Richard Gasquet views the ATP Tour just like a tennis ball with which he has won a point: He goes back to it for more.
The 36-year-old Frenchman has spent more than 20 years on tour and is showing no signs of slowing down. After reaching a career-high ranking No. 7 almost 16 years ago, Gasquet is still performing at a high level and residing in the Top 50 of Pepperstone ATP Rankings.
Boasting a famed one-handed backhand that he can easily change direction with in the blink of an eye, the World No. 43 is also a little superstitious on court.
“I have a superstition with the ball, I use the same ball when I’m winning points,” Gasquet told ATPTour.com. “With [changing my] grip [every changeover], it’s because I’m sweating so much, not superstition. It feels more fresh.”
Gasquet’s longevity hasn’t gone unnoticed by players. This past week, former World No. 1 Andy Murray had kind words for tour-veterans Gasquet and Swiss Stan Wawrinka, who are still giving their best despite no longer being a staple in the Top 10.
The generation which never gives up ❤️@andy_murray reflects on his admiration for Wawrinka & Gasquet late in their playing careers…@stanwawrinka @richardgasquet1 #TennisParadise pic.twitter.com/H9UnzcPq8v
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) March 10, 2023
“I was really happy for [Gasquet] when he won the tournament in Auckland earlier this year,” Murray said in Indian Wells of the Frenchman’s first title in more than four years. “I think he maybe sometimes doesn’t get the respect he deserves. He’s been an incredible player for such a long time and I just love seeing guys that maybe are not at their peak, but they’re still out there giving everything, competing because they love the sport.”
A 16-time tour titlist, Gasquet is in action at this week’s Phoenix Challenger and is soaking in every chance he gets to be competing.
“Of course I was happy when Andy said that. I’ve known him for a long time, mutual respect,” Gasquet said. “I didn’t win three Grand Slams like [him and Wawrinka], so it’s not quite the same. But I’m very happy and very fortunate to still be on tour.”
The World No. 43 is among a star-studded field at this week’s Arizona Tennis Classic, where he earned a first-round victory against American qualifier Emilio Nava. Gasquet will next meet Christopher O’Connell or Aleksandar Kovacevic in the round of 16. Matteo Berrettini, Gael Monfils, and Alexander Bublik are also in action at the Phoenix Country Club.
It would be understandable if the day-to-day grind had grown tedious for Gasquet, but that is not the case for the oldest Frenchman in the Top 150.
“I’m enjoying it a lot,” Gasquet said. “I really like to play and be on the tennis court. I like to travel and play tournaments. Of course it’s not always easy, sometimes you’re a bit tired. It’s not easy to play matches after matches. I really like what I do, just to practise and play, win matches, being on the big stages.
“I didn’t think I could play such a long time, it’s a big surprise to me but I took it year-by-year and I’m still here. I’m practising a lot and thinking about tennis every day. I’m trying to be focussed every day to practise, to play matches, to fight. I really love what I’m doing.
“My best days are behind me, but I’m still enjoying it. I’m improving since last year, I’m playing better and feeling great physically. I hope it will be the same for the rest of the season and be lucky with no injuries. I had a great start to the year. We’ll see what happens.”
Gasquet started this year on the right foot. The Beziers native was crowned champion at the ATP 250 event in Auckland, where he defeated World No. 12 Cameron Norrie in the final to claim his first title since June 2018 (‘S-Hertogenbosch).
“I didn’t expect to win another tournament at 36, it was quite a surprise to me,” Gasquet said. “But I know I’m still able to beat guys in the Top 10. I did it last year and won this year against Top-20 players. Of course it’s not easy but I’m still fortunate to play tennis.”
A three-time Grand Slam semi-finalist, Gasquet never forgets that he’s living his childhood dream.
“I wanted to be a professional tennis player when I was a child,” Gasquet said. “When I was 13 or 14, I realised I could do it and I’m very fortunate for it. My dream came true. I’ve played Roland Garros, travelling my whole life to tournaments, meeting great people.”
Although some of Gasquet’s peers such as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gilles Simon retired last season, the 36-year-old is unsure when he will hang up his racquets. For now, Gasquet’s focus is on staying healthy and enjoying every second he gets on tour.
“I’m still in a great shape. I don’t know exactly when I will stop but I will try my best to go as far as I can,” Gasquet said. “For the moment, I’m feeling great. I’m lucky that at 36 I can play. Some players stop before. Everybody wants to play for long. I remember that Jo [Wilfried Tsonga] wanted to play and had to stop because of injuries. Many players have that problem, not stopping because they want to but because of injuries.”
After spending more than two decades on tour, the question is, what will Gasquet do when he isn’t traveling weekly as a professional tennis player? “I don’t know for the moment,” Gasquet said. “For the first month, I think I will play golf and football.”
But retirement can wait for now. Gasquet is still winning titles on the ATP Tour and beating some of the game’s top players.