French fail in Brisbane as Mathieu, Gasquet go out

January 10th, 2009 - 3:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Brisbane, Jan 10 (DPA) France fell to a double disaster Saturday on the men’s side of the Brisbane International tennis tournament, with both Paul-Henri Mathieu and Richard Gasquet crashing out at the semi-final stage.Third seed Fernando Verdasco, hero of Spain’s Davis Cup final over Argentina in November, dispatched Mathieu 6-2, 6-1, while notoriously irritating Czech Radek Stepanek wore down seventh seed Gasquet 2-6, 6-2, 6-4.

Stepanek displayed his full array of celebratory gestures after almost every winning point to the fatal distraction of Gasquet. The French youngster eventually began turning his head just to avoid seeing the over-the top gesticulations of his 30-year-old opponent.

France have a final chance for success later when 2007 Wimbledon finalist Marion Bartoli meets second seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus in the women’s final.

Stepanek rallied after losing the first set to Gasquet, who lifted the last four games.

But the veteran’s antics and shotmaking began to take a toll in the second set with two breaks of 23rd-ranked Gasquet.

In the third set, Gasquet’s concentration was broken, with Stepanek advancing into his first final since San Jose last February.

“It’s the first time for this tournament and I’m in the final,” Stepanek said of the event which swallowed the former ATP Adelaide and WTA Gold Coast competitions in a schedule reshuffle.

“I”m trying to mix up my game, since the first match this week I’ve been playing good tennis.
“I worked hard in the off-season, that’s why I’m playing like I am now. It would be really nice to win the title.”

Stepanek has beaten Verdasco both times they have played, in 2004 and 2006.

“He’s been playing great tennis since the Davis Cup,” said the Czech. “And that’s given him confidence. But tomorrow is a different day and I’m looking forward to a good match.”

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