In a clash to decide the 2018 Swedish Open, third seed Fabio Fognini of Italy takes on French fourth seed Richard Gasquet. Both men are well-established veterans of the Tour, with some fine results to their name. But neither will be entirely satisfied with their seasons so far although they have both claimed a title with Fognini winning on the clay in Sao Paulo and Gasquet on grass in Rosmalen. But who will come out on top in Sweden?
Fognini and Gasquet have met three times so far in their careers in a head-to-head that Gasquet leads 2-1, though they have not clashed since 2013. Their first meeting came in Mumbai in 2007 with Gasquet crushing Fognini 6-0 6-1 in the round of 16. When their rivalry was renewed in 2012, it was again Gasquet who triumphed, beating the Italian 6-2 6-1 in Sydney. But in 2013, Fognini had a measure of revenge, besting Gasquet in the quarterfinals in Monte Carlo 7-6 6-2.
Path to the final
Fognini began his Bastad campaign against Sweden’s Mikael Ymer in the second round having enjoyed a bye in the first. He got off to a slow start, losing the first set six games to one. But he turned it around impressively to advance a 1-6 6-4 6-2 winner. He then dispatched Argentina’s Federico Delbonis 6-4 6-3 to reach the semifinals. There he battled past the dangerous fifth seed Fernando Verdasco, reaching the final a 6-1 4-6 7-5 winner.
Gasquet, who also enjoyed a first round bye, opened his tournament against Austria’s Gerard Melzer, and like Fognini he made a slow start, losing the first set. But he too turned the match around, and won through 1-6 6-3 6-1 to set up a quarterfinal clash with Norwegian teenager Casper Ruud. The opening set was close, but when Gasquet took it on a tiebreak Ruud’s challenge faded, with Gasquet winning 7-6 6-2. He then dismissed the challenge of Henri Laaksonen 6-2 6-3 in the semifinals.
How do they match up?
Fognini and Gasquet are both shot-makers of the first rate and prone to go missing in matches when the going gets tough. Fognini is technically without weakness off the ground, and though he prefers to attack with his forehand, he is equally capable of striking with his backhand, particularly when he takes it down the line. Gasquet’s main weapon is his one-handed backhand, which is unquestionably one of the best on Tour, but his forehand is rather lacking in bite.
Both can struggle when stepping to the line, a weakness opponents have exploited in the past. Fognini’s relatively diminutive stature, he stands 5’10” tall, makes it difficult for him to exploit angles as might a taller man and usually forces him to rely on kicked second serves. Gasquet is taller at 6’1”, and is equipped with a better serve than Fognini, but can still struggle to use it efficiently. Both are, however, excellent movers, with Fognini particularly impressive in this regard on clay.
There is little to separate Gasquet and Fognini on paper, but on a clay court the advantage clearly lies with Fognini. Though he might have to combat fatigue a little after a hard-fought semifinal and an appearance in the doubles semis alongside Simone Bolelli, that should not be too much of a problem after a week’s break. His defensive skills and clay court nous should prove too much for Gasquet and expect the Italian to lift the title after a straight sets win.