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Major Talk #6 – Richard Gasquet
For more than a decade and a half, Richard Gasquet has been one of the world’s best players, his single-handed backhand destined to go down as one of the most amazing shots in history. In a wide-ranging interview, Gasquet talks regrets, Rafa and going out on his terms.
Once considered the future of French tennis, Gasquet has reached three Grand Slam semi-finals, won the Davis Cup with France in 2017, collected 15 titles worldwide and reached a career-high ranking of No 7.
Now 34, “The Virtuoso” has been revelling in the unique format of Ultimate Tennis Showdown in the south of France, qualifying for this weekend’s Final 4. In an interview with Alize Lim for Tennis Majors, Gasquet talks about his one regret, his teenage rivalry with Rafael Nadal and how he never dreamed of being world No 1.
At the age of 9, Gasquet’s photograph was on the front page of France’s biggest tennis magazine, accompanied by the headline: “The champion France have been waiting for?”. Though the young Gasquet did not feel the pressure then, he certainly did when he hit the ATP Tour as a teenager, bursting through at 16 and then finding.
“With the experience I have today, there are maybe two or three ways that I would have not taken,” Gasquet says. “When I was young, I had too much pressure to make results. It prevented me from growing normally. I felt a lot of pressure and it made me waste a little time. It’s not for that reason that I didn’t win Roland-Garros, but it’s the only thing I would change if I could go back.”
Gasquet: “I was not programmed to be No 1 in the world”
As a teenager, Gasquet grew up alongside Rafael Nadal. At first, they were considered as equals, especially when the Frenchman beat Roger Federer in Monte Carlo in 2005 as a 19-year-old. In the next round, he played Nadal and lost narrowly.
“I had beaten Roger Federer the day before”, Gasquet says. “I had a break point in the second set – I had won the first. I felt we were at the same level. This match, I had to win it. The rivalry (as juniors) was huge but it didn’t last long. Three months later, at Roland-Garros, where I lost in the third round, I saw that he was already another player. He won Roland-Garros… I saw very quickly that he was a monumental player, quite simply, on clay he was monstrous. His tennis never stopped progressing. And it is especially this, which is amazing, which is crazy. Year after year, he improves all the time.”
Unlike some players, Gasquet says he never dreamed of becoming world No 1 or being a Grand Slam champion. Instead, he just wanted to play and to enjoy competing. If his chances of winning that elusive Grand Slam title seem slim now, he is still having fun on the court and hopes to do as long as he can. When he finishes his career, it will be on his terms.
“I was precocious but I was not programmed to be No 1 in the world”, he says. “I don’t know if, so young, you can say to yourself: ‘I am going to win Roland-Garros‘. What I will remember from my career, it’s simply being able to play, to have the chance to experience big emotions, the public, the adrenaline when you play. I hope to finish my career well, without injury, let it be me who makes the decision when to stop, without injury. But, if at nine years old. I had said that I would make this career, and that I would live the tennis I lived, I would have signed with both hands.”