In an all-French clash 23rd seed Richard Gasquet takes on Gael Monfils. Much was expected of both men after glittering junior careers, and whilst both have reached the latter stages of Grand Slams and achieved top ten rankings, both will also feel that they have not achieved what they might have under different circumstances. But, hope springs eternal and the two Frenchman will surely feel they can make an impact at the All England Club. But only one can reach the second round?
Gasquet and Monfils have had a long and storied rivalry, with Monfils leading their head-to-head narrowly 9-7. That has included matches at the three other Majors, but they have never before met at Wimbledon. They have, however, twice played on grass with their two most recent matches coming on the surface. Gasquet won the first, beating Monfils in Halle last year from a set down. ‘La Monf’ then edged a tight clash a week later in Eastbourne in the semifinals to win 6-2 6-7 7-6.
Last time out
Though Gasquet’s French Open ended with a heavy defeat at the hands of Rafael Nadal in the third round, that outcome was hardly a surprise. He bounced back impressively at the beginning of his grass court season by winning the title in Rosmalen, beating his compatriot Jeremy Chardy in the final. He followed that with a 2-6 2-6 first round loss to Florian Mayer in which he looked more than a little fatigued. But presumably now rejuvenated, he will hope to recapture the form he showed in Holland.
Monfils also exited the French Open in the round of 32, losing in five sets to David Goffin. He did not take to the court again until last week when he played at the Antalya Open in Turkey where he was seeded fourth. He began with a three set win over Blaz Kavcic before defeating Guillermo Garcia Lopez 7-6 6-4 to reach his first Tour-level final since making the last four in Buenos Aires in February. There he was beaten by Adrian Mannarino despite winning the first set.
How do they match up?
The natural talent possessed by both players is evident. Gasquet has long been a popular player at the Championships where he has twice made the semifinals. His free-flowing attacking game makes him well-suited to grass court tennis, and his one-handed backhand is one of the best in the game. He will rely on it to do most of the damage against Monfils. His forehand, however, is lacking as an attacking weapon and the man from Beziers has never entirely managed to account for that problem.
He will need to be at his offensive best to hit through Monfils, who is amongst the very best movers in the game. Though he lacks the ability of the likes of Djokovic, Nadal and Murray to consistently use the ball well at the end of his range, he can track down balls that few others would reach. Monfils also has plenty of power when he wants to use it, but his footwork can let him down and his concentration is hardly unwavering.
There is usually little to separate Monfils and Gasquet, but the latter is by far the more comfortable of the two on a grass court. Indeed, whilst Gasquet has enjoyed the most success at Wimbledon of any of the Slams, Monfils has never been past the third round in SW19. Gasquet is also in better form, having won the title in Rosmalen. That should be enough for him to get past his countryman in four sets, in a match that seems certain to entertain.