The second week of The Championships is turning into bonanza time for Germany. With two quarter-finalists in the Ladies' Singles meeting each other today, two of their male athletes reached the last eight of the Gentlemen's Singles, and it was a special time of celebration for Florian Mayer, who confessed he had never played better tennis than he did in defeating the 18th seed Richard Gasquet 6-3, 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 in one hour 52 minutes of a contest that had been carried over from the previous evening.
The German No.2 came back onto No.3 Court today having already taken the opening set in 24 minutes overnight and after another weather delay Mayer extended his overnight second set lead of 2-1 by breaking Gasquet with the help of a double-fault from the Frenchman, who was so annoyed that he slammed a ball out of court and was given a code of conduct violation.
Mayer won the next three games, too, at a cost of a mere three points and wrapped up a two-set lead with the eighth and ninth of his eventual total of 14 aces. Gasquet admitted afterwards that there had been little he could do at this stage of the match. "His backhand was incredible," he said. "And he read my game very well."
In the second game of the third set play was halted for an hour by more rain but when they restarted Gasquet's support was boosted by the arrival of a large group of young French fans. With his every winner cheered to the echo, Gasquet visibly perked up, beefing up his game with more variety and accuracy, and a single break of serve, to give him a 4-2 lead, was enough to clinch the set. "That was my one bad game," said Mayer. "That showed why he is a good-ranked guy."
Gasquet, who had suffered one heavy fall in the third set, was clearly not happy with the overcast, damp conditions and complained, "The grass was difficult to run on. It's not tennis for me." He managed to stay in contention for four games of the fourth set, despite having to fend off a break point, but in the next French service game Mayer achieved the break his growing superiority merited as the famed Gasquet backhand backfired for once, sending a poor shot low into the netting.
Mayer rapped his chest with a clenched fist and, to regular bellows of "C'mon", won the next two games, and the match, comfortably before falling onto his back, arms outstretched.
The victory equalled his previous best-ever showing in a Grand Slam, also a quarter-final at Wimbledon eight years ago. "So it's a wonderful dream for me," said the 28-year-old Mayer, who reached his highest-ever ranking of 18 last year after having suffered difficult times in his professional career when he had considered giving up. "I had some tough losses and didn't feel well," he said. "But everything is going good now. Today I played a perfect match, one of the top matches in my career. For the first time in this tournament I felt no pressure going on the court. I played a guy who is in the top 15 in the world and he was the favourite., so it's a wonderful dream for me.
"He didnt play a bad match, I just played incredible. I hit hard, I went for my shots, not like in the last round [where he beat Jerzy Janowicz 9-7 in the fifth] where I was hoping my opponent would maybe make a mistake. Today I was going for my shots."
Mayer said the conditions had not bothered him, as they had Gasquet. "Of course it was cold and windy, but I don't care right now," he smiled. "It's good for German tennis that me and Kohlschreiber could finally break through in a Grand Slam and reach the quarter-finals, not only the girls like always."
Next up for Mayer will be the defending champion and world number one Novak Djokovic. "It's tough," he said. "He's the absolute favourite, a great competitor and he moves really great on court, especially on grass. But I will try to irritate him maybe a little bit. You never know in tennis. Everything is possible."