LONDON (Reuters) - Richard Gasquet sent French Open champion Stan Wawrinka flying out of Wimbledon on Wednesday, winning the battle of the slingshot backhands 6-4 4-6 3-6 6-4 11-9 to reach the Wimbledon semi-finals for the second time.
Wawrinka, bidding for a rare French Open and Wimbledon double, looked out of sorts from the first set, spraying his groundstrokes uncharacteristically long and wide on a breezy Court One and failing to tame the stinging backhand of the 21st-seeded Gasquet.
“It was tough and I made some mistakes,” Gasquet, 29, said as he came off court dripping with sweat having teed up a semi-final clash with Novak Djokovic.
“He had big confidence after Paris and I had to fight. I really wanted to win.”
The Frenchman served two double faults to gift 30-year-old Wawrinka the second set after which the powerful Swiss rediscovered some range and began spraying winners off both sides of the court.
He broke Gasquet’s serve in the fourth game of the third set, found his own booming serving rhythm and fearsome backhand bullet and wrapped up the set with a forehand winner.
But Gasquet, no slouch on grass after reaching the semi-finals here in 2007 and twice winning Nottingham, hung on with consistent shot-making and waited for more errors. They came at 4-5 on Wawrinka’s serve and the Swiss produced his first double fault to send the match into a fifth set.
They were the first sets Wawrinka had dropped in the tournament so far and it was a battle of wills and scintillating tennis that took the pair deep to an 83-minute fifth set.
Gasquet served for the set at 5-3 only for Wawrinka to find all his powerful punch-hitting and break straight back then win his own serve to level the score.
Gasquet had the advantage of serving first and said the result was partly down to mental strength.
“I was aggressive and it was a great battle,” he said.
The Frenchman helped calm his nerves by constantly changing the grip tape on his racket handle throughout the match.
“I‘m sweating a lot and maybe it’s a bit of superstition,” he said.
It took until the 20th game for Wawrinka to falter again and though he saved two match points on his serve, he sent his famed backhand long on the third to bow out.
Reporting by Clare Lovell; editing by Toby Davis