Friday, November 6, 2009

The Fourth Point

Greetings tennis nuts,

It only took me 4 points of the Gasquet-Chiudinelli match to get the feeling that Richard was going to have a tough day. After a fairly lengthy cross-court backhand rally, Gasquet was caught by a down-the-line backhand by his Swiss Opponent. The young Frenchman, he of the prettiest backhand in all the land, did not seem to realize that in tennis, players are frequently forced to move to the other parts of the court to retrieve shots. Sometimes you have to travel great distances that might seem more like treks across unyielding terrain (like riding a camel across the Sahara with no water if you want to get dramatic). Sometimes, you just aren't up for the trek.

Very often the trek, and the willingness with which a player embarks upon the trek, make the difference in a match between 2 ridiculously gifted opponents. Today was such a day.

As the tepid winner from Chiudinelli rolled to the back fence, Gasquet was facing a break point before he had even noticed that his alarm clock was going off. This was the prevailing theme of the match as a fit and well-fed (lots of home cooking for the Swiss this week in Basel) Chiudinelli deconstructed the lackadaisical Gasquet with surprising ease.

Gasquet, while gorgeous to watch, is quite simply not producing very much inspired tennis. He strokes the ball exquisitely when it is in his zone, but doesn't seem willing to do the dirty work that it so often takes to get it in that zone on a more consistent basis.

At No. 57 in the world, Gasquet is in that dangerous place that pits him against very high level ATP competition in the early rounds of the events he attends. He's going to have to burn through a few more pairs of track shoes if he wants to sniff the top-20 in 2010.

His current 3 match losing streak puts Gasquet at 6-7 since his reinstatement. He's treading water in a sea that is filled with very hungry ATP sharks. It's kill or be killed, and Gasquet's troubling lack of competitive fire doesn't bode well for a player who should have some of the best-rested legs in the sport, having missed the middle of the season.

Perhaps there are larger forces at work. It can't be easy emotionally to go through the roller coaster ride that Gasquet has been through. He's only 23. He's got so much ability. His artful brand of tennis can be electric when there is some emotional content to spark it. I hope he finds his groove and overcomes his malaise.

Otherwise the sharks will get him. Chiudinelli chewed him up and spit him out today. It was an impressive display. It's too bad that Gasquet didn't show his teeth when things got tough.

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