The premise for ThoughtLogs is simple: usually these are matches that I am very interested in, but due to scheduling issues, I can’t watch live. Today is different – I’m watching this Delpo-Gasquet match at the same time as everyone else, but I’ll still keep a log of my observations as I watch the match unfold.
For these posts, I’ll be using a bit of “tennis shorthand” today. Here’s your glossary:
BP: Break Point
DTL: Down the line (means the same as “up the line”)
GP: Game Point
SP: Set Point
S&V: Serve and Volley
SW: Service Winner
UFE: Unforced Error
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1. The men are on court, and everything is blue:
— TennisTV (@TennisTV) November 4, 2013
2. The H2H is rather violent: Delpo leads it 5-1, and has only lost one set in the last five matches (all wins, obviously). Richie’s lone victory was at Indian Wells 6 years ago. It was the first time these two met.
3. One of the first points of the match consists of a very long rally that confirmed what Roger Federer said in an interview ahead of this event: London is slower than Paris.
And Paris was quite slow.
Juan Martín del Dropshot.
— Álvaro Rama (@alvarorama) November 4, 2013
Delpo then clinches a simple initial hold with a BH DTL slice winner.
Both shots were quite Federer-esque.
5. Gasquet is smartly trying to open up the court with some nice angled CC BHs. Given how slow the court is, creating space will require more than just pace.
6. At least one Brit is rooting for Richard Gasquet:
The pundits aren't giving gasquet any hope of winning a match here!
— Andy Murray (@andy_murray) November 4, 2013
Literally destroying him! #allezrichard
— Andy Murray (@andy_murray) November 4, 2013
7. Since the court is so slow, both men have to be patient about when they use pace, and be aware that a fast shot that doesn’t have a good angle or depth will most likely be returned with ease.
Gasquet and Del Potro both can generate pace off their racquets without much fuss. But both have to be crafty in terms of creating good chances to really go for it.
In other words, they have to put real effort in to constructing points in a way that gives them proper chances to finish a point. This involves using angles, spins, occasional net rushing, droppers and anything else I’m probably missing. Because pace alone won’t cut it.
8. At the start of the seventh game, this:
Hilarious irony: even with this slow surface, both guys are dominating on serve: pic.twitter.com/C54SDxxAqb
— Juan José Vallejo (@juanjosetennis) November 4, 2013
9. Gasquet putting Tournagrip on his racquet is one of the most random and fun things to watch for during his matches:
— TennisTV (@TennisTV) November 4, 2013
10. Out of nowhere, Gasquet has 2 BPs at 3-4, 15-40. Delpo serves his way out of the first one, but then Gasquet patiently yanks Delpo wider and wider on the BH side, and finishes with a relatively simple BH DTL winner to get the break.
Simple tactics, executed perfectly.
What should Delpo do about this? Either try to counter-punch with an aggressive, sharp-angled CC BH of his own, or take a chance with a BH DTL. Gasquet’s CC BHs were too good for him to run around and hit FHs.
11. After so much server domination, we might get two straight breaks: Delpo is up 15-40 on Gasquet’s serve at 5-3. The first BP is saved by a gorgeous, Federer-esque short, biting CC slice BH by Gasquet. Delpo did not see it coming.
Keeping in tune with the spirit of this specific game, Gasquet goes for a BH DTL way too early, and misses. We’re back on serve.
On a slow court, you really cannot afford to lose your patience. In three of the four points in that game, Gasquet went for shots that weren’t there for him, and they all missed. Trying to do too much when the opportunity didn’t call for it.
12. There are early signs that Delpo has recognized what Gasquet is trying to do to him: after two straight Gasquet CC BHs, Delpo fires a BH DTL missile. Gasquet gets to it, leaves a short ball for Delpo to punish with his FH…but Delpo sends the FH wide. A pretty bad miss after such a good play.
13. After Del Potro holds easily for 5-all, he creates a BP chance on Gasquet’s serve immediately. It is saved by an ace, and then Gasquet plays two superb points to hold.
The match is heating up, for everyone’s delight.
