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Friday, December 15, 2000

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Unceremonious exit for Leach, Ferreira

By Kalyan Ashok

BANGALORE, DEC. 14. Rick Leach looked for a perfect farewell from the World doubles stage but the 36-year-old American, by far the most enduring campaigner on the circuit, faced an unceremonious exit as he and Ellis Ferreira crashed to their second successive defeat in the Red Group against the unfancied pair of Jaime Oncins and Daniel Orsanic in the Gold Flake ATP World doubles championship at the KSLTA Stadium here on Thursday.

Leach and Ferreira, low on drive and determination, went down in an interrupted three setter at 6-1, 5-7, 5-7 in 130 minutes. The defeat virtually puts the top seeds out of contention.

Faced with a must win situation the World's No. 2 pair, who are the Australian Open champion and US Open finalist this year, came short against a charged up South American combination. It was Oncins who kept the Latinos in the fight with a gritty display. He turned the tide in their favour after a disastrous start.

Smarting under Wednesday's defeat at the hands of Swedish upstarts, Aspelin and Landsberg, Leach and Ferreira began on a rousing note and raced to a 6-1 win in the first set. But Oncins did not give up that easily and he piloted the South American combination back on course with superb efforts at the net. He also often advised his partner on how to slow down the American duo's big push.

The two teams traded breaks all the way from the moment Ferriera dropped serve in the second game. At 5-all the set looked headed for a tie-breaker. But Oncins and Orsanic cut down Leach in the 12th game to take the set at 7-5.

A set of floodlights then conked out delaying the start of the decider. The resultant 20 minute break loaded the dice very much against Leach and Ferreira, who simply lost their stride and were unable to lift their game. They inexorably slipped into a deep morass in the decider despite forcing a break or two. Oncins and Orsanic were quick on the jump and slammed the door on the top seeds breaking Leach in the 12th game for the set and the match. Earlier in the opening tie of the day, the World No. 3 pair and second seeds, Paul Haarhuis and Sandon Stolle put their Wednesday's defeat at the hand of Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes on the back burner. With a gritty display they scripted a 5- 7, 6-2, 6-4 victory over third seeds, Alex O'Brien and Jared Palmer of the United States in two hours.

True, Haarhuis struggled with his serve and made quite a few unforced errors, but Stolle stood like a rock with his pugnacious game to steady the boat. As the match spilled into the decider Haarhuis too raised the level of his game and delivered when it was needed most.

Alex O'Brien and Jared Palmer had problems aplenty but they had a head start with an attacking game, especially Palmer who served with zest and crackled at the net with a live wire show. O'Brien, however, was off the mark with returns and was often hard pressed to hold his serve.

As the match progressed the Americans put up a rather disjoined effort allowing Haarhuis and Stolle to dictate terms and create lot of openings.

Three service breaks marked the first set with O' Brien dropping the first in the sixth game giving Haarhuis and Stolle a 4-2 lead. The Americans hit back in the seventh game cracking Haarhuis in the seventh (4-3). A superb effort by Palmer, who blasted a down-the-line return and then belted a volley winner, helped the American pair to break Haarhuis again in the 11th game. He then served out the set (7-5).

The pressure was now very much on Haarhuis and Stolle with the former still trying to find his rhythm. But Stolle's inspiring act carried them home. He had O'Brien in a mess with a couple of sizzling returns. O'Brien, who rallied from 15-40 to deuce, struggled to hang on and caved in after three deuces. He also recieved a warning for code violation for slamming the ball in frustration after dropping the serve.

With that break Haarhuis and Stolle were on a roll as they comfortably held their serves for a 4-1 lead and shut the set at 6-2 cracking Palmer in the eighth game.

The decider went with serves, with often a point or two going wrong for both teams. Both pairs hard for an opening and the moment finally came in the 10th game with O'Brien buckling after five deuces.

The results: Red Group: Jaime Oncins (Bra) & Daniel Orsanic (Arg) bt Rick Leach (US) & Ellis Ferreira (SA) 1-6, 7-5, 7-5.

Gold Group: Paul Haarhuis (Ned) & Sandon Stolle (Aus) bt Alex O'Brien & Jared Palmer (US) 5-7, 6-2, 6-4.

Wednesday's results: Red Group: Simon Aspelin (Swe)/Johan Landsberg (Swe) bt Rick Leach/Ellis Ferreira (SA) 6-1, 3-6, 6-1.

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