Gasquet sees his game fall apart ahead of French Open

With the French Open less than three weeks away, the prospect of the host nation’s best player giving the home crowd reason to celebrate is looking as likely as an empty road on the Parisian périphérique. In losing 6-4, 6-1 to Peru’s Luis Horna, the world No 111, in the first round of the Rome Masters here yesterday, Richard Gasquet gave the appearance of a man who would have preferred to be anywhere other than on a tennis court.

Gasquet, one of the game's most exciting young talents, has always been a complex character, a man of emotional highs and lows, but the world No 9 has hit new depths in recent weeks. After the furore surrounding his refusal to play a vital Davis Cup rubber against the United States last month, he followed an early exit in Monte-Carlo with a dreadful performance here. Once Horna had broken serve at 3-3 in the first set, Gasquet’s game fell apart.

After the match Gasquet’s inner turmoil was evident. Running his hands through his hair, nibbling at his fingernails and fiddling with his sweatshirt, the 21-year-old was at a loss to explain what had happened.

“After the first set I lost all my confidence and just had this huge feeling of panic,” he said. “I felt total emptiness. Nothing was going through my head. Anybody in the draw could have beaten me. It was my worst match of the year. I was awful. I didn’t think it would be possible to play as badly as that.

“I wasn’t expecting this. Everything had been going well in practice and I was happy to be here, happy to be playing. I practised for three-quarters of an hour with Fabrice Santoro before the match and everything was going well.

“What happened today has happened to me a few times before. When you get very low all sorts of things go through your head. You think about the crowd, about what you’re going to say to the press afterwards. Yet all you want to do is to be in a room on your own.

“It’s not a question of motivation. I really wanted to play here. I’ve been practising well, practising hard. I’m happy to come to the tournaments. I regard myself as lucky to play at such wonderful events and to be playing tennis at such a high level.”

Gasquet rejected a suggestion that he should seek help from a sports psychologist. “I just don’t believe that someone who doesn’t know me or someone who doesn’t know what it’s like to play sport at this level could be of any help to me,” he said.

The Frenchman can only hope that he will recover as quickly as he has from some past setbacks. Within a month of going out to Kristof Vliegen in the second round of last year’s French Open he reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon, where he lost to Roger Federer.

An only child, Gasquet has been groomed for the top from an early age. At nine he was already being touted as a future champion and featured on the front cover of a French tennis magazine. At 15 he became the youngest player for 14 years to win a match in the main draw of an ATP event and the second youngest player ever to appear in the French Open. Three years later he was one of only four players to beat Federer in 2005, knocking out the world No 1 in the quarter-finals in Monte-Carlo.

Never the strongest of players mentally, Gasquet has looked particularly vulnerable since last month’s Davis Cup quarter-final against the United States at Winston-Salem. With France trailing 2-1 going into the final day, Gasquet complained of a sore hand and a knee problem and refused to play against Andy Roddick in the crucial fourth rubber. Paul-Henri Mathieu took his place and lost in straight sets, after which Gasquet lost the dead fifth rubber to James Blake.

Christian Bîmes, president of the French federation, was among those who criticised Gasquet afterwards. "You have to make the players understand that they need to fight, to make sacrifices, even if they are undermined by an injury," he said.

In the circumstances, Gasquet’s chances of enjoying success at his home Grand Slam tournament do not look good. In six appearances at Roland Garros, Gasquet has lost in the first round three times, the second round twice and the third round once, when he was beaten by Rafael Nadal three years ago.

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried