Dubai tennis: Gasquet wins 550th match, Chardy stuns Minaur

Richard Gasquet during his match against Marco Cecchinato at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Monday. (Supplied photo)
Richard Gasquet during his match against Marco Cecchinato at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Monday. (Supplied photo)

By James Jose

Published: Mon 15 Mar 2021, 9:51 PM

Last updated: Mon 15 Mar 2021, 10:04 PM

Even for those who perhaps have just a passing interest in tennis, the name Richard Gasquet would ring a bell. The junior French Open and the US Open champion back in 2002, the Frenchman has been plying his trade for close to two decades now.

Now, 34, the former world junior champion can be called one of the elder statesmen in the men’s game.

And the old warhorse continued to soldier on with the two-time Wimbledon semifinalist cruising into the second round of the ATP Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Monday.

Gasquet, semifinalist here in Dubai in 2009 and 2011, completed an Italian job, making short work of Marco Cecchinato 6-4, 6-2 in an hour and 10 minutes, in a first round match on Centre Court of the Aviation Club Tennis Centre.

In the process, the world No.49, who has 15 ATP titles, reached a milestone of 550 wins to be sixth behind Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, who has 552 victories. Swiss ace Roger Federer heads the illustrious list with an astonishing 1,243 triumphs followed by Spaniard Rafael Nadal (1,008), Serbian Novak Djokovic (943) and Scotsman Andy Murray (677).

“I feel great here,” Gasquet said courtside, after his match.

“I did well last year, and I know this court. It’s nice and fast and it’s important to serve well here. I was feeling confident winning the first set and was feeling better in the second set,” he added.

Gasquet, who handed a walkover to world No.8 Andrey Rublev in the round of 16 at the Doha Open last week, due to a leg injury, said he was working his way back to full fitness.

“It’s been a difficult start to the year, and I need confidence and to feel better on court and happy. I couldn’t play in Australia. It’s been very difficult for me and I’m trying my best to recover and when I am fit, I think I can play very well but at the moment, I need to work on it,” he said.

“I hope I can be better tomorrow (Tuesday), running well and feel more confident with my body. It’s the most important thing for me right now and I can play well after that. For me the most important thing is to try and feel healthy and be fit and try and win tomorrow (Tuesday),” added Gasquet, who will take on Polish 13th seed Hubert Hurkacz, for a berth in the third round.

Meanwhile, another 34-year--old, Gasquet countryman Jeremy Chardy got through his second three-setter of the tournament by nudging past Australian ninth seed Alex De Minaur in a second-round match-up.

Chardy, ranked 53rd in the world, rallied from a set down to win 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, in an hour and 44 minutes. The unseeded Chardy had got past Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 in the opening round.

“I tried to win my service game and I grew in confidence and I started to feel good and made a lot of winners. So, it helped me a lot to win this match. To have already played a match here is always an advantage. You know the speed of the ball,” said Chardy.

“For sure, when you are confident and feeling good, you tend to play better. I played well in the beginning of the year, so it is always easier to play when you are confident. Also, the experience. It is not over even if you play a bad set. So, I stayed focussed and tried to find a solution,” he added.

Results on Monday

(x denotes seeding):

1st round

Lloyd Harris (RSA) bt Christopher O’Connell (AUS) 6-7 (5/7), 6-4, 6-1

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (ESP) bt Radu Albot (MDA) 6-4, 6-4

Aljaz Bedene (SLO) bt Yuki Bhambri (IND) 3-6, 6-1, 6-4

Jan-Lennard Struff (GER) bt Mikhail Kukushkin (KAZ) 6-3, 6-2

Richard Gasquet (FRA) bt Marco Cecchinato (ITA) 6-4, 6-2

Bernabe Zapata Miralles (ESP) bt John Millman (AUS) 6-4, 6-4

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