There is a back-handed complement to the late rounds of the U.S. Open men's action, and already evidence that a rare old tennis shot can augment a bit of mischief.
Richard Gasquet, theoretically the wrong Frenchman this deep in the tournament, yesterday used a surgical one-handed backhand on three-fifths of his groundstroke winners for a quarterfinal upset of No. 4 seed David Ferrer, 6-3, 1-6, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3.
That was before No. 2 Rafael Nadal easily dealt with a not-so-reliable one-handed backhand -- or anything else -- from fellow Spaniard Tommy Robredo, who had ousted five-time champion Roger Federer. Nadal won, 6-0, 6-2, 6-2.
And Wednesday, defending champion Andy Murray will face another sound practitioner of the one-handed stroke, 10th-ranked Stanislas Wawrinka -- theoretically the wrong Swiss quarterfinalist now that Federer is gone -- before top seed Novak Djokovic's match against one-hand backhander Mikhail Youzhny, the Russian ranked No. 24.
That makes four one-hand backhanders in the four quarterfinals, an unlikely glimpse of the sport's old-time religion before the championship trio of Bjorn Borg, Chris Evert and Jimmy Connors brought the two-fisted style into vogue four decades ago.
Federer, of course, has employed the one-hander to great effect, but current elite players overwhelmingly use two hands. And, whether these four interlopers have an impact beyond the Open is debatable.
But Gasquet, whose No. 9 ranking makes him France's No. 2 player behind No. 8 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (out of the Open with a knee injury), certainly tortured the scrambling Ferrer with the shot.
"Richard played a very good game with his backhand," Ferrer said, "and serving very good in important moments."
Gasquet offered the same assessment. Against the relentlessly counterpunching Ferrer, and following Gasquet's five-set, tiebreak victory over Canada's Milos Raonic in the previous round, "I knew I had to be aggressive," Gasquet said.
"Was a little bit tired. We [he and Raonic] play four hours, 30 minutes, but I knew I could play another big match. I was feeling not so tired this morning. My backhand was working very good. When I'm serving great and I have this backhand, I think I can play well."
The victory moved Gasquet, 27, into only his second Grand Slam semifinal (after Wimbledon 2007) in 37 appearances.
On the verge of a semifinal match against Nadal, Gasquet confirmed that there is a YouTube video of him, at 13, defeating Nadal in southern France. "You can see I'm winning against him," Gasquet said, "so I don't believe it sometimes.
"You know, it's good to win under-14, but is better to win on the pro [tour], and I didn't." He is 0-10 vs. Nadal as a pro.
Then again, Gasquet was 1-8 vs. Ferrer before Wednesday.
Now there is some sentiment that Wawrinka could significantly bedevil Murray with his backhand. Wawrinka is enjoying a strong year, having pushed Djokovic to five sets at the Australian Open, battered Murray in Monte Carlo and whipped Ferrer for a title in Portugal.
"I think I play my best tennis ever now," Wawrinka said. "This year is confidence, for sure. I'm feeling really good on the court."
Might he join Gasquet in the semifinals, and on the receiving end of backhand compliments?