As an adult, this native of Béziers, on the southern coast of France, has had no trouble lifting his racquet high in the air, at both the start and the end of his stroke. When he has time to set up, Gasquet’s backhand begins with an elegantly elaborate take-back, in which he curls the frame above and around his head. From there, he can snap up on it for topspin, or, if his timing is sharp, drive right through it with jaw-dropping flat pace. Perhaps even more than Nicolas Almagro’s and Carla Suarez Navarro’s, Gasquet’s is the most aesthetically pleasing one-handed backhand drive of the Open Era.
As far as its effectiveness goes, the shot has had its advantages and drawbacks. Gasquet could only be so aggressive on returns with it, and Rafael Nadal in particular has exploited it with his left-handed topspin forehand—as a pro, the Spaniard is 18-0 against his former junior rival.
But when Gasquet heats up from the backhand side, there are few more thrilling sights in tennis. The winners comes in bunches, with virtually every swing of the racquet, as do the shrieks from the crowd. You’re left wondering how anyone can vaporize a ball like that, with just one arm, swinging across his body. Gasquet’s backhand was tennis’ version of a microwave.