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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 7:16 a.m., Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Tennis: Nadal beats Gasquet in Malaysia exhibition

Associated Press

SHAH ALAM, Malaysia — World No. 2 Rafael Nadal clinched his second victory against Richard Gasquet this month, beating the Frenchman 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 in an exhibition match Wednesday that signaled the start of their year-end break.

The two tennis stars faced off in a showpiece match in front of some 5,000 spectators at Malaysia's Malawati Stadium, little more than a week after Nadal beat Gasquet 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in Shanghai at the Masters Cup, the season-ending tournament for the top eight men's singles players.

Nadal's ferocious groundstrokes mixed with a little subtlety when necessary gave the Spaniard his fifth victory over Gasquet in as many meetings.

"I know I must keep improving and keep working at my game. After all, I am ranked No. 8 in the world and Nadal is at No. 2. But I am happy at my progress over the past 10 months or so," Gasquet said.

It began promisingly for Gasquet, as he delivered wonderful backhand shots in the first set that had Nadal pinned at the corners.

But the second set was Nadal's show, with his forehand shots blazing across the courts. He cruised home in the third set by breaking Gasquet's serve twice.

"I won the first game and thought I had a chance in the second. I tried to be aggressive but I failed," Gasquet said.

Nadal said the triumph helped boost his mood for the holiday season.

"I recovered, stuck to my game plan and I won, which is important for me because I want to end the season on a happy note," Nadal said. "But the most important thing is that both of us gave our best to the fans."

Nadal downplayed any regret about failing to end the season at No. 1.

"Being No. 1 is not everything. I had the chance if I had beaten (Roger) Federer in the Wimbledon final. But then I won the French Open which is important for me, and I am still working hard at my game," Nadal said. "Looking back over my performances I have to be happy."