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News & Photos / Articles / Relentless Djokovic puts Gasquet to the sword

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If the home fans were hoping Gasquet would come out and grab the initiative on Centre Court, they were to be sadly disappointed. In a first game that set the tone for the match, the man from Beziers failed to impose himself either on his first service or with his ground-strokes. Djokovic needed no second bidding to step up to the baseline and find the corners to send Gasquet scurrying.

The first game was gifted to the Serb, and with Gasquet's nerves still jangling, Djokovic held for 2-0. Only in the third game did "Ritchie" settle, precisely eight minutes too late.

Thereafter games went with service in a delightful first set full of meaty exchanges. Gasquet is a survivor from another era, one in which French children were taught to play with Gallic flair, employing flamboyant technique to great effect.

Contrasting styles
The contrast between the pair's backhands was striking. Gasquets's extravagant backlift and follow-through is reminiscent of musketeer D'Artagnan. Djokovic's is far more perfunctory and has more of the boxer about it, the power generated from his core as he punches from the hip. 'En garde', said Gasquet. 'Take that', replied Djokovic, as the two traded blows.

Gasquet earned three break points at 2-3, and had he managed to convert one, the match may have taken a different course. As it was, Novak saved the first two with heavy first services and follow-up winners. A second service into the body did the trick on the third, and the last of Gasquet's break points - all match - was gone.

The first set was wrapped up in 36 minutes, and as we moved into the second the pressure began to grow on the Frenchman. Djokovic had found his groove, his 70% first serve percentage for an 89% success rate meaning Gasquet could not get any traction with his returns. In contrast, the Frenchman's first service percentages read 61% in for 66% won, and that meant he was struggling to hold more often than not.

At 3-3 in the second set, Gasquet cracked. Novak broke to love in the blink of an eye, his clenched fist the first sign of emotion in over an hour's play.

Plain sailing
Djokovic had his man now, and with the pressure off and the crowd becalmed, he moved up (yet) another gear. Now we could delight in some of the cleanest hitting you are ever likely to see, and Gasquet could only stand and watch as the ball fizzed by. The second set was won 6-4 in 37 minutes and the third, a formality, snapped up 6-2 in 34 minutes to complete an excellent afternoon's work.

Gasquet can have few regrets. That sloppy opening service game apart, he played to his seeding today, if not higher, but Djokovic was imperious, and from the second set on unbreakable.

The Frenchman should take heart from a breakthrough Roland Garros in which he reached the fourth round for the first time, and more significantly rallied the fans to his cause at last. Grass is more suited to his game and he should go to Wimbledon with the quarter-finals in his sights.

But with Djokovic honing in on the corners of service box and baseline - and rarely missing, Gasquet simply had no chance. Would anyone have?

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