For so long a man of the last 16, France’s eternal up-and-comer Richard Gasquet is determined to prove a lone Wimbledon semifinal finish five and a half years ago is no flash in the pan after his first-up 7-5 6-2 6-1 win over Albert Montanes on Tuesday.
The ninth-seeded Frenchman ended last season with a full set of fourth-round finishes at the majors, where his run stopped. In fact, Gasquet has advanced to the quarters or beyond just once of 14 times.
Still, it is a record his first round journeyman opponent would envy. The 32-year-old Montanes ended the day with his seventh straight first round loss at the Slams, having failed to win a match since a career-best fourth round showing at Roland Garros in 2011.
Gasquet, 26, had won all four previous matches against the Spaniard, including a four set first round win at the US Open last year.
In his 11 prior Australian Open appearances, Montanes had only made it past the first round three times. He briefly bucked the trend when he broke Gasquet early in the match, a forehand down the line catching the tape and trickling over for 3-2.
But that was all the chance he got. With Montanes serving for the set, Gasquet fought back from 30-0 down to break with a finely struck crosscourt forehand winner before holding for 6-5.
Gasquet didn’t let up from there, stopping only to regrip his unorthodox half-gripped racquet on the changeover. Gasquet closed the opening set 7-5 with a Montanes double fault donation.
From there the Frenchman’s confidence soared. He took complete control of the match, dropping just three games in the next two sets to book a second round meeting with Colombian Alejandro Falla after one hour and 36 minutes.
It was the quick finish Gasquet needed after his four and a half hour wait for the brutal all-Australian match between James Duckworth and Ben Mitchell.
“It was very long. It was tough for me to wait ... but [the crowd was] very nice. It’s always nice here.”
Nice indeed. That’s Gasquet five wins, Montanes zero.