Rafael Nadal had never played a night session en route to his record 13 Roland Garros titles, but he didn’t miss a beat in his first venture under the lights on Thursday night. The Spaniard celebrated his 35th birthday on Court Philippe-Chatrier with a hard-fought victory over Richard Gasquet 6-0, 7-5, 6-2 to reach the third round.
Nadal improved to 17-0 in his ATP Head2Head against Gasquet, one of the most one-sided match-ups in Open Era history. The last time Gasquet took a set off the Spaniard was back in 2008 at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Toronto – since then, Nadal has recorded 31 sets in a row against the Frenchman.
Most Dominant Tour-Level Head2Head Records (Open Era)
|Bjorn Borg||Vitas Gerulaitis||17-0|
|Novak Djokovic||Gael Monfils||17-0|
|Roger Federer||David Ferrer||17-0|
|Roger Federer||Mikhail Youzhny||17-0|
|Ivan Lendl||Tim Mayotte||17-0|
|Rafael Nadal||Richard Gasquet||17-0|
“I respect [him because] I know how good Richard is,” Nadal said. “I know he’s coming back after a tough period of time. I think he played smart, playing aggressive. I just went on court with highest respect, with the highest focus possible, and that’s what I try to do every day against everyone.”
Gasquet was the last French man standing out of the 18 who began in the main draw in Paris, and one of only three who reached the second round alongside 14th seed Gael Monfils and wild card Enzo Couacaud. His defeat to Nadal marks the first time in the Open Era that no French man has gone on to contest the third round at Roland Garros.
Four-time defending champion Nadal was nearly untouchable in a masterclass opening set, which saw him win 100 per cent of his first serve points (8/8). Gasquet, who was standing well behind the baseline for his returns, was out-rallied by Nadal as the Spaniard bossed the points with his heavy topspin forehand.
“I think I played a great first set, one of the best of the clay court season, in my opinion. No mistakes, high intensity, winners, playing long,” Nadal said. “In the second, still good… Then, of course, Richard is a great player. He had some good serves in the next game, and then [it] was tough.”
Power or touch?
— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) June 3, 2021
Gasquet adjusted his tactics and raised his level to challenge Nadal in the second set. The Frenchman recovered from an early break and a 1-4 deficit, finding his range as the match went on. He stepped into the court and stood closer to the baseline, applying the pressure on Nadal to earn his first break of the match at 3-5.
Nadal, who held set point on Gasquet’s serve at 5-2, stayed calm and continued to find forehand winners, homing in on the Frenchman’s one-handed backhand. He finally broke through late in the set, converting his second set point to claim the set at 7-5.
The third seed reestablished his dominance in the third set, and again didn’t face a break point as he took control with his forehand. He reeled off the last four games of the match to close out the victory after two hours and 16 minutes.
In the third round, Nadal will next face Cameron Norrie after the Brit recovered from a set down to take down Lloyd Harris 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-2. Nadal owns a 2-0 lead in their ATP Head2Head, with both wins coming this season including a straight sets win en route to the Barcelona trophy.
“Every week he’s making good results, winning against very good players,” Nadal said of Norrie. “I know it is going to be a tough one. I need to be ready to play my best. I know he has a style of game that is not easy to play against. I need to play well.”