Gasquet out of Kooyong final
Melbourne - Richard Gasquet dealt another plot twist to the injury-plagued Kooyong Classic on Friday when the Frenchman withdrew from the final, citing fatigue, just days before the start of the Australian Open.
Gasquet had been due to take on Czech star Tomas Berdych in Saturday's showdown after a semi-final victory against countryman Gilles Simon who retired during the second set.
But Gasquet's withdrawal means Berdych will play what largely amounts to an exhibition match against Japan's Kei Nishikori who he earlier knocked out of the eight-man Australian Open warm-up.
Gasquet progressed to the final when Simon rolled his ankle and was forced to retire on the eve of the first Grand Slam of the season, which starts in Melbourne on Monday.
Simon turned his right ankle on the first point of the second game of the second set after Gasquet won the first set in 51 minutes, handing the match to his countryman 7-6 (7/4), 1-0.
"It's tough to see a good friend in this condition," said Gasquet, who added that the back problems he felt in previous matches were becoming less of a problem. "I hope the problem won't affect his Australian Open."
Simon was preparing to hit a return when he started hopping in pain and then fell to the court. He got to the sidelines but found that the exhibition event did not have the standard ice and a physio available on court.
The Frenchman used a cold drinks bottle to try and slow the swelling before officials arrived.
After several minutes Simon withdrew and was helped off court, limping.
Gasquet said that he was satisfied with his form in the abbreviated contest played in the sweltering heat in excess of 30 Celsius which is expected to continue when the Open starts.
"It was good to get another match, I need as many of them as possible before the Open. I'm also glad we were able to play in the heat," he said afterwards.
But later the French ace pulled out, opting to rest ahead of the Australian Open where he will start his bid against a qualifier.
Simon, seeded 18 at the Australian Open, faces a race for fitness prior to his first round match against Germany's Daniel Brands.
On Saturday, Berdych will be looking to defeat Nishikori for the second time in just a few days.
On Thursday, the Czech beat the Japanese player 6-4, 6-1.