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  • Monfils, Gasquet square off in all-French showdown

    4/21/11 3:10 AM | Ricky Dimon
    Monfils, Gasquet square off in all-French showdown Friends and countrymen Gael Monfils and Richard Gasquet are set for a Thursday meeting in Barcelona. The winner will likely go up against Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals.

    Gael Monfils and Richard Gasquet will be facing each other for the seventh time in their careers when they battle for a quarterfinal spot at the Barcelona Open BancSabadell on Thursday.

    The head-to-head series is tied up at three apiece, but this is their first encounter on clay as all six previous meetings were contested on hard courts. They squared off twice last season; Monfils prevailed 6-4, 7-5, 7-5 in the fourth round of the U.S. Open before Gasquet got revenge with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 victory in round two of the Shanghai Masters.

    Gasquet has looked better of late mainly because he has enjoyed a clean bill of health in 2011. The 17th-ranked Frenchman owns a 16-8 record on the year and he reached the Monte-Carlo third round last week. So far in Barcelona Gasquet has survived three-set tests against both Juan Ignacio Chela and Blaz Kavcic.

    Monfils, on the other hand, has played only nine matches this season due to a wrist injury. The ninth-ranked Frenchman pulled out of a match in San Jose two months ago and did not take the court until Monte-Carlo, where he beat Daniel Gimeno-Traver before succumbing to Frederico Gil. Monfils got back on track following a first-round bye this week, winning his opener over Robin Haase 3-6, 7-6(3), 6-2. The No. 7 seed is a solid 7-2 for his 2011 campaign.

    Gasquet is playing better tennis than his opponent and should be expected to win this match, but clay will not help his chances even though he is more than capable on the slow stuff. Monfils will be content to play baseline rally after baseline rally and can keep his opponent on the court for as long as it takes. Count on this being a three-set battle, in which Monfils' mental superiority will become a major factor and prove to be the difference.

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