World number eight Robin Soderling’s Chennai Open debut was cut short in the first round as American Robby Ginepri slammed 11 aces on his way to a win at the SDAT Stadium here on Tuesday.

The day was also a mixed one for the host nation, marked as it was by the progress and dismissal of two of its flag bearers. Somdev Devvarman marched past Rainer Schuttler in a game overrun by service breaks, while compatriot Rohan Bopanna wasted his wild card with a quick rout at the hands of third seed Stanislas Wawrinka.

With a point to prove against Schuttler after having received a walk-over over him in the semifinals here last year, Devvarman pulled through in an hour and 36 minutes. But not before breaks of serve had been hot-swapped around like a memory card.

The German broke Devvarman in the second and sixth game and led 5-2 before the Indian reeled off five games on the trot to take the first set 7-5.

Crowd support

On a roll, last year’s finalist Devvarman opened the second set with a break of the Schuttler serve, following it with another break in the fifth game. Schuttler looked out of sorts as the home boy rode on crowd support to win in straight sets.

“I knew I had the game to come back from 2-5; I was trailing because I missed balls I should not have missed,” said Devvarman later.

The lone Indian left in the singles draw, the 24-year-old next faces Serbian Janko Tipsarevic. “I will have to serve well and not allow Janko to attack,” he said of his strategy for the next round.

Earlier, a lacklustre first set and a spate of overhead glitches in the second marked top seed Soderling’s opening round ouster to Ginepri. Soderling looked surprisingly jaded for a man who had put it across top players in the world this week past.

He swung wide or found the net when something special was expected of him, struggling to get his first serves in, which hovered around 60 per cent for the match. The world number eight paid the price when he faced three break points in the seventh game of the first set.

Wild forehand swipe

Ginepri dunked one into the net, but Soderling’s wild forehand swipe that cleared the baseline gave the American the vital break. The set progressed on serve thereafter, before Ginepri, serving at 5-4, closed things out with an ace.

Soderling saved three break points in the first game of the second set, salvaging himself with three huge first serves, and then broke Ginepri to go 2-0 up, raising hopes of a comeback. After holding serve, he held three break points against the American, but Ginepri saved all of them, the last with a delicate backhand touch.

It was when Soderling led 4-2 in the second set that things began to spin out of control. Consecutive errors on the smash were followed by yet another goof up on the overhead kill, as Ginepri broke back and saved three break points in the following game to make it 4-4.

Then, a crestfallen Soderling double-faulted to be broken at love in the 11th game. Serving for the match at 6-5, Ginepri sealed it on his second match point as the Swede sliced a return into the net. The match lasted 91 minutes.

Speaking later, Ginepri said, “I knew Soderling had the big shots, so my gameplan was to not go on the defensive against him.”

Earlier, wading through three qualifiers exacted its toll on Prakash Amritraj as his challenge ended tamely against American Michael Russell in the opening round of the main draw.

The results: Singles: First Round: R. Ginepri (USA) bt R. Soderling (Swe) 6-4, 7-5; S. Wawrinka (Sui) bt R. Bopanna (Ind) 6-1, 6-4; D. Sela (Isr) bt D. Istomin (Uzb) 6-1, 6-2; M. Berrer (Ger) bt S. Ventura (Esp) 6-3, 6-2; S. Devvarman (Ind) bt R. Schuettler (Ger) 7-5, 6-2; L. Lacko (Svk) bt Y. Lu (Tpe) 6-4, 6-3; K. Kim (USA) bt D. Brands (Ger) 6-2, 6-2; M. Russell (USA) bt P. Amritraj (Ind) 6-3, 6-1; M. Granollers (Esp) bt J. Ward (Gbr) 5-7, 6-2, 6-2; R. Haase (Ned) bt T. Yang (Tpe) 6-4, 6-3; S. Robert (Fra) bt L. Sorensen (Irl) 6-2, 6-1.

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