After needing just 55 minutes to outclass Adrian Mannarino in his opening round on Wednesday, Thursday night was only marginally more difficult—a 65-minute, 6-2, 6-4 win over another Frenchman, Richard Gasquet.
There was almost a full house in the POPB (Palais Omnisports Paris-Bercy) and the crowd was revved up for an exciting encounter between two players capable of playing, explosive, creative tennis. Sadly for the spectators, the conjuncture of both playing well at the same time only occurred for about a four-game stretch in the second set.
After losing serve in the second set to go down 2-1, Gasquet broke back immediately. He had not earned more than one point on the Federer serve in a game until that fourth game, in which he flashed three scintillating forehand winners to roars of approval from the POPB faithful. There seemed at least a slight chance that he could do something surprising, considering he beat Federer in their last meeting, earlier this year in Rome.
But Gasquet, who has been bothered by a recurring wrist problem and took an injection for the pain before the tournament began, could not maintain that high level. He double-faulted to give Federer the service break back, making the score 4-3.
The rest was predictable, the Swiss finishing the match with a forehand winner just before they clasped hands at the net, with Gasquet nodding his head to acknowledge a superb performance by his opponent.
In the on-court interview after the match, Federer said he always enjoys playing Gasquet because he is a very talented player and they always have good points. He also said that he felt he played better than he did against Mannarino, and that he enjoyed playing in front of such a large crowd. The baritone-voiced stadium announcer, who also works at Roland Garros, remarked to Federer that even though the home player had received a loud ovation when he was introduced, the crowd had also been very noisy for Federer. Maybe it was a bit of false modesty, but Federer responded, “I didn’t know the Paris, the French crowd liked me so much.”
In the quarterfinals, Federer will face Juan Monaco, who escaped two match points in getting past Mardy Fish. Federer is 3-0 versus the Argentine, and handled him with scary ease—6-1, 6-2, 6-0—in the fourth round of the U.S. Open two months ago.
“We all know Roger, he’s one of the geniuses of tennis,” Monaco said on Thursday in Spanish. “If he’s motivated, it will be a very tough match.”
In front of such a supportive crowd, motivation seems unlikely to be a problem for Federer.