Thursday, September 28

Gasquet wins, targets brighter 2010


SYDNEY: Former world top ten player Richard Gasquet swept into the second round of the Sydney International yesterday as he bids to put last year’s doping nightmare behind him.The Frenchman, who has fallen to 53 in the world rankings, beat Spanish Davis Cup winner Feliciano Lopez 6-1, 6-4 in the lead-up event to the Australian Open, the season’s opening Grand Slam.

The convincing victory was wrapped up in 76 minutes and his hopes of making significant inroads into the tournament have been boosted following the withdrawal of compatriot and top seed Gael Monfils with a shoulder injury in his half of the draw.

Gasquet, who next faces either eighth seed Benjamin Becker or Argentine qualifier Juan Ignacio Chela, reached the semi-finals of last year’s Sydney tournament where he lost to eventual champion David Nalbandian. But his world was turned upside down after a positive test for cocaine last March following a kiss in a Miami nightclub resulted in him serving a two-and-a-half month ban.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport last month cleared Gasquet, who reached a career-high ranking of seven in 2007, of doping and dismissed appeals by sports authorities for a tougher penalty.

Now Gasquet is putting his game together and after losing to eventual winner Andy Roddick in the quarter-finals of last week’s Brisbane International he chalked up his fifth straight career win over Lopez.

“It’s a different year. What I know is I won,” Gasquet said. “I improve my level match after match. Day after day I’m playing better and better. That’s the most important for me.”

Referring back to his dark doping chapter, Gasquet said: “I think it was a nightmare movie. I’m not sure it happened really, but, yeah, for sure it happened. During six months it was an incredible story, but now it’s over.

“I didn’t want to be in this story. It was really tiring eight months with it in the head. It was horrible.

“But I’m happy. I just want to enjoy now, because I had a big story. Just most important for me to enjoy the match.”

Earlier, Monfils withdrew from the Sydney International, citing a shoulder problem.

The world number 12 said he had an inflamed right shoulder and needed some time off to give him a chance of playing in next week’s Australian Open in Melbourne.

Monfils, 23, reached the semi-finals of the Brisbane International and said he was taking the precaution of pulling out of the Sydney tournament to prevent the onset of shoulder tendinitis. — AFP