2012 French Open: Richard Gasquet v Andy Murray
If motivation is the key to Richard Gasquet’s fourth-round meeting with Andy Murray at the 2012 French Open on Monday, then the Frenchman has bags of the stuff at his disposal.
As soon as the draw for the men’s tournament was made, this likely match-up between the No.4 and No.17 seeds was a stand-out prospect to start the second week. The two players have met half-a-dozen times with honours even, though Gasquet prevailed in their most recent match, in Rome last month. But what is noticeable about their head-to-head record is that they have met three times in Grand Slams, with Murray undefeated. One was a five-setter here two years ago, with the others both on the Scot’s favoured grass at Wimbledon. At Roland Garros and at the All England Club in 2008, Murray came back from two sets down to win, while last year at Wimbledon he won in straight sets. Which of these defeats was the most galling for Gasquet is anyone’s guess.
This is the Frenchman’s ninth outing at his home Slam, and it is something of a surprise that in reaching the fourth round here he has equalled his best ever performance. Gasquet, who turns 26 in two weeks, may feel the odds for a big-occasion victory over Murray are at last tipping his way. In theory clay is not Murray’s best surface (that said, he made the semi-finals here 12 months ago) and he is carrying at least one back injury, or possibly two – his difficulty against Jarkko Nieminen in the second round was a new problem, he said, unrelated to the strain he has been carrying for some months.
But Murray still relishes the memory of their meeting in Paris two years ago: “It was a very good comeback. He started the match very, very well, and then I just managed to turn it around. I wouldn’t necessarily see myself as the favourite for this match. Obviously he beat me a couple of weeks ago. He’s going to have the crowd behind him. Clay has probably been his best surface. When I played him here last time, I hung in, I fought really hard. When he plays well, he’s a very, very tough guy to beat. He plays some unbelievable shots.”
Gasquet came through a testing second-round clash against one of the game’s prodigious talents, Grigor Dimitrov, who spent the latter half of the match battling cramp after a 36-shot rally that left Gasquet vomiting on court. Then on Saturday he won the last 14 games of his joust with the veteran Tommy Haas on the road to victory. But he is reluctant to be anointed favourite for his match against Murray.
“It’s always better to play him on clay than grass,” concedes Gasquet. “He is in the top four and has been for quite a while. So I’m not the favourite, but it’s up to me to play a big match, to play inside the court, which is what I managed to do in Rome during the third set. I’ll be playing on a big court. I have the crowd and I have to give everything, to have no regrets.”