14. Delpo holds rather easily, so we’re into a TB.
0-0: SW by Gasquet. Seemed like a makeable FH return.
1-0, Gasquet: Richie gets a nice CC BH return in, and thinks he can finish DTL after Delpo’s reply. He misses by a wide margin.
1-1: Marvelous 2nd serve chip-and-charge by Gasquet! Fantastic execution and play-call. MINIBREAK.
2-1, Gasquet: Horror follows: Gasquet gets a good serve in, gets a short FH to put away…and misses by 5 nautical miles. MINIBREAK.
2-2: No mistake by Gasquet this time: he hits a good CC BH approach after Delpo’s short return, and stretches for a volley.
3-2, Gasquet: 2nd serve – a short, angled CC BH return by Gasquet (seems like that’s where Richard is sending all his BH returns) is punished heavily by a good CC BH from Delpo.
3-3: Gasquet sends a nice, deep slice return after a Delpo 1st serve, and Delpo sends a hurried FH wide while he was backpedalling. MINIBREAK.
4-3, Gasquet: More of Richard’s good tactics are matched with good execution: two nicely angled CC BHs are followed by a nice BH DTL winner.
5-3, Gasquet: Delpo with a bit of good fortune: after a very good return, Juan Martín goes for a dropper that bounces off the top of the letcord and dies on Gasquet’s side of the court. MINIBREAK.
5-4, Gasquet: Gorgeous improvisation by Gasquet again: a wonderful I-I FH return winner. MINIBREAK.
6-4, Gasquet: Fantastic tennis by Gasquet, who first mixes it up with a few CC BH slices, then goes for a nice, sharp angled CC BH, and after Delpo replied with a very good BH DTL of his own (great play, BTW), Gasquet re-directs a FH into the open court. It was not an easy shot at all, given the pace on Delpo’s shot.
That FH clipped the net, but had enough pace to land in. Richard smiles, and he’s taken a set off Delpo for only the 2nd time since 2007.
Gasquet started the match with 0 winners / 6 unforced. Then 16 winners / 7 unforced. takes opening set 7-6 in 49 minutes
— Steph Trudel (@TrudelSteph) November 4, 2013
Here are the first set stats:
15. These two graphs from the broadcast showcase Gasquet’s tactical plan perfectly:
Objective #1 of all those CC BHs: Pull Delpo wide on that BH side, making it impossible for him to run around the BH and hit FHs.
Objective #2: Create space on the AD court (Delpo’s FH side) so opportunities to hit good, aggressive BHs DTL.
16. At 40-0, in a game in which Gasquet is cruising, he makes a slight mistake. He hits a soft BH DTL from behind the baseline, and chooses to come in behind it. Del Potro has plenty of time to get to the shot, and rifles one of his obscene running FHs past Richie, who never had a chance.
Moments later, a rattled Gasquet gets broken, and not much longer, Del Potro has consolidated the break and gone up 4-1 in the second set.
17. Down 2-5, Richard double-faults, loses his mind after a great defensive lob by Delpo, and then misses a simple passing shot. He’s down 2 SPs, 15-40. The first SP is saved with a correct passing shot Delpo can’t handle, and then a SW. Delpo threatens to murder his racquet after missing a 2nd serve return that looked eminently makeable, and Gasquet ends up holding with a sublime I-O BH winner.
18. Gasquet goes up 15-30 on Delpo’s serve at 5-3, plays an excellent point that affords him a seemingly simple smash…and blasts it into the net. A correct overhead would’ve given Richie 2 BPs.
Instead, Gasquet doesn’t win another game, and Delpo has forced a deciding set.
Here are your stats – the baseline points discrepancy (+16 in favor of Delpo) is a little problematic for Gasquet:
19. This match continues to be a very tight, very tense, very entertaining affair. The third set opens with a trio of holds, and neither was in doubt.
