Some nights tennis is tough. Other nights, it’s...not. Novak Djokovic went from one to the other over the last 24 hours in Montreal.
On Thursday, he survived a three-set battle with a stubborn Dennis Istomin. Today he might have been on court by himself for the all the resistance that his opponent, Richard Gasquet, put up. Djokovic won 6-1, 6-2 in 52 minutes, but even those numbers don’t express how pitifully lopsided this match was. Perhaps more telling was a comparison made by commentator Peter Fleming as the rout was unfolding: He said that the Gasquet-Djokovic matchup reminded him of the Washington Generals going up against the Harlem Globetrotters.
He had a point. Djokovic has won 13 straight sets over Gasquet, and by the end of the first game tonight the pattern that defines their matches had already developed. Djokovic stood on top of the baseline and took the ball on the rise, while Gasquet retreated to the far reaches of the court. With those two positions established, Djokovic could do pretty much whatever he wanted with Gasquet's loopy ground strokes. He began by hitting cross-court forehand winners from the service T. Then he threw in a few ropes from the backhand side. He showed off his touch with easy drop shot winners. And he even experimented with some serve and volley, presumably out of boredom.
Djokovic hit 11 aces and made 80 percent of his first serves; Gasquet made 39 percent of his first serves, double-faulted five times, and won just eight of 25 points on his second serve. That, as they say, is not going to get it done. Gasquet’s coach, Sebastian Grosjean, started off muttering. By the end of the first set, he looked like he might he break into tears. He finished the match gazing off in another direction.
Later, Djokovic, who moves on to face either Rafael Nadal or Marinko Matosevic in the semis, improved on another aspect of his performance. The night before, he had danced with a mascot and a few ball kids after his win over Istomin. The trouble was, Istomin was still on the court, which made his exit an awkward one. Djokovic appeared to think so as well; he made a point of giving Istomin a hand as he walked off. Tonight Novak had learned his lesson. He let Gasquet hustle away before he broke into his moves. He had already humiliated him enough for one night.