ASB Classic: Frenchman Richard Gasquet gatecrashes Kiwi-Brit Cam Norrie's homecoming party for 16th singles title

Frenchman Richard Gasquet has played the role of partypooper, denying Kiwi-Brit Cam Norrie a singles title at his 'home' ASB Classic tournament.

After dropping the first set, the wily veteran clawed his way back into the match by taking the second and had to dig himself out of a deep hole in the third, before breaking twice for a 4-6, 6-4 6-4 victory.

The result marked his 16th ATP Tour title - his first since 2018 - from 18 finals over a 20-year career that shows no signs of slowing down.

Richard Gasquet and Cam Norrie line up for the ASB Classic final
Richard Gasquet and Cam Norrie line up for the ASB Classic final. Photo credit: Photosport

But Auckland-raised Norrie was near tears, after seeing the crown snatched from his grasp in front of family and friends - his second final defeat at the tournament, after falling to American Tennys Sandgren in 2019. 

Norrie, 27, was the only seed remaining among the tournament's final eight players and carried his second-favouritism into the final, dispatching American Jenson Brooksby in the semis. All three of his matches had extended past two hours, due to his inability to finish his rivals in straight sets.

By contrast, Gasquet, 36, was able to put his feet up on the penultimate day, with countryman Constant Lestienne unable to front for their semi, due to injury.

Norrie began the final stronger, breaking his opponent for 3-1 in the opening set, but was broken as he served for the set at 5-3. He broke Gasquet right back to take the set, before his second-set bogey struck again.

Gasquet took Norrie's serve for 3-2 and held his own throughout to level the match, but Norrie was back on top early in the third, breaking Gasquet for 2-0 and creating four breakpoints to go four games up soon after.

This proved the turning point in the match, as the Frenchman saved all four chances to stay in the fight.

Throughout the contest, Norrie had struggled with his service ball toss and earned an early time violation that had him on thin ice. Three games after blowing his chance to bury his opponent, the Brit double-faulted to fall behind early and eventually saw his third-set advantage evaporate.

Gasquet held and then broke again, as Norrie double-faulted again at an inopportune moment. Suddenly, Gasquet was serving for the match and made no mistake.

"I had an amazing week, coming to Auckland, where I grew up watching the tournament," reflected Norrie. "I've got a lot of friends and family here, and everyone supporting me, which has been great.   

"I really wanted to win the title, but this changes nothing - it just makes me more hungry, and hopefully I'll be back and get the title next year."

Richard Gasquet in the ASB Classic final
Richard Gasquet in the ASB Classic final. Photo credit: Newshub

A self-confessed rugby fan, Gasquet had waited a long time to visit New Zealand - home of the All Blacks - and was visibly moved to face the haka as part of his centrecourt victory presentation.

"Coming here was special for me," he said. "I talked with a lot of French rugby players who came here and told me how special it was to be here.

"It's amazing for me to win in my first time coming here."

At 0-3 and 0-40 down in the third set, Gasquet used all his experience to dig deep and stay alive.

"I just wanted to win that game," he said. "It's always tough to close out a match, especially in the finals, so I told myself, 'You have to win this game, anything can happen after that'.

"Then I felt more confident I could break him. He made some mistakes and at 4-4, I played my best tennis to win."

The victory set Gasquet up ideally for the Australian Open next week, where - ironically - he meets the man he dethroned as ASB Classic champion, countryman Ug Humbert. Norrie faces French wildcard Luca Van Assche in the opening round.