Gasquet finds himself in Rogers Cup final

Richard Gasquet of France celebrates his win against John Isner of the U.S. during their semi-final...

Richard Gasquet of France celebrates his win against John Isner of the U.S. during their semi-final match at the Toronto Masters tennis tournament in Toronto August 11, 2012. (Mike Cassese/REUTERS)

DAVE POLLARD, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:39 PM ET

TORONTO - Six summers ago, Richard Gasquet probably thought life was pretty darn good.

He'd made the Rogers Cup final as a 20-year-old, losing to Swiss legend Roger Federer, but his career was on the upswing. There was no shame in losing to Federer and, surely, there would be plenty of more tournament titles to celebrate during his career.

Well, since losing the 2006 final, things haven't worked out exactly as Gasquet might have hoped. There have been a few bumps and curves along the way -- he served a three-month doping ban in 2009 before being cleared and saw his ranking sink to 52nd that same year -- but the 26-year-old Frenchman has finally found his way back into an ATP Masters 1000 final.

Gasquet upset Milos Raonic-killer John Isner 7-6 (3), 6-3 in the Rogers Cup semifinals Saturday at the Rexall Centre to earn a berth in the final against either Novak Djokovic or Janko Tipsarevic. It's the first time since the 2006 Toronto event that Gasquet has gone this deep in a Masters series tournament and just his second final of the year.

"I'm very happy to come back to the final here in Toronto," 14th-seeded Gasquet said. "The key to the match was to return well and I did it. I tried to return all the time and make (Isner) play. I played incredible in the tiebreak and then I felt (strong).

"(Friday) we both played two matches so it's tiring. I felt more fresh after winning the first set."

In the other semifinal, which was delayed for more than two hours and interrupted once by, what else, more rain, top-seeded Djokovic downed his Serbian countryman, Janko Tipsarevic, 6-4, 6-1 to join Gasquet in the final.

The defending Rogers Cup champ, now 24-2 on the hard court this year, took the first set to get warmed up but, whoa baby, when he did, he went into steamroller mode. He frustrated Tipsarevic to the point where he slammed down his racquet after being broken in the fourth game.

"It could have gone either way, especially in the first set," Djokovic said. "With the interruptions because of the rain delay, it was important for both of us to start well. We were both trying to find our rhythm on the court. But when you're a set up ... I felt momentum was on my side. I felt I played a good second set."

Gasquet hasn't had much success against Djokovic -- he's 1-6 against the former world No. 1 -- so he'll be collared as the underdog in the final.

"For sure, if I have to play Novak, he will be the favourite," Gasquet agreed.

But that's the way it's been recently for Gasquet, who hasn't been the favourite in a major tournament for quite some time. It wasn't always that way, though.

Gasquet, a child prodigy in his native country -- he was once described as being more naturally talented than Roger Federer, the man he lost to in the '06 Rogers Cup final -- and a world junior champion in 2002, has has been unable to fullfil the promise he showed five years ago, when he topped out at No. 7 in the world.

Three years ago his reputation was left in tatters when he tested positive for cocaine during the Sony Ericsson Open in Florida. He served a three-month ban before being cleared when he convinced an International Tennis Federation tribunal that he'd kissed a girl who had used coke during a party in a Miami nightclub.

Gasquet ended 2009 ranked 52nd, the lowest he'd been since his days as a teenager on tour. Since then he's been trying to climb back up the ladder, creeping upwards to the 21st spot he now occupies, though a spot in the top-15 is likely if he wins this tournament.

No, Gasquet isn't a big hitter like the 6-foot-9 Isner, who can pound out serves up to 240 km/h and is the leader in aces on the tour. But he can still be a dangerous player, especially when he's allowed to use his devastating backhand to pick apart an opponent, as eighth-seeded Isner can attest.

"Yeah, it's tough, it's world class," Isner said. "It's just a gift of his, really. The backhand is pretty good. It's tough for me because I like to take the majority of my shots if I'm playing a righty to his backhand and he was able to handle that pretty well.

"He deserved to win. Nothing much else to it. He was just the better player, really, in all facets."

The last Canadian remaining in the tournament was also knocked out. Top-seeded Daniel Nestor and Max Mirnyi lost 6-4, 6-4 to Spaniards Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez in the quarterfinals.


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