World No. 2 Novak Djokovic (Player Bio) returns on court Saturday afternoon for his third and final group stage match, this time against France’s Richard Gasquet (Player Bio), who has already surrendered hope of reaching the semi-finals. Novak leads the overall head-to-head 9-1 and has won seven consecutive matches against Gasquet, dating back to 2010.
Djokovic advanced to 2-0 in the group stages with his 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 win over Del Potro. The win was also his 19th straight and ensures that he qualify for the semi-finals of this year’s World Tour Finals. The Serb took advantage of Del Potro’s weary state and mounted an aggressive attack, particularly in the third set to secure the decisive break. He was able to deflect more of Juan Martin’s powerful forehands than usual due to the Argentine’s visible fatigue on court. That is a testament to the Serb’s sheer resilience and ability to rally through incredibly draining matches this late in the season.
In fact, he considers it an advantage and a strategic play:
“I just feel well at this particular part of the year,” the six-time Grand Slam winner said. “I know most of the players are exhausted physically, mentally, emotionally, after a long season. But, you know, I try to find that as an opportunity for me, you know, to get extra motivated to kind of push myself to the limit and deliver the goods when needed.”
Gasquet had a promising start to the World Tour Finals, where he took Juan Martin del Potro to the limit before losing in 7-5 in the third set. He followed it up with a disappointing loss to Roger Federer, where he was incapable of limiting the errors off his racquet. The Frenchman had opportunities to break Federer, particularly in the fourth and sixth games of the second set, but failed to do so and only managed to capitalize on one out of six break point chances. He committed uncharacteristic errors off his backhand as well, which cost him dearly as Federer would take the lead and close out the match 6-4, 6-3 in 81 minutes.
Djokovic leads the head-to-head with Gasquet 9-1 and has not lost to the Frenchman in seven consecutive matches spanning over three years. Gasquet has not taken a set off the Sebian no. 1 since his last win over him in 2007, when the Tour Finals was hosted in Shanghai. It is hard to imagine Richard having much luck against Djokovic, and while the Serb may be keen on conserving energy for his semi-final berth two days later. In all cases, this should be a quick straight sets victory for Djokovic but it is not impossible for Gasquet to stretch it a deciding set.
Prediction: Djokovic in Straight Sets