Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The "Big Four" That Could Have Been

The men's semifinals at Wimbledon are set, and it consists of the "Big Four" of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andy Murray and ... Richard Gasquet?  Okay, so maybe not quite the "Big Four" as we've come to define the term, but there was a time about ten years ago when Gasquet was expected to fit right in with this legendary group. 

Gasquet is similar in age to Nadal, Djokovic and Murray, and was as highly touted of a prospect as any of them.  In 2002 he was the number one junior in the world, and he won a match on the ATP Tour when he was only 15 years old.  When he was just 18 he beat Federer on clay, and seemed well on his way to becoming a grand slam champion. 

While by most accounts Gasquet has had a very successful pro career, he clearly didn't develop into the superstar many thought he could become.  He's been a perennial top 20 player who occasionally makes some noise at bigger events, but generally tops out in the Round of 16 or quarterfinals. 

As talented as Gasquet is, in hindsight he lacked some of the tools that became valued in today's game.  He doesn't possess a killer forehand, is a good but not great athlete, and at times lacks focus and self belief.  In a different era he may have been able to overcome some flaws and win a slam based on his talent alone, but not where all-time greats are waiting at the end of every major. 

If Wimbledon is any indication, Gasquet may be like Wawrinka and play some of his best tennis in his late 20s and early 30s.  His game should age well, and his mental game seems to be improving.  He looked to be breaking through a couple of years ago, but his progress was interrupted by some injuries.  It may be too late for Gasquet to change the fact that he didn't become a member of the "Big Four" (or had he joined, the "Big Five"), but it's not too late for him to make us remember what could have been. 

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