Gasquet Falls in Norman Conquest
by Jason Brown
Thursday, August 22, 2002
Richard Gasquet's dream of playing his way into a second-ever Grand Slam came to a crashing halt on Day 3 of the US Open Qualifying Tournament as he succumbed in the second round to a free-swinging Belgian.
After morphing into somewhat of a cult hero in Paris when he qualified for the French Open as a 16-year-old rookie, the US Open proved to be too much too soon for France's native son. Gasquet lost in three sets to Dick Norman of Belgium, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
But Gasquet gave the capacity crowd on Court 14 a glimpse of the future of French tennis. Many spectators rushed to the match believing that they were about to witness the "French Andy Roddick," a young player with unimaginable tools on the tennis court.
And at first glance, the two young stars shared common traits. Gasquet sported the classic Roddick trademark -- the backwards baseball cap -- and every time he turned to view, you could see the same baby face of a teenage champion.
But that's where all comparisons between the two slugging neophytes began and ended. Gasquet was outfitted by French clothing-maker Lacoste, more likely to be worn at a country club or polo match than the Lycra-based, extreme sport inspired apparel that Roddick often dons.
Gasquet had a quiet, unassuming demeanor on the court this afternoon. Fans late to their seats wouldn't have been able to tell if the teenager was winning or losing and, just perhaps, that is exactly how he wanted it. For the great ones possess mannerisms that rarely change. A cross-court winner gets the same walk to the other side of the service side that an errant backhand would.
There was no screaming at the umpire or head-first diving for loose balls. Like a cagey veteran, Gasquet held serve in the first set and waited for Norman to make a mistake. You could once in awhile hear Gasquet speaking softly to himself in French like a mother soothing her baby to sleep. Up 4-3 in the first set, Gasquet struck, breaking Norman's southpaw serve with a flurry of exquisite one-handed backhands. Each time Norman came to net, Gasquet punished him with a passing shot, and he won the first set handily.
"He was just a little bit more lucky than me to take one or two of the break points in the first set," said Norman, the 17th-ranked player in the qualifying draw.
Facing adversity for the first time, down 2-1 in the second set, Gasquet's serve was broken by the six-foot-eight Belgian. Norman led, 3-1, and would win the second set, 6-3.
"I knew we were on the same level," said Norman, 31, a tour veteran who is nearly twice the age of Gasquet. "I kept on fighting and got a little bit more lucky in the second set. But again, we were still on the same level. The third set was very tough. I was down three-love in the third and kept fighting and ended up winning, 6-4."
Gasquet earned high praise from Norman.
"He's been winning a lot of matches lately, but I had never seen him play, so I was ready for a tough match," said Norman. "I was told that he had good groundstrokes, so I didn't let him play his groundstrokes. I was attacking him, going to net as fast as I could, and it worked.
"But," he added, "he'll be back."