet is scheduled to play in Rotterdam next week, among a star studded field that includes Roger Federer, who is only playing the second tournament of his season.

The doubles event also featured French winners – Marc Gicquel and Michael Llodra outlasted Swede Johan Brunstrom and Raven Klaasen of South Africa 6-3, 3-6, 11-9 to become the sixth French pair in the past eight years to have won the title in Montpellier. The French duo saved five of six break points in a pulsating encounter that lasted an hour and 21 minutes. Gicquel and Llodra took the match on their second match point to bring about the 24th career doubles title for Llodra.

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