Monday, 21 January 2013

French Duo in friendly fire

In one of the best matches of the Aus Open so far, on paper at least, Richard Gasquet, ninth seed, had obligations to finalise the day program on Rod Laver Arena against long time friend and fellow Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
The prize for the winner would be a quarter final clash with either Roger Federer or Milos Raonic.

The promise of good things from the pairing in the first set came to fruition as the crowd were given a terrific spectacle of quality tennis with dash and colour.  Plenty of winners were struck with textbook execution but also occasions demanded that risks be taken to exact that additional edge.  Sometimes these can result in tears, but for the most part today, certainly in Set 1, the pay off was well worth the effort, both in points won and for crowd delight.

Richard Gasquet's backhand is regarded by some as an art treasure, and he put it on display for patrons today.  There is a chance that an exhibition of his best backhands over the years will go on tour following the Aus Open, beginning with Federation Square.  However, as good as that shot may be, it alone could not prevent Jo-Wilfried from using his all court game to advantage and break the Gasquet serve in game one.

For the rest of the set, or the next seven games I should say, the tennis was very watchable, and that is handy for any line judges who may be thinking of turning away from time to time.  Any more break points created, and Jo-Wilfried did all the making, in this period were swept away until we had reached 5-4 with Tsonga to serve for the set.  At this moment Richard became busy in the break point manufacturing industry, building three modern looking structures for Tsonga to consider.  Jo-Wilfried decided against investing in them at this time, preferring to hold onto his serve which would return him a handy dividend - Set 1 at the going rate 6-4.

Gasquet made amends for his failure in Set 1 by beating Tsonga in a race to collect the sole service break for the second set.  The tennis maintained its high level of quality, though perhaps a floor or two lower than the penthouse of set one, and once the set had been safely claimed it was back to level pegging.

Jo-Wilfried asserted himself in the third set, claiming the early break and ensuring his serve was never threatened.  Gasquet was diligent without anything special to overwhelm Tsonga.  He contributed his role to perfection, that of the supporting cast.  Tsonga tightened his grip on proceedings leading two sets to one.

The fourth set was more of the same from a consistently impressive Tsonga who may yet become Federer's biggest obstacle to glory here.  Gasquet played good tennis but struggled to maintain the pace of the first set throughout the match and faded toward the end.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga prevailed 6-4 3-6 6-4 6-2.

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