The second round of the Marseille ATP 250 tournament featured a very entertaining match between Andrey Rublev and Richard Gasquet. On paper, world #7 Rublev should have cruised to victory over the 35 year-old Gasquet, but the home crowd fueled an inspired effort from the Frenchman, and viewers were entertained with a dramatic full-length spectacle.
Andrey Rublev vs Richard Gasquet
Gasquet Inspired Out of the Gates
Gasquet found his form early, breaking Rublev and taking the first set 6-4. His first appearance in Marseille came all the way back in 2003, and he channeled a younger version of himself with sharp strokes and excellent court coverage. Though ten years Rublev’s senior, Gasquet seemed the younger athlete for stretches of the match, reminding the crowd that he, too, once had Top 10 form. At one point the commentator stated that, though this was “only” Marseille (he was careful to mention that he was adding quotation marks to the “only”), a victory here for Gasquet would feel as special as if it had been one of the bigger tournaments. His play throughout the match warranted the assessment.
However, Rublev fought back in the second set, finding the form that makes him one of the best players in the world. The momentum shifted, and in such a way that it seemed Rublev had finally gotten control of the match, and he appeared ready to cruise to the finish line and shake off Gasquet’s first set performance. He broke the Frenchman twice, after failing to break at all in the first set, and the match went into a decider. The question was: which form of each player would show up in the third?
Third Set Drama
The third set was a thriller that saw a rejuvenated Gasquet storm off to a 5-2 lead, playing like a Top 10 player himself, hitting the lines forehand and backhand as he overpowered Rublev and dictated rallies one after the other. The commentators’ tones became requiems for Rublev at this point, as the Russian seemed unable to stand against the onslaught of the inspired Frenchman.
But then Second Set Rublev showed up. The Russian suddenly finding his strokes coincided with the non-inspired version of Gasquet making a re-appearance, as nerves got the better of the long-time veteran. Gasquet failed to serve out the set, and Rublev went on a run that saw him, four games later, serving for the set himself at 6-5.
Yet despite both men wanting it, neither man could take it. Steady tennis from Gasquet forced Rublev into errors, and the crowd was delighted to see their countryman fight back into a tiebreak. The match deserved no less anyway, thrilling as it had been.
End of the Road
However, the miraculous victory for the home favorite was not to be, as Gasquet left his legs back in the third set. Rublev rode his youthful freshness to an easy tiebreak victory, 7-3, reminding the crowd that he well deserves his place near the top of the standings.
For the Frenchman, a disappointment. A fun reminder of his earlier years, but a more pointed reminder of the late stage of his career. For Rublev, a difficult victory but an encouragement that he has the fight in him to topple even inspired opponents with homefield wind in their sails. For the crowd, a few moments of captivation, and the enjoyment of seeing once more the early form of the entertaining Gasquet. Rublev faces the winner of Lucas Pouille vs Radu Albot in the quarterfinals.
Main Photo from Getty.