Ageless Wonder: Richard Gasquet Remains Forever Young
By James Henry
(August 15, 2019) CINCINNATI — For more than two decades, all eyes have been on Richard Gasquet, touted as a future champion on the cover of French Tennis Magazine when he was just 9 years old.
That was in 1996.
And it was prophetic — Gasquet, so far, has won 15 ATP Tour singles titles. He made his debut in 2002, receiving a wildcard into qualifying in Monte Carlo and becoming the youngest ever to qualify for a Masters 1000 event.
After undergoing groin surgery, Gasquet missed the first four months of this season.
But he now is making up for lost time, upending the return to singles competition of another popular player also coming back from surgery in January.
He defeated three-time Slam champion Andy Murray, who had a hip resurfacing procedure after the Australian Open, and then followed that big victory with wins against Federico Delbonis and Diego Schwartzman to reach the quarterfinals at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.
Gasquet made his return at the Mutua Madrid Open in May. He said he finally felt like he was rounding into form and finding his top tennis again against Kei Nishikori a week ago at the Coupe Rogers in Montreal.
“I was feeling better last week winning Nishikori. Was a very good match for me, 7-6 in the third. Physically was tough. I managed to play from the baseline very fast, you know, playing my game,” he recalled.
“That’s why after this match I felt I was playing better. That’s why now I can play with the high level like today. You know, you need to be fast, you need to serve well, you need to be strong. Last week after this match I felt better. Of course, it’s a long process, but today it was a big match for me.”
TURNING BACK THE CLOCK
Now 33-years-old, Gasquet said he didn’t imagine that he still would be competing at this age.
But, he noted, he still is having fun and still is playing well.
“Yeah, of course, I was not thinking I would play until — I’m 33 now,” he said. “So, yeah, it’s a long, very long, but I still enjoying it. I’m still playing well. I still like to play matches.”
“Yeah, I don’t know how long I will play. Maybe two, three years. It’s tough to say,” the Frenchman added.
“Yeah, I still like it. And, of course, it’s a big longevity for me, but you see a lot of players who are playing late now, so it helps for me to play more and more.”
The key has been taking care of his body, even though that is increasingly difficult as the years add up.
“I see physio more often than before. Of course, when I was 20 years old, I tell you, I didn’t see physio so much. But now, at 33, I need to see the physio every day,” Gasquet said.
“That’s the difference, the big difference. As a teenager, when you’re young, of course, it’s easier to recover faster. Now at 33, you have to be very careful.”
While that physical challenge has grown, Gasquet still is fit mentally. He currently is ranked No. 56, outside the top 50 for the first time since 2010, after he was out of competition for a significant period of time.
“For sure, physically the game is bigger now. It’s much tougher than before. The physical condition is high level now, more than when I started in 2005. It’s more difficult,” said the tennis pro known for his long groundstrokes and his one-handed backhand.
“Of course, I work a lot to feel better on my physical condition. Yeah, of course. Mentally I still like to — I still enjoy to play.”
And, yes, that elegant backhand still is his favorite shot.
“I think, of course, the backhand is better than forehand. Yeah, it’s a stroke I did well today. I managed to do it very good, and I think it was one of the keys of the match,” he said.
“It’s a natural stroke. You know, I played always one-handed backhand, even when I was 6, 7 years old.”