On the surface of split decisions, Richard Gasquet plays his most complete game.
The Frenchman celebrated his 28th birthday with an opening-round win over Bernard Tomic earlier this week and kept the party popping with a 6-4, 6-2 defeat of Denis Istomin to reach his third Eastbourne final today. Though Gasquet grew up on clay, grass compels his most inspired tennis. He has produced a better winning percentage on grass (.683) than any other surface, has won this tournament title twice (when it was staged in Nottingam) and produced some of the most eye-popping shot-making of his career on turf when he roared back from a two-set hole to beat then world No. 3 Andy Roddick and reach the 2007 Wimbledon semifinals.
On other surfaces, Gasquet's game — like the blue over grip he wraps only halfway up the handle of his racquet — sometimes suggests partial commitment as he drifts back behind the baseline searching out obscure angles with his sweeping one-handed backhand. On grass, Gasquet works the low bounce of his slider serve and slice backhand to push opponents into awkward spots and open the court for the attack.
While clay gives Gasquet more time to consider his options, it also affords more opportunity for self-doubt and brooding. On grass where points unfold fast, Gasquet's game can free flow. When he's connecting on his first serve and swinging freely, the Frenchman has more opportunity to use his all-court skills — the sharp slice and transition game, fine feel around net and quickness — to play more assertive tennis.
The man in the rooster shirt is willing to take the first strike more often on turf and will try to maintain his perfect record against defending champion Feliciano Lopez in the Eastbourne final.