Birthday Boy Gasquet Claims Title
France is this afternoon celebrating its third winner of The 10tele.com Open title after 19 year-old Richard Gasquet, the No.4 seed won the first ATP title of his career on the grass courts of The City of Nottingham Tennis Centre.
Gasquet, who turned 19 today, now follows in the footsteps of his fellow countryman, Sebastien Grosjean, who five years ago also won the first grass court title of his career in Nottingham. In 1999, the Cedric Pioline defeated Kevin Ullyett (Zimbabwe) to become the first French winner of the tournament.
Currently ranked 27th in the world and as the 27th seed for Wimbledon, 2005 has seen Gasquet enjoy his best season since he turned professional in 2002. One of only three players to have defeated world no.1 Roger Federer (Switzerland) this year, Gasquet is now certain to rise still higher up the rankings next week to become the no.1 player in France.
However, after today's performance on grass courts that have been highly praised by players, it's likely that The 10tele.com Open will be the first of many more ATP titles destined to be claimed by the prodigious talent from Beziers.
Prior to their finals match today, Mirnyi and Gasquet had encountered each other only once on court. At the Paris Open in 2004, Max 'The Beast' Mirnyi narrowly defeated the Frenchman 7-6(9), 7-5 in the first round of a tournament played on carpet. Today, it would be very different as Max Mirnyi traded shots with an inspired Gasquet.
A capacity 3,304 centre court crowd were treated to a brilliant display of tennis by the young Gasquet. The Frenchman, watched by an audience that included a sizeable French media corps, took the first game of the match on serve and then broke Mirnyi's first service game of the match to lead 2-0 within 15 minutes.
Gasquet went on to record a double break in the first set with a series of stunning backhand and forehand shots down the line that must have left Mirnyi wondering if his opponent was the same player he defeated six months ago in Paris.
Within 40 minutes, Gasquet had taken the first set 6-2. The birthday boy was on track to enjoy a very special 19th birthday. Perhaps he was inspired by the knowledge that the likes of Swedish tennis legend, Bjorn Borg (1974-1975) at Roland Garros and former world no.1 Andy Roddick have both celebrated birthdays during tournaments they have won.
In the second set, 6ft 5 Mirnyi thundered across several powerful serves but it was Gasquet who retained his composure against the quiet man from Belarus who throughout this week has been noted for his ice cool demeanour. Gasquet was soon up 4-1 in the second set and mentally preparing for a momentous first ever ATP career victory; a statistic clearly not lost on the appreciative audience.
At 5-2 up, Mirnyi briefly came back to take the next game but the seemingly inevitable result was realised a game later when Gasquet, 5-3 and 40-0 up served for the match. After a fault on his first serve, Gasquet made no mistake with the second and moments later stood with his arms outstretched above his head as he secured the first ever ATP victory of his career. He had lost just one point on his serve in the second set and took just one hour and three minutes to win the match 6-2, 6-3.
During the presentation ceremony, Mirnyi was gracious in defeat, even initiating the crowds singing of a rendition of happy birthday.
Shortly thereafter, a birthday cake was brought onto centre court and as the tournaments youngest ever singles winner briefly swapped his treasured trophy with a birthday cake for the benefit of photographers, a broadly smiling Richard Gasquet was savouring every moment of what will always be a very memorable 19th birthday.
After telling the crowd that as the newly crowned champion of The 10tele.com Open he looked forward to returning to Nottingham next year, Gasquet told the press corps: "When I'm back in Paris after Wimbledon I will celebrate my win and my birthday.
"It's good for me to win this tournament – I played well and I'm very happy to have won my first title." Asked about his hopes for next week at Wimbledon and a potential third round meeting with Rafael Nadal (Spain), Gasquet said; "I don't know how far I can now go at Wimbledon … we will see. I have a lot of confidence now. The newly crowned singles champion of The 10tele.com Open added: "I want to return next year to defend my first ever 10tele.com Open title."
After explaining that his cut finger was obtained by opening a can of tennis balls, a gracious Max Mirnyi simply said: "He has got better since we last played. From my point of view I was not able to play like I would have hoped to. He (Gasquet) made good contact with the ball, he served well and there was good variety to his game. It's now a unique and special moment for him. Good luck to him."
After the prize ceremony on centre court, Patrick Hughesman, tournament director, highlighted the success of a tournament that celebrated its 11th year this week. "In perfect weather, a capacity centre court crowd has watched a gripping 10tele.com Open singles final between two of the most exciting players on the circuit.
"It has been a fitting finale for a fantastic tournament and I very much look forward to 19th June 2006 when many of the stars of world tennis will once again be battling hard on the superb grass courts at The 10tele.com Open."
The doubles final is now being contended between top seeds Simon Aspelin of Sweden and Todd Perry of Australia vs. the 2nd seeds and Israeli pair of Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram.
Next year, The 10tele.com Open will take place between 19th and 24th June 2006