Frenchman at home on the English grass

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The Independent Online

For a child prodigy from a tennis family, Richard Gasquet has made a lucrative career out of the sport – amassing some $5 million (£3m) in prize money – without quite reaching the height of heights.

Pictured on the front of France Tennis magazine at the age of nine, he was junior boys' world champion seven years later and ranked only just outside the top 150 men while still 16. He peaked at No 7 during his best season four years ago before a dramatic decline amid the 2009 controversy in which he was initially banned for two months after testing positive for cocaine, which he explained as a result of kissing a woman who had been taking it.

English grass has provided some of the highs of his career, bringing his first ATP tournament wins, at Nottingham in 2005 and 2006, and his only appearance in a Grand Slam semi-final: at Wimbledon the following year he reached the last four by beating Andy Roddick, then lost to Roger Federer.

Surrendering a two-set lead against Andy Murray in 2008 might be expected to weigh heavily on him going into tomorrow's game, but he insists: "It was a good memory really, even if I lost. I played very well. I remember the crowd were very impressive. We are told all the time Wimbledon is quiet, but it was incredible. In the third, fourth and fifth set it was very difficult for me to play – a lot of noise."

Despite suffering the same outcome at last year's French Open, he denies that Murray has any sort of psychological hold over him, claiming "I always played well against him," and joking that he will not make the mistake of winning the first two sets this time. "He's playing faster than before," Gasquet says. "He's aggressive, he's powerful, he has a big serve and big forehand. He's also a very clever player, knows how to win points."

Noisy home support is a bonus, he believes, more than compensating for the pressure on Murray to win Wimbledon: "I think he's used to [the pressure]. He did some semi-finals here and now he's more mature. He's 24 years old, so for him it's now. He has to win this year, next year. That's the time for him to play his best."

Of his own form, the elegant Frenchman says: "I'm playing good. I'm 13 in the world so I'm improving my level every week. I played well in Roland Garros and it's good for me to play in the second week."

Yet to drop a set in three matches, he was a comfortable enough winner on Friday over the Italian qualifier Simone Bolelli, who has also played Murray and offers this assessment: "It's a good surface for Gasquet. I think he's playing better than two years ago, more consistent. He serves not so fast but with good angle and it's tough here on the grass, not easy to return.

"Maybe Murray serves faster, Gasquet more with the angle. They both run well, good defence and attack, good volleys. I think it's 50-50."

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