Gasquet wins Qatar Open title
Richard Gasquet, the world number 10, raised hopes of a climb towards the top five during 2013 with a gutsy fightback which carried him from the brink of defeat to the Qatar Open title on Saturday.
The second-seeded Frenchman snatched an improbable 3-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-3 victory over Nikolay Davydenko, the unseeded Russian, who led by a set and a break of serve and seemed to be heading towards a notable triumph when he had points for 5-2 with a double break of serve in the second set.
At that crucial stage Gasquet hung in without ever playing his best tennis, and after Davydenko needed an injury time out in a final set during which he also appeared to tire, Gasquet surged through to the eighth title of his career.
"This is a big success for me, and it was very tough," Gasquet of the two-and-a-half hour struggle.
"Nikolay was tired and I fought as much as I could. It was a good win against him because he plays so fast.
"It's also incredible to win here where so many famous players have won in the past."
Past fields included Rafael Nadal, who belatedly had to withdraw this year, and Roger Federer, both of whom Davydenko beat to win the title three years ago.
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It would have been a remarkable effort, after so little tennis in recent months, and at the age of 31, to have won again.
Gasquet was encountering frustrations against Davydenko's hustling style in the first set.
He lost his opening service game after being unluckily penalised for a line judge's wrong call, and then was narrowly prevented from making the break back.
That happened after Davydenko's return of serve was mistakenly called out, denying Gasquet the chance of making a comfortable put-away, and allowing the Russian to get the rally replayed after an appeal to the Hawkeye computer replay system succeeded.
This helped Davydenko accelerate to a 3-0 lead, but only after Gasquet had pressed hard on his advantage point and still saw Davydenko escape with a sudden dashing backhand winner down the line.
That brought gestures of annoyance from the Frenchman, but he had another chance to break back when Davydenko was closing the set out, and could not take that either.
The second set began with further missed chances. Davydenko sank to love-40 but still Gasquet could not capitalise, which appeared to have a doubly serious consequences.
Soon he was a break of serve down again, and then trailing 2-4.
At 30-40 in the seventh game, within one blow of a double break deficit, he seemed on his way to defeat.
But Gasquet's attitude in adversity was good. He began to make better mixtures of his twin tactical priorities – slowing down the Davydenko attack, and then creating his own pressure from further up the court.
He may also have been fired up by the umpire incorrectly announcing "game to Davydenko" in that vital seventh game.
Instead Gasquet held on for 3-4 and then broke back at last, after four failed attempts, reaching 4-4 as Davydenko appeared to tighten up.
Gasquet also looked the more buoyant and the more mobile player in the tie-breaker, winning it comfortably, noticing in the process Davydenko suffering physical discomfort on the eighth point.
This was another turning point.
Soon Davydenko was having treatment on a hip flexor problem, and was no longer imposing his high-speed, flat-hit attacking game.
When Gasquet broke serve in the fifth game, the die was cast, and without over-pressing the Frenchman continued to make the Russian work harder as the finishing line appeared.
"I am proud of my tennis, but disappointed in my physical condition," said Davydenko, down to 44 in the rankings after two injury-hit years.
"But I shall work in the next week to get it as good as I can," he added, referring to his hopes of doing well at the Australian Open starting on Monday week.
Davydenko had scored excellent wins over David Ferrer, the top-seeded Spaniard, and Mikhail Youzhny, his fourth-seeded compatriot, in Qatar.
Gasquet, meanwhile, will take a break instead of competing in Sydney next week, preferring to rest a sore elbow in time for the Melbourne Grand Slam event.