WHAT HAPPENED: No. 12 seed Richard Gasquet needed 65 minutes and a 7-4 tiebreak victory to win the first set over Paolo Lorenzi before rolling through the final two sets for a 7-6, 6-3, 6-3 US Open second round victory on Friday afternoon on a sun-drenched Court 5.
The match lasted two hours and 18 minutes. The marathon first set was due in large part to Lorenzi’s refusal to make himself easy prey and Gasquet’s inability to convert service breaks. He was 1-of-9 on break opportunities and those failed chances fueled Lorenzi, who had lost to the Frenchman three previous times, never winning more than three games in any set. This time the Italian was persistent and pesky and matched Gasquet’s baseline power stroke-for-stroke. Lorenzi was so focused on playing for the long haul that he hung tough, albeit in a losing effort, in a 30-shot rally in the sixth game.
Gasquet, 28, who advanced to last year’s US Open semifinals, where he lost to No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal of Spain in three sets, broke out to a quick 3-0 lead. He banged out winners off both sides and looked like he’d cruise to an easy victory. Lorenzi, however, had other ideas. He broke Gasquet in the fifth game and then evened the set at 3-3. Lorenzi held serve in a critical eight-minute tenth game slugfest and then again at 6-5 to force a tiebreak. Once there, though, Gasquet won the last three points with two blistering down-the-line winners and a nifty volley.
The match tilted in Gasquet’s favor midway through the second set, played in just 37 minutes. Each player held serve, but Gasquet broke in the seventh game when his deep forehand barely clipped the baseline. Lorenzi challenged the call, and when it held true, it seemed to deflate him. Gasquet closed out the set thanks to an ace in game eight and a Lorenzi forehand error in game nine.
Lorenzi, 32, may have tired, as he couldn’t maintain the velocity on his groundstrokes or match Gasquet’s pace, which never diminished throughout the match. Tied at 1-1 in the final set, Gasquet reeled off three consecutive games for a 4-1 lead and closed out the set on serve. He had 58 winners compared to just 27 for Lorenzi. Gasquet’s Achilles heel in the match was service break opportunities. He was only 4-of-18 and will need to improve that percentage in his third round match.
WHAT IT MEANS: Nadal posted a decisive 6-4, 7-6, 6-2 victory over Gasquet in the semifinals of last year’s US Open. Gasquet has reached at least the fourth round in 10 of 16 Grand Slams he has played, but he next faces a formidable opponent in his good friend and compatriot No. 20 seed Gael Monfils, who holds a 6-4 lead in the series. Monfils has won three of the last four meetings, including a straight-sets victory at the Montpellier indoor hard court event in France last March.
THE QUESTION: Gasquet has been on the losing end of his recent matches with Monfils. Does this third round match have a chance to become a five-set thriller?