Wed, Jan 07, 2015 - Page 20 News List

Gasquet inches to top-10 goal in Qatar

AFP, DOHA

Richard Gasquet of France serves to Pablo Andujar of Spain in their singles match at the Qatar Open in Doha yesterday.

Photo: Reuters

Richard Gasquet made a convincing start to his bid to regain a place in the world’s top 10 with a first-round victory in the Qatar Open on Monday.

The Switzerland-based former world No. 7 made some enterprising approaches to the net and hit plenty of characteristically flowing ground strokes in a 6-3, 7-5 win over Pablo Andujar, a Spaniard in the top 50.

Although it was a match the Fenchman was expected to win, the quality of his game sometimes made it hard to believe that he dropped to 27 in the rankings after a disappointing run last year.

Two years ago after winning the title in Doha, Gasquet went on to return to the world’s top 10 for the first time in five years, a feat he would surely love to repeat.

“I’m really hoping I can play better this year,” he said. “The most important for me is to be fit, because I had so many injuries last year and it’s impossible to do a great season when you are so injured.”

Gasquet’s only uncertain moments occurred when he led 5-3 in the second set, with the match all but won. After Andujar held serve for 4-5, Gasquet dropped his service for the first time — to love, with a game which included a double-fault. He responded by breaking Andujar for the third time, saving a game point with a brilliantly struck trademark backhand, following it with two successful net approaches, and reaching 6-5 with another backhand.

Later, Ivo Karlovic became the only active player to surpass 9,000 aces after hitting 27 in his first-round win over Lukas Rosol. The Croatian, who beat the Czech 7-6 (7-4), 6-3, in a match finishing after midnight, reached a total of 9,022 aces.

Only two men have ever hit more: Karlovic’s compatriot Goran Ivanisevic, a former Wimbledon champion who struck 10,183 career aces, and Andy Roddick, the former world No. 1 one from the US, who hit 9,074. Although 35, Karlovic appears capable of overtaking Roddick’s total.

The two ailing tournament favorites, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, both made winning starts to the year, but in doubles.

World No. 1 Djokovic and fellow Serbian Filip Krajinov beat Jabor Ali Mutawa of Qatar and Malek Jaziri of Tunisia on a 6-1, 6-4 win. Djokovic proclaimed himself better after the fever which caused his withdrawal in Abu Dhabi two days earlier.

Former world No. 1 Nadal partnered Juan Monaco of Argentina to a 6-3, 6-3 win over Bolelli and Leonardo Mayer, another Argentine.

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