He hasn’t always been the most convincing during this Rogers Cup. In fact, he hasn’t been convincing since the end of the French Open, but he remains one of the best players in the world and it’s not for nothing.
The defending champion has remained the last top 4 standing, when one was injured and couldn’t make it, another had elected to rest after the Olympics, and the last had injured himself in his first match, deciding to withdraw before the second.
Yesterday, without surprises, Novak Djokovic made another step to a successful title defence when he defeated his countryman Janko Tipsarevic, quite easily (which is not much of a surprise either), 6-4 6-1, to earn his place in his fourth Masters 1000 finals of the season (he won only one of the four).
On the other side of the net will be a player who hasn’t made a Masters 1000 finals in exactly six years, when he lost to then no 1 and nearly unbeatable Roger Federer, in three sets, and on that same court.
It’s been a long time coming for Richard Gasquet, but one he hasn’t stolen, having defeated, on his way to the final, Tomas Berdych (in two comfortable sets), Mardy Fish, and John Isner, the latter 7-6(3) 6-3 in the semi-finals yesterday.
It may have been a bit of a weaker field because of the Olympics, but this makes for an interesting final that will be played tonight in Toronto.
Richard Gasquet has arguably played his best tournament in a long time, this week. His being in the finals, of course, is a good testimony of it.
However, there are aspects of his game that have impressed throughout the tournament, one of them being the confidence with which he played. To be honest, I haven’t seen the Frenchman play with that much confidence in a few years, and maybe the bronze medal he has won with Julien Benneteau in London is no stranger to this renewed confidence.
In Toronto, he faced one top 10 player (Berdych) and two who have been in it not too long ago, Isner close on getting back in it once more, in conditions that were not ideal for any of the players, particularly in the last two days, when the rain decided to come and spoil the party for everyone.
Very aggressive in his game, his backhand sharp and usually precise, the Frenchman has shown that, when he feels confident, he can be a real threat on the court.
Would it be enough to defeat World no 2 Novak Djokovic?
After all, the Serbian has not been at his most convincing, admitted to have been fighting jet lag for most of the tournament, and it showed a little in his game, particularly on serve.
However, Djokovic has shown a steady rise throughout the week and has paced himself well to grow in strength in each of his matches.
The long battle he fought with Tommy Haas in the quarter-finals has given him a great confidence boost, making him dig deep and sharpening his game to reach, once again, a very high level of play, one that we have come to know last year and which makes him nearly unbeatable.
His defence game remains one of the best in the game at the moment and he has shown it in the semi-finals, smothering with great efficiency every push his countryman Tipsarevic was attempting to make, en route to a comfortable and easy win.
In my mind, there is no doubt that Djokovic starts as the heavy favourite for the title, and not only because of his ranking. Then again, Gasquet is not to be discarded, as if he comes out as confident as he has been during the tournament, we might be in for a great fight, and a very good final.
My prediction: Djokovic in two tight sets.