Gasquet's title form poses threat to Federer

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The Independent Online

The assumption that Tim Henman will have Roger Federer lying in wait should he overcome Robin Soderling in the first round at Wimbledon deserves to be treated with a little more caution after Richard Gasquet retained his Red Letter Days Open title in Nottingham yesterday.

Gasquet, the 20-year-old Frenchman against whom Federer begins his defence tomorrow, was always a potential banana skin as the Swiss aims for his fourth consecutive title in SW19, having been one of only four players to defeat Federer in 2005.

But he will step on to Centre Court with his prospects of delivering an upset much enhanced after a terrific week in Nottingham, where he overcame the experienced Swede Jonas Bjorkman - twice a winner here - 6-4 6-3 in yesterday's final.

Gasquet, who defeated Federer in Monte Carlo in April last year, took a set against the world No 1 at Halle only 10 days ago and while he was reluctant to predict his second win in five meetings he admitted he had "a little chance". "It is always difficult against him and on Centre Court, but having won here I will be under no pressure," he said. "I will play a good match against him I'm sure and because I have beaten him before I know what to do." Bjorkman said he could understand why Federer has been consistently troubled by Gasquet, whom he has only once beaten in straight sets.

"He has a good game," the Swede said. "He mixes up his serves well and has a great backhand." Gasquet rose to 12th in the world rankings last December but has been hampered by injuries recently, slipping to 66th.

There was no sign of any fitness worry yesterday. His backhand was in good order and he used the full width of the court to stretch Bjorkman, who admitted to "feeling a little old" as he struggled to stay in contention.

The Swede had a chance to gain the initiative in the opening set with a break point in the eighth game but, despite a questionable line call going against him, the young Frenchman recovered before scoring his first break of serve in the next and serving out for 6-4.

He stepped up a level in the second, breaking Bjorkman in the fifth game and securing victory against the serve in the ninth, twice moving to match point with sublime cross-court backhand winners before Bjorkman volleyed long on the second to concede defeat.

The first player to win Nottingham twice in a row, Gasquet promised to return in 2007. "I am the Federer of Nottingham," he joked.