One thing to watch for is Gasquet’s court position when he goes for a BH DTL. He’s still trying to open up the court with the CC BH, but he’s now trying BHs DTL that should be CC BHs instead. The thing to remember is that changing the direction aggressively is a very difficult thing to do, so it helps when you have time to set up and have a clear, easy angle available. Richard is sometimes going for BHs DTL when pulled out wide, or when Delpo fires hard, flat and low-bouncing shots. Not ideal situations from which to attack with a complex shot.
20. At 30-15, Richard Gasquet hits not one, not two, not three, but FOUR straight overheads. The first 2 were directed straight at Delpo. Finally, Richard stopped rushing, let the ball bounce before the last one, and put the smash away into the open court.
He holds moments later for a 3-2 lead.
21. At 2-3, Delpo misses a regulation FH wide, and he’s down 0-30. Two good serves later, he’s tied the game at 30-all. He then gets Gasquet on the run, eventually forcing Richie into a desperation running BH DTL that misses by a ton. Delpo then uses his BH DTL to do something that is quite smart: force Richard Gasquet to beat him with his FH. He ends up holding.
22. Now it’s Gasquet who’s in trouble, but of a more real nature: he faces a BP at 30-40, 3-all. It is saved with a good serve, but another BP comes on the heels of a pretty nervy DF. That BP is saved with a pretty fantastic S&V play: wide serve, CC FH volley, and correct overhead to claim the point. There is another BP for Delpo, who hammers Gasquet’s BH mercilessly until it gives in.
This last BP is handed via a very rushed, poorly chosen and poorly executed 2nd ball BH DTL. Del Potro is now 2 games away from the win.
Richard’s tactical indiscipline was at fault there: he didn’t construct the point at all, and fell pray of impatience once again when picking his spots for BHs DTL. Just like in the second set.
23. I wonder whether Richard will put together a last stand of sorts. Seems a little scattered, though he did have a 30-all look at Delpo’s serve at 3-4. Unfortunately for him, Delpo sent 2 straight bombs his way, and holds.
Del Potro will indeed have to serve out this set, given that Richard produced a comfortable hold. The highlight? Delpo hitting the jumbotron with a lob.
24. Delpo opens his crucial service game by sending a relatively simple FH way long. Gasquet then hits a return dropper (!!!), then a fantastic lob, and a correct smash. 0-30. Delpo then DFs. 0-40, triple BP.
Gasquet breaks after Delpo makes a mess of a BH volley that didn’t seem all that complicated. A simply horrific game by the Argentine, at the worst possible time.
25. No worries for Delpo, as Gasquet goes down 0-30 after a meek BH UFE. After Delpo sends a FH UFE of his own into the net, Gasquet sends a BH UFE long. 15-40, double BP.
The first BP is wasted by Delpo after hitting a wonderful return…but botching the resulting FH. 30-40. Then, some drama – Gasquet hits a vicious hooked CC FH, it’s called out, but Hawk-Eye shows it was barely in.
Bernardes calls for the point to be replayed, but I think that was the wrong call – the “out” call was quite late, and Delpo smashed his FH DTL into the net before it came. Though in the spirit of Mo Lahyani, I’m issuing a CORRECTION – I went back using TennisTV’s DVR feature, and indeed the out call wasn’t as late as I thought: it came during Delpo’s shot.
In the ensuing point, Delpo pummels an angled CC BH by Gasquet, forces the error, and breaks. Justice was indeed served.
26. Delpo is now up double Match Point at 40-15 after pummeling a CC FH. He clinches the win with a bomb up the T. That was a fun, fun match.
Here are your final stats:
Final tactical thought: in the 3rd set, Del Potro correctly recognized that he couldn’t afford to be caged in that BH corner, so he became much more aggressive about hitting DTL or more aggressively with his own BH, as well as looking for every half-chance to run around the BH and overpower Gasquet with his FH.
Conversely, once Gasquet was left to adjust to Delpo’s tactical correction, he seemed quite bereft of ideas, and his shaky FH had nowhere to hide.
Kudos to Del Potro for rebounding after such a horrific service game at 5-4, and kudos to both gentlemen for providing such interesting entertainment. Great way to start the festivities in London!