Magnificent Gasquet halts top four charge to semis

Wed Jul 8, 2015 5:55pm EDT
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By Martyn Herman

LONDON (Reuters) - Just as the top four men's seeds seemed set to contest the Wimbledon semi-finals for the first time in 20 years, dashing Frenchman Richard Gasquet fired a broadside of backhands straight through the script on Wednesday.

Defending champion Novak Djokovic, seven-times title holder Roger Federer and home hope Andy Murray all kept to their side of the bargain with straight sets wins. But Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka, the French Open champion, let the side down.

Then again, there was no shame in a 6-4 4-6 3-6 6-4 11-9 defeat against a daring man playing one of the matches of his life in a contest dubbed "the battle of the backhands".

Gasquet, a former world junior champion who has fallen short of the heights expected of him, served for the match at 5-3 in the fifth set but fourth seed Wawrinka broke back, gesturing with a finger pointed to his head that he had the mental edge.

But Gasquet, whose trademark single-hander, like Wawrinka's near identical backhand stroke, has the purists purring, showed remarkable resolve to withstand a barrage.

With Wawrinka a proven warrior and a bona fide member of the elite after winning the 2014 Australian Open and succeeding Rafa Nadal as French Open champion, you feared the worst for Gasquet.

As the backhands fizzed diagonally across the net with ever-increasing intensity the 21st seed kept his nose in front.

Five times Wawrinka held serve to stay alive.   Continued...

Richard Gasquet of France celebrates after winning his match against Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London, July 8, 2015.      REUTERS/Toby Melville