In this semi final encounter at SW19, reigning Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia and Richard Gasquet of France are set to square off in what many predict as being a non-event.
The match-up has never made pretty reading for Gasquet. Standing far behind-the-baseline whilst looping forehands that have no pace on them and are struggling to make beyond the service box is trouble asking against the Djoker. Being neither a good enough mover to protect the baseline, nor a good enough ball striker to be able to attack on-top-of-it effectively, the Frenchman over the years has felt as though he has had no other alternative but to opt for playing deeper in the court. It’s meant he has had to learn when back there how to make the most of the great hand skills he has. He now is able to defend better, chip balls back, keep balls low etc. Occasionally when far back he will rip a backhand winner or passing shot and everyone will go ‘oh-la-la’. Against the lesser player he gets away with these antics, but those at the very elite top of the game, not a chance.
No doubt, it’s easier to become outmanoeuvred when you stand as far back as Gasquet does, especially on grass. Being so far back carries the knock-on effect of often proneness to dropping the ball short, which then allows your opponent the opportunity to take charge of the rally/point. Of course, it’s a no brainer, a short ball against any of the guys in the top 8 and they’re hurting and punishing you straight away using all angles/width and their ability to routinely step up the court, take the ball early and finish off the point at the net with an easy volley. This becomes even easier for them when not only they have the short ball, but their opponent is so far back.
I often hear people say; ‘well why when Gasquet has such a good backhand does he not stand on the baseline, surely he can take the ball early?’ When your major weapon/strength is your backhand and not the forehand, it is a little more difficult to act as dictator, aggressor, someone that takes the initiative in the rally/point. Much easier to dominate your opponent. To play up on the baseline at this level, you need either a forehand you can use to dictate with or great lateral movement that allows you to protect the baseline.
Sebastian Grojean has worked relentlessly with Gasquet on his movement and his fitness, but his court positioning during rallies has not changed yet and that’s where the fundamental problem is. Until that problem is solved with a solution, he will always be the best of the chasing pack. (Just outside the top 10) Saddening but just the way it is really. Style over substance. The talent, but not the effectiveness of game.
Djoker to serve a beat-down. Comprehensive straight sets.
(From betting persepective Djokovic -7.5 games at 2.01 OR Djokovic 3-0 at 1.67)