Roland Garros

Birthday boy Nadal sees off Gasquet to reach French Open third round

Rafael Nadal moved into the third round at the French Open after beating Richard Gasquet for the 17th consecutive time.
Rafael Nadal moved into the third round at the French Open after beating Richard Gasquet for the 17th consecutive time. © Pierre Rene-Worms/RFI

Defending champion Rafael Nadal celebrated his 35th birthday on Thursday night by surging into the third round of the French Open with a straight sets win over the unseeded Frenchman Richard Gasquet.

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The second round clash was placed in the night session and played behind closed doors due to the French government’s 9pm curfew to stop the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Just as well.

Had spectators been inside centre court, the partisans would have witnessed an X-rated slasher show.

The birthday boy scythed through Gasquet’s defences with high-bouncing top spin and carved him open time and again to take the opening set 6-0.

Gasquet, who has dropped to 53 in the world rankings, won his first game 35 minutes into the encounter when he levelled at 1-1 in the second set.

However, it did not provoke a change of fortunes. He was a break down within 10 minutes as Nadal surged on into a 4-1 lead.

Stumble

But serving for the set at 5-3, Nadal faltered. Gasquet broke and then levelled at 5-5. It was a temporary reprieve as Nadal clinched the second set when Gasquet botched a forehand. At least the 7-5 showed an element of resistance.

However, it would have required a tectonic shift in the tennis firmament for victory. Gasquet had never beaten Nadal in their 16 matches on the senior circuit since they were teenagers. Nadal had never lost at Roland Garros after leading by two sets. 

The Spaniard broke to lead 4-2 in the third set and raced away to collect it 6-2 and complete the win in two hours and 14 minutes.

"I played an amazing first set," said Nadal. "I don't think Richard was playing badly, it was just that I wasn't missing balls and I was playing with high intensity.

"I was happy to get through the second and after that I was more comfortable."

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