When Richard Gasquet won his Wimbledon first-round match against Yuichi Sugita, the Frenchman killed two birds with one stone — he earned a clash with eight-times champion Roger Federer and a match on the hallowed Centre Court turf.
“When I was in the first round, I saw the draw. I knew I could play Roger in the second round,” Gasquet told the ATP Tour website before Thursday’s second-round match.
“Of course, it’s wonderful for me, because I will play on Centre Court. It’s Roger Federer, I’ve played him many times.”
Many times without success, however. The two have met 20 times and Gasquet has won only twice — their first meeting in 2005 in Monte Carlo and a decade ago in Rome, both matches on clay.
In their last 10 meetings, Federer has not dropped a set against Gasquet, a former top-10 player now ranked 56th in the world.
But there are chinks in the Federer armour after he laboured in the first round and advanced only when his French opponent Adrian Mannarino retired with a knee injury after slipping on court, the match evenly poised at two sets apiece.
Federer turns 40 next month and is still shaking off rust after last year’s knee surgeries and the coronavirus pandemic kept him out of action for 13 months.
Rafa Nadal has since joined him at the summit on 20 Grand Slam wins while defending champion Novak Djokovic is one title away from making it a three-way tie for the sport’s “Big Three” as the debate on the greatest player of all time rages on.
But for Gasquet, there is more to the debate than just Grand Slam titles.
“There is technique, the beauty of the game, the motion,” he added. “He’s a classic player, an incredible player, the best player to watch. There is only one Roger Federer.”