Richard Gasquet, 21-4? Yes, that’s the famously frustrating Frenchman’s record so far in 2013, after his remarkably thorough and crisis-free 6-3, 6-3 win over Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals in Miami tonight. Of those 21 wins, this might rate as the most impressive of all.
Gasquet saw the ball well and was on top of everything that the higher-ranked Berdych tried. He used his bending slice serve to good effect. On returns, he stepped into Berdych’s hard-hit first deliveries. He passed well and dropped well. He was even better with his backhand. Up a break in the second set, Gasquet closed out two big service holds with down the line backhand winners. And he saved one of the two break points that he faced on the night by rolling another backhand at an ultra-acute crosscourt angle, inside the service line and an inch from the sideline—just because, I guess, he can.
When these two played earlier this month in Indian Wells, it was Berdych who had surrendered just six games in a straight set win. After his last match here, a 1 and 1 drubbing of Sam Querrey, it appeared that Berdych might be ready for a serious run at the title in Miami. And when he earned two break points at 2-2 in the first, he seemed to be off to the races. But on the second of those points, Berdych pulled up and dropped a feeble backhand into the net; Gasquet held. In the following game, Berdych was broken on a wild forehand error into the alley, and was never in the match again. He missed from all over the court, and was fooled by Gasquet’s serves and drop shots. Berdych’s backhand was particularly awful; by the middle of the second set, he hadn't hit a winner with that shot, but he had committed 13 unforced errors with it. After a last missed forehand in the final game, Berdych let out a night’s worth of frustration with a scream. Once again, the big Czech had gone far, but failed to make good on his threat to go farther.
Gasquet moves on to play Andy Murray in the semifinals on Friday. While the Frenchman is 3-4 for his career against the Scot, he’s 3-0 at Masters events. Gasquet has always been able to make the spectacular play; at 26, he’s finally learning to make the solid one, to find the right serve when he needs it, to hold when he has to hold. He’ll have be very solid, and a little spectacular, to get win number 22 of 2013.