WHAT HAPPENED: No. 12 seed Richard Gasquet was forced to rally in the opening two sets to beat Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan, 7-5, 7-6, 6-4, in a hotly contested US Open first-round match on Tuesday.
World No. 44 Istomin imposed himself early in the match against the 2013 US Open semifinalist, breaking for a 3-2 lead in the first set. He went on to serve for the first set, but a double fault proved costly, as Gasquet broke back to level the set at 5-all. The Frenchman, who led their head-to-head, 3-1, was able to break again, taking the first set in 47 minutes.
After the first set, Gasquet could be seen laying his soggy shirts on his chair to dry as he required multiple shirt changes during the first set alone. With temperatures rising into the high 80s, Court 17 offered no reprieve from the heavy sun, and both players smartly utilized ice towels on the changeovers to keep cool.
Gasquet, 28, showed some fatigue in the second set, and Istomin once again capitalized, breaking for a 4-3 lead. However, again, much like the first set, momentum swung back to Gasquet, who broke back for 4-all. The second-set tiebreak progressed like much of the match had, with mini-breaks being traded, and Gasquet ultimately winning the tiebreak, 7-5, with a forehand winner for a 2-0 set lead.
As temperatures lowered slightly, the early break in the third set went to Gasquet for a 1-0 lead. As Gasquet held for 3-1 in the third set, Istomin smacked a ball out of the stands in frustration, receiving a code-violation warning for ball abuse.
Often called “Mozart with a racquet” due to his pristinely crafted one-handed backhand, Gasquet gave his opponent no wiggle room to insert himself in the last set. With Gasquet serving at 5-4 with three match points, Istomin sealed his own fate by smacking a ball out of the stands again, receiving another code violation and point penalty to give Gasquet the win.
WHAT IT MEANS: In his 10th consecutive US Open appearance, Gasquet will next play Italian Paolo Lorenzi, who advanced due to a retirement from Yoshihito Nishioka in the first round. In the same quarterfinal as No. 2 seed Roger Federer and No. 7 seed Grigor Dimitrov, Gasquet will look to impose himself on his fellow players also known for their one-handed backhands.
Istomin, who is coached by his mother, will not be able to match his best showing at the US Open, which was last year when he reached the fourth round.
QUESTION: Can Gasquet recreate his success from last year and reach the semifinals again at the US Open?