NEW YORK- Richard Gasquet’s career record against Rafael Nadal shows an embarrassing 10 defeats in 10 matches, but the Frenchman can at least boast one victory over the Spaniard — when he was 13.
Gasquet reached his first US Open semi-final on Wednesday with a rollercoaster 6-3, 6-1, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3 win over David Ferrer, the Spanish fourth seed.
Nadal then got past Tommy Robredo 6-0, 6-2, 6-2 in his quarter-final, meaning Gasquet will face the great Spaniard once again on Saturday for a place in Monday’s title match.
Gasquet, who is a close friend of the world number two, recalled how he defeated Nadal at the Les Petits As junior event in the French city of Tarbes when they were both just 13.
“I watch it on YouTube sometimes. People are talking about this video. I can see I’m winning against him, but I don’t believe it sometimes,” said the 27-year-old.
“I didn’t know him when I played him when I was 13 years old. He was already fighting a lot, already running so much, and I remember I won maybe 6-4 in a set, and I told my father after that he’s a big fighter.
“I didn’t lie. It was true. He is one of the biggest players in history. It’s good to win at under 14, but it is better to win on the pro tour. I didn’t but life is long. We are only 27.”
Nadal said he remembered that 1999 defeat — and the score.
“I lost 6-4 in the the third set. It was a great match and was one of my first international tournaments. It was like the World Cup of junior tennis,” he said.
“Richard played amazing that day — it was a great battle for me.”
Nadal insisted that despite his overwhelming record against his close friend, he expected Gasquet to come out firing with his razor-sharp, one-handed backhand.
“I expect him to be very good. He’s playing a great tournament. Two great wins against Milos Raonic and now against David,” he said.
“It’s great for his confidence. Five-set victories against tough opponents, that’s brilliant for him. He will come to the match with good confidence.
“I need to keep playing my aggressive style. If I keep having the feeling of today, I hope to have my chances.”
Gasquet, whose only other Grand Slam semi-final appearance was a run to the last four at Wimbledon in 2007, has not taken a set off Nadal in their last five meetings.
But Nadal said his close friendship with Gasquet will survive whatever happens on Saturday.
“He’s a nice guy, one of the players on the tour that I feel close to because we are from the same age. We always had a good feeling,” he said.
“So it’s great to see a player like Richard, who I grew up with playing together as kids, reaching the semi-finals of the US Open.”
Gasquet shrugged off fears that having played two tough five-setters to get to this stage he would be too exhausted to face Nadal.
He had already needed four hours and 40 minutes to get past Raonic in the fourth round.
“I was a little bit tired after Raonic, but I knew I could play another big match. I wasn’t feeling so tired this morning,” said Gasquet.
“And I knew I had to be aggressive. My backhand was working very good today and I think it was the key of the match. I played a lot down the line, and it worked.
“But I have two days to recover. I’m playing Saturday. That makes a big difference for me. I think Saturday I will be fresh.”