By Mario Sarmento
Richard Gasquet is known for his flair and style on the court, his speed and his one-handed backhand. The Frenchman has been ranked in the ATP top 10 for the past two years, has won 10 career titles, and achieved a personal high when he won the bronze medal in doubles with partner Julien Benneteau in 2012.
Last year, Gasquet reached the Sony Open Tennis tournament semifinals, and he is off to a good start in 2014, having beaten Alejandro Gonzalez in the second round and Kevin Anderson in the third. Gasquet was gracious enough to stop by the entertainment stage at the Sony Open and answer questions in front of a group of cheering fans. Gasquet will face No. 5 seed Roger Federer in the fourth round on Tuesday.
So, tell us, congratulations, you won:
RG: It’s important to win here, it’s a big tournament. I played a good player (Kevin Anderson), ranked 17th in the world. It’s very nice for me to win. Now I have to face Roger (Federer), so I’m really happy with that.
How does it feel to be back in Miami? How do you get prepared for Roger?
RG: I feel good. Of course, I played well last year, semifinals here. So of course I like to play in Miami. The conditions are good for me, they like tennis, and there’s a lot of people cheering for me sometimes, so of course, it’s wonderful. And now, of course I won’t be the favorite against Roger. But, I will try my best to win.
When you hear the fans cheering for you, does it get you going? Does it pump you up?
RG: Yes, of course it does. It give me a lot of confidence. I want to play well; it’s important not just to win for me, but to play for the people who are coming to cheer for you. It’s important that I try my best for the fans.
Your dad was really into tennis. Did he run a tennis camp?
RG: I grew up in the south of France, and that’s why I started with him. I played football (soccer) too, but of course, I wanted to play tennis. I preferred it because I played with my father. Of course, I liked it. When I grew up, I really liked to play tennis. I liked to do my best against the next round of opponent.
You also represented your country in the Olympics, and you won the bronze. How was that?
RG: It’s important, because you are playing for your country, it’s the Olympics and it’s very important. It’s the same with the Davis Cup. It’s big memories for me to win the bronze medal with Benneteau, one of my best tournaments in a while.
The entire world is watching you, and you’re there for your country. How do you work into that?
RG: Yeah, of course, it’s always difficult. It’s a big sensation for the players, a lot of crowds, people are cheering for you, and in terms of television, it’s a big feeling. I have great feelings about this.
You’ve also started a foundation that gives back to kids. Will you tell everyone about your foundation?
RG: I’m trying to help the young people in the south of France. I have tried so many times to do that, but I will try my best in the beginning or future to do more and more for it.
What advice would you give to these young kids and the older crowd?
RG: To enjoy, to enjoy tennis. Of course, it’s difficult to win matches, to practice a lot. But I think the best players enjoy it, and that’s the most important thing. Even if it’s tough, even if it’s difficult to practice every day, I think the most important thing is to enjoy it, enjoy the game, whether you’re four or five years old. To be a tennis player is wonderful work for me.
You’re going up against Roger. Is there anything you’re going to do to mentally prepare yourself for this?
RG: I’ve played him many times; I’ve beaten him two times. Even if he is a favorite against me, I will try my best. I know his game, he knows me, of course, he’s the best. I will try to fight, I will try to win.