Richard Gasquet goes for the three-peat in Montpellier as he battles German phenom Alexander Zverev for the second time this season. Gasquet beat Zverev in straight sets when they met in early January at the Hopman Cup.
(3) Richard Gasquet vs (4) Alexander Zverev
Gasquet found little trouble in the semifinals against a familiar foe in Benoit Paire. Gasquet rolled to a 6-2, 6-2 win as he’s now won eight of the nine career sets between the two. Gasquet recovered from an early hiccup after swapping breaks with Paire to open the match. He would break Paire twice more in the first set and twice more in the second. After being broken in the first set, Gasquet would save all three break chances he faced the rest of the way. His serve numbers were very Gasquet, 71 percent won on first serve and 50 percent on second. The defending champion feasted on Paire’s Achilles Heel with his French compatriot only getting his first serve in 40 percent of the time. That left Gasquet 28 cracks at Paire’s second serve, where he won 19 points.
Zverev showed great intestinal fortitude after falling down a break quickly in set two against 2nd seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. After dropping a tense tiebreak, Sascha looked in trouble down 0-1 in set two, but he would break Tsonga in the next game and then again on Tsonga’s next service game. Those were the first two breaks against the Frenchman all week. That allowed Sascha to race to a 6-2 second set win. The third set saw him fight off a break chance in a lengthy opening game and then convert on the lone break chance against Tsonga in the 10th and final game of the set. That led to the 6-7 (6), 6-2, 6-4 win. Zverev’s serve held up well with just one break against it and he should feel confident after breaking Tsonga four times in the match.
Early Season Win For Gasquet
These two have met just once before and that came in January at the Hopman Cup in Australia. Watching highlights of this one, you can see that both players love to hug the baseline. Zverev’s pace and power gave Gasquet trouble at-times, but it was the crafty Frenchman who did a nice job of slowing the pace in those rallies to his eventual advantage. Gasquet won 7-5, 6-3. Zverev wasn’t afraid to go backhand-to-backhand against Gasquet, but did his best off the ground when he tweaked the forehand to backhand rallies. He did a nice job several times in hitting a shot that Gasquet was not expecting and earning a winner.
Zverev’s power on serve also gave Gasquet some issues, but Gasquet did enough on return to get into those rallies that favored him. Variety seems to be the thing that Sascha does well in wins and not so well in losses. If he gets into the same patterns with his serve, then it is edge to Gasquet. Gasquet doesn’t wow with his serve, but he’s precise and capable of coming up with big serves when needed.
The Pig’s Bottom Line
Montpellier has been Gasquet’s personal playground. He has won the title three times and is playing in his fifth final here. Zverev also seems to jive well with this surface though as he made the semifinals last year and the final this year. This is a huge opportunity for Zverev to further cement himself as one of the potential heirs to the throne. The 19-year-old is playing in his fourth career ATP final with a 1-2 mark in his previous tries. The feeling is that if he can reproduce the serve that he had against Tsonga and the mental strength, he’s got a shot to pull the upset. His ground strokes can match Gasquet’s and his power gives him an edge.
Gasquet’s only finals loss in Montpellier came to Gael Monfils in 2014. The Frenchman is 14-13 overall in ATP finals, it’s been these 250-level tournaments like Montpellier where he has won all 14 previous titles against eight losses. Gasquet likely will be broken a few times. That’s just how it goes without an elite serve. What he’ll need to do is keep Zverev engaged in those lengthier baseline rallies and again do the job in switching up the pace of those rallies. He doesn’t want to go power for power with Zverev. Sascha has more. What Gasquet does the best is use that one handed backhand to put his opponents into deep and awkward positions on the court. If he stays consistent with that, then the three-peat is achievable.
It’s hard to go against Gasquet at this tournament, but Zverev’s confidence should be high after the Tsonga upset. If Sascha Z. brings that powerful serve consistently as he did against Tsonga, it will be the difference maker against Gasquet.
Prediction: Zverev wins in three sets