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Sport - Tennis Printer Friendly Page   Send this Article to a Friend

It's Liu's turn under the spotlight

By Vijay Parthasarathy

BROKEN DREAMS: A shattered Alexey Kedriouk ponders defeat and its twisted `trophy'! — Photo: M. Moorthy

CHENNAI, MARCH 3. You could blame it on the sweltering heat. Or, maybe, on the absence of a crowd that might have hissed in disapproval. But truth be told, those are simply pathetic excuses.

Russian prisoners in Alexander Solzhenitsyn's novels might have thumped their wooden spoons on the tables and cried "Borsch; more borsch", a tad more politely. It was boorish behaviour, then, at its worst.

Fourth-seeded Alexey Kedriouk lost 7-6 (4), 1-6, 6-4, to unseeded Tai-Wei Liu of Taipei late on Tuesday afternoon in the $10,000 TNTA-ITF Futures tennis tournament. Some 10 minutes later, outside the court, the talented but extremely temperamental Kazakhstani threw a chair, before breaking his racquet.

Earlier, fifth-seeded Bulgarian Yordan Kanev pretended his racquet was a javelin, and hurled it at the net that separates the outside courts. He lost to another qualifier, Sarvar Ikramov of Uzbekistan in straight sets.

Seventh-seeded Febi Widhiyanto lost to unseeded Egyptian Karim Maamoun, 6-4, 6-4.

Thus, as many as three seeds were knocked out today in the second round of the tournament, being played at the Nungambakkam stadium. That leaves only one of the top eight players in circulation. And it will come as a pleasant surprise that he is an Indian: eighth-seeded Sunil Kumar Sipaeya.

Liu, a left-hander, is of small build, but packs quite a punch. In what was primarily a slug-fest between two baseliners, Liu impressed right from the start with his stamina and focus. Kedriouk and Liu exchanged breaks in the second and third games of the first set. They settled down and the first set went to the tie-breaker, which Liu won 7-4.

Obviously Kedriouk didn't relish the prospect of staying out in the heat too long; and he vented his anger on his racquet, earning in the process - not for the first time this week - a code violation warning.

In the second set, the whimsical fourth seed began pulling off one spectacular winner after another. Forehand cross-court volley, backhand winner, the lob; you name it, he had it. One double-fisted backhand nearly tore through his opponent's racquet.

Liu managed to hold serve only once that set, and Kedriouk swamped him 6-1. Liu didn't look particularly fazed, though.

Kedriouk continued his rampage in his first service game of the final set, hammering in two aces. Liu then showed maturity by slowing down his opponent, and engaging in a series of long rallies that seemed to frustrate Kedriouk. Both, however, continued to hold serve.

In the ninth game, Liu shifted gears. A spectacular lunge to his left produced a backhand pass down the line, and even Kedriouk was forced to applaud. The score 5-4 in favour of Liu; and the pressure was now on his opponent. Kedriouk lost his serve at 30; the set 6-4. And, the match.

Kannan bows out

Local favourite Vijay Kannan lost to compatriot Vishal Uppal, in a second round match, 6-7 (3), 7-6 (4), 6-1. He didn't hurl his racquet, neither did Uppal. They didn't even grunt.

The match was an anachronism in a day and age when baseliners dominate the court. Vishal Uppal is one of the few serve-and-volley players you will find on an Indian court, today. Kannan, who usually hangs around the baseline, modified his game and came to the net more often than usual, to combat Uppal's strong net game. And for a long while, it appeared to be working.

Both played extremely well; each tried to get one up on the other with some superb passes and lobs. Uppal threw away an early 4-1 lead in the first set, which then went to the tie-breaker. Kannan raced to a 6-2 lead, and won it at three.

But after racing to a 4-1 lead in the second set, Kannan inexplicably lost focus. Uppal's booming serve, which had deserted him in the middle of the first set, returned. The Delhiite took the second set in another tie-breaker.

Kannan looked crushed; and Uppal took the third set - and the match - with absolute ease.

The scores:

Second round: Dimitriy Mazur (Uzb) bt Yu Wang 2-6, 6-0, 6-3; Karim Maamoun (Egy) bt Febi Widhiyanto (Ina) 6-4, 6-4; Sarvar Ikramov (Uzb) bt Yordan Kanev (Bul) 6-3, 6-4; Sunil Kumar Sipaeya (Ind) bt Somdev Dev Varman (Ind) 6-4, 6-3; Tai-Wei Liu (Tpe) bt Alexey Kedriouk (Kaz) 7-6(4), 1-6, 6-4; Filip Urban (Pol) bt Julien Onclin (Bel) 6-3, 6-2; Vishal Uppal (Ind) bt Vijay Kannan (Ind) 6-7(3), 7-6(4), 6-1.

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