Nadal to face 'good friend' Gasquet, boasting 15-0 career mastery

Paris (AFP) –


Rafael Nadal set up a French Open third-round clash with his "good friend" and home darling Richard Gasquet by thrashing Argentina's Guido Pella on Thursday.

The top seed had struggled at times against lucky loser Simone Bolelli in the first round, but was back to his best as he raced to a 6-2, 6-1, 6-1 victory.

The 31-year-old will next face Gasquet, whom he has beaten 15 times from as many meetings in professional tennis, on Saturday.

"I have a great relationship with him always, since we were kids," said Nadal.

"We met each other for the first time when we were 12. First thing is he's a very good person, no? He's a very normal guy. We practiced hundreds of times together. He came to Mallorca.

"He's one of the guys on the tour that creates good atmosphere. He always has a positive attitude.

"I like him a lot... and it will be a good match against a good friend in the most important place in my career, and for him a very special place, too."

Nadal has never shown much mercy to Frenchman Gasquet on the court, though, and has won 25 consecutive sets against his fellow 31-year-old.

The pair were seen as two of the best young players in the world when they launched their professional careers, but it is Nadal who has gone on to win 16 Grand Slam titles, while Gasquet has never managed to reach a major final.

The first time the great Spaniard's will to win against his more flaky opponent shone through was in the 2005 Monte Carlo Masters semi-finals, when Nadal fought back from a set down en route to the title.

"We both represented the new generation at the time," remembered Nadal.

"He was doing a bit better than I was. He was a future French star. That's why there was a lot of expectations from the match."

It will be the first time the two have faced off in a Grand Slam tournament since the 2013 US Open semi-finals, when Nadal won 6-4, 7-6 (7/1), 6-2 before beating Novak Djokovic in the final.

Making a rare appearance on the secondary Court Suzanne Lenglen on Thursday, Nadal was almost caught cold in the very first game by Pella as he was forced to save four break points, but he quickly found his groove and broke for a 4-2 lead.

World number 78 Pella did his best to resist the top seed, saving four set points, but hit a forehand into the net on the fifth.

The rest of the match was totally one-sided, as the 16-time Grand Slam champion finished with 37 winners against an outclassed opponent.