Dubai: Federer d. Gasquet

Friday, February 25, 2011 /by

201102251057394618769-p2@stats_com Richard Gasquet’s final forehand service return—drilled into the net—certainly looked like capitulation against Roger Federer in Friday’s Dubai semifinal. If it wasn’t, it was an excellent imitation of a guy whose interior self is screaming, “I’m outta here.”

It was disappointing because the Frenchman had just done well in breaking Federer up 4-3 in the second set. But his serve deserted him while Federer stayed cool. The top seed broke in consecutive games to win 6-2, 7-5 and move into tomorrow’s final with a chance to win his fifth Dubai title, and his first since 2007. To do so, he’ll need to beat Novak Djokovic.

Gasquet lost 12 of the last 13 points and left his courtsidechair early during the final end-change, indicating he had had enough and was fully prepared for his eighth straight loss to Federer.

The Swiss had an exemplary start to the match, whaling point-ending forehands that led to a service break in the opening game. He played impressively in taking the set 6-2, scoring another break in the seventh game. He faced no break points of his own, and except for an odd over-hit forehand and shanked backhand, which he and his fans have come to accept as simply part of the landscape these days, he was solid in taking the set in 29 minutes.

Gasquet found his range in the second set, challenging Federer with both his forehand and trusty backhand. He got his reward when Federer dumped a straightforward backhand approach shot into the net, giving the Frenchman the break and a 5-3 lead.

At that point, Federershowed his experience, though he was helped by a Gasquet double fault on the first point. He got the break back when Gasquet returned the favor from the previous game, flubbing a backhand into the net on the second break point.

The Frenchman’s pathetic display at the very end takes a little shine off of Federer’s win, but does not change the fact that it was easily his strongest performance of the week, a good sign heading into the final with Djokovic.

The match-up with Djokovic will be the 21st between the pair, with Federer leading 13-7. But that is misleading as Federer is just 6-5 ahead in their last eleven meetings. More importantly, he has lost their past two Grand Slam encounters—in the semi-finals of last September’s U.S. Open and last month at the Aussie Open. That should be a strong motivator for Federer, who’s looking to alter any impression that the Serb is in the ascendancy in their rivalry.

—Tom Tebbutt

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