For the first time ever at Roland Garros, Switzerland has two players in the last eight. Frankly, that is not what the fevered crowd on Suzanne Lenglen Court wanted to hear. They were much keener on two Frenchmen being in the quarter-finals for the first time in 23 years, but Stanislas Wawrinka had other ideas. In a match featuring repeated Swiss arguments with umpire Carlos Ramos, Wawrinka came back from two sets down to beat Richard Gasquet 6-7(5), 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, 8-6 in four hours and 16 minutes to reach his debut French Open quarter-final at his ninth attempt. Disappointment may never be more painful than this for Gasquet, as he fell at the fourth round stage for the third year running.
The lesson of the first set was convert your break points when you have them. Wawrinka notched up seven, and the next point proved elusive every time. Every shot appeared to be a winner or an unforced error – 16 of the latter to Gasquet’s two - while the Frenchman had nary a break point to his name. The tiebreaker edged forward until Wawrinka sent a backhand long; an unreturned serve sealed it for Gasquet.
This match between the 2002 (Gasquet) and 2003 boys’ champions at Roland Garros was tough to forecast. There was much talk of lovely backhands, but little of prior meetings as the only one was seven years ago, which Gasquet took in straight sets. For the first time the Frenchman had not dropped a set to get this far, and had lost his fewest ever games – 25 – to reach this stage of a Slam. He has won two non-clay titles this year… but Wawrinka arrived on court with 22 clay victories to his name for 2013, second only to (of course) Rafael Nadal.
Yet Gasquet forged on with a double-break for 3-0 at the start of the second. Wawrinka summoned the trainer for a medical timeout, and unexpectedly got a break back for 3-5. At 4-5 the momentum was with him, especially when Gasquet netted for break point – but when his next service was decreed good to the loud approval of the crowd, Wawrinka extravagantly disagreed. Then he skied a half-volley for set point, and saw Gasquet ace for the set.
At 2-2 in the third Wawrinka had a long finger-wagging argument with umpire Ramos over consistency of calls. Far from being unsettled, he won the game and ran back to his chair to be greeted by the referee and an agitated exchange followed while Gasquet made “cool it” gestures. “That’s the fourth serious mistake you’ve made,” Wawrinka could be heard telling umpire Ramos, and was still arguing at 4-3. Yet at 5-4 he suddenly reached 0-40 on Gasquet’s service and snatched the set. It was the first one Gasquet had lost this fortnight.
The second would soon follow, as Gasquet’s service began to lose its shine. The game for 4-4 lasted 12 minutes, with the Frenchman saving break point and holding, whereupon the crowd bellowed: “Allez, Richard!” In the next game he let two break points go by and then, serving to stay in the set, he let Wawrinka draw him into the net and force him into a volley which he sent wide, offering the Swiss a set point. A forehand down the line from Stan the Man meant that the match would go into a decider.
This time it was Gasquet summoning the trainer to massage his thigh. But it was almost an hour before the deadlock broke. At 6-7 Gasquet shanked a forehand for two match points, and Wawrinka sent the first down the line. “Richard!” bellowed the crowd, as Wawrinka applauded from his seat. How easy it is to be generous, when you have won.
"I have a little pain in my leg at the moment, but more in my soul for sure," said Gasquet. "It was not my day. It was a great match. I was really tired in the fifth set. He was fresher than I was. It was so close. I couldn't do more than I did. But it's always difficult to lose."