Richard Gasquet: Think You Can Do Better?

Rob YorkSenior Writer ISeptember 8, 2008

PARIS – In conjunction with the French Tennis Federation, top researchers at France’s Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports have announced their plans to put someone else’s brain in Richard Gaquet’s body.

Last year the gifted yet consistently underachieving Frenchman reached a career-high ranking of No. 7 after his five-set triumph over American Andy Roddick in the quarterfinals of Wimbledon.

Having been down two sets to love against Roddick, Gasquet proceeded to come back and take the match 8-6 in the fifth. In the process, he hit an amazing 93 winners, coupled with only 29 unforced errors, a ratio practically unheard of the today’s baseliner-laden game.

However, two months later Gasquet followed up that result by bowing out of the US Open in second round, withdrawing because of a “fever and sore throat.” His withdrawal against Young, a young and inexperienced American who’d only won a few tour-level matches at that point in his career, prompted the research to begin.

“When he didn’t bother to even try in New York, we all said ‘enough is enough,’” stated one Sports Ministry researcher. “After that disgrace, our order to look into this technology came from (French President Nicolas) Sarkozy himself.

“Gasquet’s results since then have only vindicated our decision.”

With technology in place that can swap Gasquet’s mind with that of another person, the FTF plans to scour the globe for an individual they believe will try his or her hardest to win on every occasion. This would be in stark contrast to Gasquet’s current modus operandi, which appears to be simply enjoying traveling around the world and collecting appearance fees.

After the U.S. Open, Gasquet won one tournament title, but was on the receiving end of several blowouts from players such as David Ferrer and David Nalbandian. In 2008, he lost multiple first round matches, sometimes in lopsided fashion to players such as Andreas Seppi and Luis Horna.

The project was announced just after Gasquet withdrew from the French Open.

“The young man was one of four people to beat Roger Federer in 2005,” said 1983 French Open champion Yannick Noah. “In 2002, the year Albert Costa won at Roland Garros, Gasquet was the first player who took a set from Costa. He was only fifteen years old at the time!”

However, Noah hung his head while recalling Gasquet’s attitude coming into the French Open this year.

“What was it he said? ‘Don’t expect a big tournament from me if I take part in it,’ I think it was.

“We were all kind of wanting to take away his citizenship after that,” Noah said.

FTF officials say they are looking for a player of any gender or nationality who is willing to take Gasquet’s exquisite, picturesque one-handed backhand and complete, all-round game, train with it and compete their hardest under the French flag. In addition to making the mother country proud, officials with the FTF said that this move would be a great boon for the game’s patrons around the world.

“I think tennis fans all over the globe, whether they’d admit it or not, want to see a player with this amount of flair at the top of the men’s game,” one FTF member said. “There is no player more fun to watch than Richard, if he’d just prioritize. I mean, that backhand should be in the Louvre.”

The fiercely competitive man or woman who is selected to have his/her mind traded with Gasquet’s would be given the right to play on the ATP Tour for a one-year trial basis, after which they would be given the right to renew for another year or return to their prior life. In the meantime, Gasquet’s consciousness would be placed in the other person’s physique, so he can experience what it’s like to work a regular job where he cannot coast by on talent and promise alone.

“Of course, the person we select will have to do some hard thinking about whether they can trust Richard with their life for a whole year,” a government official said.

Sources in the FTF said that there may be some resistance among French tennis professionals, who will site the country’s long-standing tradition of players with lovely one-handed backhands who fail to win major titles.

“I’m sure many will look at Henri Leconte, Guy Forget and Cedric Pioline and state that there’s plenty of precedent for players choosing simply to look great while playing, rather than posting some great results,” one official said. “However, it’s been twenty-five years since Noah won the French Open.

“How long can the fans of one country be expected to wait? I mean, who are we, Great Britain?”

A few applications have been accepted so far, officials said. Among them is said to be wily veteran and crowd favorite Fabrice Santoro, who has had a long and successful career despite his under-abundance of raw power.

“When he found about the program, Fabrice jumped at the chance just to be able to hit the ball like that for one day,” an official said.

If successful, the FTF said that this breakthrough may also be applied to countryman Gael Monfils. Monfils is considered to be one of the fastest players on tour, has one of the hardest serves in the world, and is said to have hit the hardest forehand ever struck at the 2007 Australian Open. However, after four years on tour, he has only one career title and a win-loss record over a little above .500.

Inspired by the FTF’s announcement, many other countries’ tennis organizations are following suit. The Russian Tennis Federation expressed dismay that such methods were not available when Marat Safin had a realistic chance of dominating the game.

However, a representative quickly added, “I guess it’s not too late for (Igor) Andreev.”  

Meanwhile, the United States Tennis Association has announced plans for a much shorter-term trade—maybe for two months, or perhaps just for certain Davis Cup ties—for many of their top-ranked players. According to a spokesperson, their ideal trade-offs would be with “Argentines or someone who knows how to win some friggin’ matches on clay.”