Paris: French Davis Cup captain Yannick Noah hailed Richard Gasquet's progress to the Roland Garros quarter-finals as the 29-year-old tries to become the country's first male Grand Slam singles champion since 1983. Noah's triumph at the French Open 33 years ago remains the last time a Frenchman won a major, but Gasquet's performances in Paris this year have generated reason for optimism.
The world number 12 dispatched Japanese fifth seed Kei Nishikori in four sets to make the last eight at Roland Garros for the first time in 13 attempts. "Aside from the result, I loved the match Richard played (on Sunday), he played very a good match like I'd dreamed of seeing him play," said Noah. "Richard has been playing better and better the last month and a half, he had a difficult start to the season because of injury.
It's maturity on one side as well as having a very good group of people around him. "With Sebastien Grosjean for the fast surfaces and Sergi (Bruguera), it's a team that works." However, standing between Gasquet and a place in the semi-finals is second seed Andy Murray, who has reached the last four in Paris on three occasions. "Murray has had his ups and downs so far this season, with times when he's been untouchable and beating everyone and other moments when he's been playable," said Noah.
"If Richard plays at the same level as he did (on Sunday), it's going to be a great match." Since Noah defeated Mats Wilander to claim the French Open title -- in the same year Michael Jackson's "Thriller" hit number one in the US charts on its way to becoming the biggest-selling album in history -- only Henri Leconte in 1988 has returned to the final at Roland Garros.
Three other Frenchmen -- Cedric Pioline, Arnaud Clement and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga -- have come close to ending the drought at other Grand Slams only to fall short. Pioline reached the 1993 US Open and 1997 Wimbledon finals, while Arnaud Clement (2001) and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (2008) both finished as runners-up at the Australian Open. Gasquet remains the lone French player left in either draw, the pressure of trying to become just the third Frenchman to win Roland Garros since World War II weighing heavily on his shoulders. "I'm just on the biggest court in the world for a French tennis player. It's really important for me to succeed there."
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