Fine Swine: ATP Montpellier Final Preview, Gasquet vs Mathieu

Montpellier

Gasquet battles Mathieu for the 8th time
Photo: Getty Images



Top seed Richard Gasquet survived an uneven effort in the semifinals against Dustin Brown. He will go up against fellow Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu in the final of the Open Sud de France. Gasquet will be making his fourth appearance in the final with two titles to show for those efforts.

Semifinal Saturday
Richard Gasquet did not look as if he would be in position to defend his title on Sunday at the midway point of his semifinal with Dustin Brown. The Frenchman looked out of sorts and was having difficulty finding any rhythm with his serve. Gasquet was down a set (6-1) and a break at 3-0 in the second set, when he began to find some consistency. Brown dropped his next service game at-love and suddenly there was new life for the top seed. Gasquet pounced as he would reel off five straight games to climb in front at 5-3. The Frenchman would go on to win the set and then break a frazzled Brown early in the third en route to a 1-6, 6-4, 6-3 win.

Paul-Henri Mathieu had a different journey in beating Alexander Zverev in straight sets. After an early break of the German teen in the opening set, Mathieu would yield that lead late and wind up in a first set tiebreak. The lengthy 24 point breaker would ultimately fall to the Frenchman late as he won the only point in the breaker than either lost on serve. The second set saw Mathieu edge ahead 4-3, but give the break back again. Zverev could not find the magic later this time though as Mathieu scored the decisive break late to weave his way into his first ATP final since last August.

Seven Previous Meetings
Richard Gasquet has won five of the previous seven meetings between these two. The most recent came in 2014 at this event. Gasquet whipped Mathieu 6-1, 6-3 in the second round. Mathieu will have some fond memories to focus on ahead of Sunday with his two winds both coming indoors against the top seed. He beat Gasquet in 2007 at the Madrid Masters 7-6, 7-5 and again in 2009 in Rotterdam 3-6, 7-6, 6-3.

What’s Left in the Tank?
There is some question as to what Gasquet has left in the tank at this point in the week. After all, he missed all of January with a herniated disc, so he’s just getting in his first matches in over a month. During his semifinal with Brown, he appeared to have a bit of a dead arm issue on some of his serves, so fatigue may be a factor on Sunday. At 34, Mathieu has more miles on his legs, but rarely finds himself in this position. He made a final last year in Kitzbuhel on clay, but has not won an ATP level title since 2007 in Gstaad. He is 0-4 in finals since then. Gasquet meanwhile looks for title number 13. He is 5-2 in finals over the past three seasons.

Game Tactics
Richard Gasquet showed some wear and tear on Saturday and that will be cause for concern heading into Sunday. Any deficiencies in his game can be pounced on by a veteran like Mathieu. Mathieu will know his key will be to keep holding his serve as much as possible and hope that Gasquet makes some mistakes or shows some fatigue. Based on skill set, this is the top seed’s match to lose. Gasquet normally would be expected to win the ground rallies and use his sweet backhand to wreak havoc on his older compatriot. Mathieu doesn’t need to play perfect tennis to win, but he will need to keep his errors down and his head in the game. Gasquet should have just enough to edge this one, but an upset certainly would not be a total shock considering some of what we saw from the top seed on Saturday.

Prediction
Gasquet wins in three sets

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