ATP Cincinnati second round preview: Rafael Nadal vs Richard Gasquet

The Spaniard looks to continue his dominant head-to-head record against the Frenchman as they meet for the first time in a couple of years.

ATP Cincinnati second round preview: Rafael Nadal vs Richard Gasquet
Nadal hopes to be all smiles this week in Cincinnati (Getty Images SportMinas Panagiotakis)

Rafael Nadal will begin his quest for a second career title at the Western and Southern Open against Richard Gasquet. Nadal will take over the world number one ranking at the end of the week due to Federer's withdrawal from the tournament.

Head-to-Head

Nadal has dominated the head-to-head between the two. The Spaniard has won 14 straight against the Frenchman and has not dropped a set to him since the 2008 Rogers Cup. Nadal's only loss to Gasquet came during a Challenger event in St. Jean de Luz in 2003 when the Spaniard retired from the match. 

Their last meeting came in 2015 at the Swiss Indoors Basel

Gasquet's Recent Results

The Frenchman kicked off his tournament in Cincinnati with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over John-Patrick Smith of Australia. The Frenchman was up two breaks in the first but gave one back. In the second, he was down a break before breaking the Aussie twice to advance to the second round. 

Gasquet performed well on the grass to kick off his summer, making two semifinals in Halle and Nottingham respectively. However, his Wimbledon didn't go as planned, losing to David Ferrer in a highly competitive affair. 

In Montreal, he needed three sets to eliminate Brayden Schnur. In his next match against Alexander Zverev, he staved off match points against the German and even held match points of his own before succumbing to the 20-year-old in the tiebreak.

Gasquet hitting a forehand in Montreal (Getty Images Sport Minas Panagiotakis)
Gasquet hitting a forehand in Montreal (Getty Images Sport Minas Panagiotakis)

Nadal's Recent Results

For Nadal, it's been a memorable summer nonetheless, starting it off with La Decíma, his tenth French Open title. He went to Wimbledon without having played any warm-up events and looked good in the opening three rounds before losing to big-serving Gilles Muller in a five-set thriller.

At the Coupe Rogers, Nadal needed to make the semifinal to become world number one and his draw really opened up with the likes of Milos Raonic and David Goffin going out early to Adrian Mannarino and Hyeon Chung respectively. 

After defeating Borna Coric, he met 18-year-old Denis Shapovalov fresh off of saving match points against Rogerio Dutra Silva and beating Juan Martin del Potro. Despite a strong opening set from the Spaniard, the young Canadian did not back down and took the opening set. Both men had break chances in the decisive set, but it was Shapovalov who won the match in the third set tiebreak. 

Nadal shakes hands with Denis Shapovalov after their match at the Coupe Rogers in Montreal (Getty Images Sport Minas Panagiotakis)
Nadal shakes hands with Denis Shapovalov after their match at the Coupe Rogers in Montreal (Getty Images Sport Minas Panagiotakis)

Analysis

Nadal doesn't just own the head-to-head against Gasquet, he also out does him in many of the major categories such as serve, forehand, net play, movement, fitness, and intangibles. The only category where they're close to even is his backhand as Gasquet's backhand is one of the top backhands on tour. 

In this match, you're going to see a lot of the same patterns with Nadal hitting cross-court to the Gasquet backhand to try and force a mistake out of the Frenchman. If you don't see that, you'll see the Spaniard making the Frenchman hit plenty of forehands or doing more of the running on the court.

Prediction: Nadal in straight sets