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Wimbledon 2015: Richard Gasquet has big chance of toppling Novak Djokovic, says Pioline

By Tom Allnutt

Richard Gasquet can topple defending champion Novak Djokovic in today's Wimbledon semi-final - and no one should be surprised if he does, according to Cedric Pioline.

Djokovic eased past Marin Cilic to reach his 27th grand slam semi-final, while world number 20 Gasquet has only two previous last-four appearances to his name.

Serbia's eight-time grand slam champion Djokovic dispatched Gasquet 6-1 6-2 6-3 in the last 16 at the recent French Open, but Pioline, France's 1997 Wimbledon semi-finalist, believes it will be a different story in London.

"It's going to be difficult, Novak is very hard to beat lately, but Richard has a chance to make it," Pioline said.

"He's qualified for the semi-finals, he deserves to be there: he's earned the right to play Novak.

"I hope for him that he's coming into his prime now.

"He has the potential to play every year the semi-finals of slams. So now he needs to prove that with consistency.

"I think he can definitely win this match, and I don't think it should be viewed as an upset if he does.

"But he will need to have a very good start to the match if he wants to win.

"If he has to run after the score it's going to be very difficult I think."

Gasquet's only previous Wimbledon semi-final came in 2007, but the 29-year-old has hit late-career form by boosting his fitness levels. Now coached by Sebastien Grosjean and Sergi Bruguera, the Beziers native has overhauled his approach to fine effect.

Gasquet summoned all that extra staying power to edge out French Open champion Stan Wawrinka in a thrilling five-set quarter-final, to add to impressive victories over Nick Kyrgios and Grigor Dimitrov.

Djokovic was mobbed by fans after yesterday lunchtime practice session on Court 14, as he geared up for his sixth consecutive grand slam semi-final.

The 28-year-old can be forgiven for having expected to be facing Wawrinka on Friday, when he would have been gunning for revenge after losing out to the Swiss battler in the final at Roland Garros.

Pioline believes Djokovic will approach facing Gasquet with just as much caution however, despite having lost only once to the Frenchman, all the way back in 2007.

"Richard's improved the fitness part of his game and that's made a big difference for him," said Pioline.

"In a five-set match of course you have ups and downs, but Novak has less than the others.

"He will have to be aggressive and make some shots at certain points, to try to take the score.

"Richard's got such a great backhand, it might not be the one that Novak was expecting to face, but that will be something Novak will want to be careful of, just as he would have been against Stan.

"He's one of the players everyone loves to watch, and it's going to be a great match.

"Stan is one of the players in the best shape in the game right now, so to beat him over five sets is a huge victory and a fantastic performance. It should give him great hope for his next match."

Belfast Telegraph

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