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Former World No. 7 Richard Gasquet plays with great aggression to beat Roberto Bautista Agut on Friday in Cincinnati.

Aggressive Gasquet Beats Bautista Agut For Cincinnati Semi-final

Frenchman hits eight aces to set up match against Goffin

Richard Gasquet played with great aggression and intensity on Friday afternoon to book a place in the Western & Southern Open semi-finals.

The former World No. 7 rolled back the years in a 7-6(2), 3-6, 6-2 victory over Spanish No. 11 seed Roberto Bautista Agut in two hours and 13 minutes, for a place in his first ATP Masters 1000 semi-final since the 2013 Miami Open presented by Itau (l. to Murray).

Gasquet, who missed six months of ATP Tour action and underwent groin surgery in January, struck 38 winners and saved five of seven break points to beat last month’s Wimbledon semi-finalist.

“I know how tough it was to come back,” said Gasquet. “I know the moments I had at the start of the year, so I just wanted to enjoy, to fight. Of course, it's not easy to come back after six months out, but I'm here. I'm in semis tomorrow.”

The Frenchman will next face Belgian No. 16 seed David Goffin, who advanced to the semi-finals when his Japanese opponent, Yoshihito Nishioka, pulled out ahead of their match due to illness.

“It will be tough,” said Gasquet, looking to Saturday’s semi-final against Goffin. “He's a great player. He's playing very fast. I need to recover now a little bit to be ready for tomorrow, because, as I said, he doesn't miss. He's playing fast, especially with the backhand. It will be a tough battle for me. It's the semis. I have nothing to lose, so I try my best.”

Gasquet and Goffin are level at 1-1 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series.

“I always have some nice matches and memories here,” Goffin told ATPTour.com. “Maybe because I have more matches under the belt at this tournament, and I have the confidence. I’m in another semi-final and I have an opportunity to reach my first Masters 1000 final. But it will be tough against Gasquet. On paper, it’s a big opportunity, but also for him. I’ll try to play my best tennis and be aggressive.”

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Gasquet was rock solid on serve in the first set — at one point winning 14 straight service points to 40/0 at 5-6. Bautista Agut hit an uncharacteristic backhand wide at 1/2 in the tie-break, which Gasquet closed out when his Spanish opponent hit a forehand long. Six of Gasquet’s seven points in the tie-break came via Bautista Agut errors.

“It was a tough first set,” said Gasquet. “Of course, it was very important for me to win the tie-break, playing one hour. With the heat and humidity, it’s always important to win.”

Bautista Agut found a way back with two service breaks in the second set. Gasquet hit his third double fault on set point, meaning Bautista Agut had won eight of the last 10 points in the set.

“In the second set, I was a little bit tired,” said Gasquet. “Of course, it was tough. He doesn't miss a lot, so it's very difficult to win points. I knew if I wanted to win, I had to put in a lot of energy at the start of the third. I managed to do it. I served better. It was a great third set. I played faster. I tried to start well. I ran well.”

In spite of breaking a string with a fine backhand down the line, Gasquet followed the shot in and struck a deep volley to break Bautista Agut in the third game of the decider. A fired-up Gasquet broke again for a 4-1 lead and afterwards was clearly delighted with his 15th win of the year.

Gasquet, who beat Bautista Agut in one previous match at the 2015 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, lost to the Spaniard this year at the Gerry Weber Open in Halle and last week’s Coupe Rogers, a Masters 1000 event.

The 31-year-old Bautista Agut will break into the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings for the first time on Monday. He is 35-14 on the season, which includes his ninth ATP Tour trophy at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha (d. Berdych)

Gasquet praised Bautista Agut, saying, “He's a great player. Of course, he’s had a good year. He's Top 10 now. He doesn't miss, he's playing fast. He runs well. He has no weakness in his game. He's a tough competitor. Physically, he's very good, so it's always a battle when you play against him. You need to play your best tennis to beat a guy like him.”