The Nottingham tournament, which is taking place at the moment, was the first won on the ATP Tour by Richard Gasquet, the day of his 19th birthday. A relieving victory for a young prodigy with performances already scrutinised at the time...
18th of June 2005, on the central court of Nottingham: the final of the tournament has just ended on a strong victory 6/2 6/3 of Richard against Max Mirnyi. Beautiful loser, the Belarusian, invited by the stadium speaker to make the usual speech, made quite an original one. After a few words to recognize his defeat, he addressed the public and said: "I would like to ask you to sing a little happy birthday to Richard, who managed the feat of winning his first title on the day of his 19th birthday!" On his chair, waiting to receive the cup awarded to the winner, the French smiled timidly, half-amused, half-annoyed, when Mirnyi and the crowd started to sing "happy birthday dear Richard." But he did it: exactly on the day of his 19th birthday, the young prodigy was finally part of the ATP title holders family, he who had been a professional for three years and when people were starting to wonder if he was going to confirm all the hopes that were place in him at his debut.
A title retained the following year
His coach at the time, Eric Deblicker, remembers: "I started working with him at the end of the previous year. He missed the start of the season, including the Australian Open, because of chickenpox. So, we decided that he should also ignore Miami and Indian Wells to "come back" in Challenger tournaments and slowly get back in shape." A winning strategy: Gasquet won in quick succession two minor titles in Italy followed by a remarkable clay season marked by a semi-final in Monte Carlo (dominating the world number 1 Roger Federer in quarterfinals) and a final in Hamburg, every time after playing the qualifying rounds! "He had regained confidence and it's an essential element for a successful player," said Deblicker. "His game was steady and it was therefore not a surprise that he eventually won this first ATP title in Nottingham, moreover on a surface that perfectly suits his tennis." Seeded No. 4 of the English tournament, he eliminated the title holder Paradorn Srichaphan in the quarterfinals, and the American Taylor Dent in the semi-finals before easily win against Max Mirnyi in the final with 73% of first serves and three break points converted out of five (the first on the first serve of his opponent), without conceding a single one. For his coach, "this victory was the moment everything clicked into place. It gave him credibility and installed Richard in the top 20 at the end of the 2005 season (16th exactly, ed.)" The following year, the French won again on the grass of Nottingham, the first two titles of his track record, which now has twelve, the last of which was won on clay at Estoril in May.