When Leander Paes announced at a felicitation organised by his alma mater on Friday morning that he would foray into movies, the students gathered there let out a huge cheer. The noise crossed over from the site of the function to the tennis courts at Nungambakkam here and crashed down in repeated waves during his match later in the evening.

Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi pulled out all the stops in an entertaining 6-4, 7-6(3) win over Philipp Marx and Ken Skupski. The packed house certainly augurs well for the alternate career path that the Olympic Bronze medallist has chosen for himself.

Thrashing

Xavier Malisse, World No. 60 and the only previous winner left in the draw, handed out a 6-0, 6-2 thrashing to Bjorn Phau in one of the outside courts to advance unnoticed to the semifinals.

“I played a strong match. I didn't make any mistakes and played a smart match. I like coming to Chennai. It's very relaxing, the matches start at five (in the evening) so you can rest and recover well. I feel good here, the balls and the courts suit my game well,” he said after the match.

There is more than a dollop of truth to what he said. The win extended Malisse's Chennai Open record to 10-1 and he has dropped just 10 games in three matches here, the least in the tournament. Malisse had lost four straight matches coming in, and contempt is possibly the last thing that his familiarity with the conditions breeds.

Falla falls

Alejandro Falla, in what can only be described as ‘tanking,' threw away his second round match against Kei Nishikori on Thursday.

After two sets and 84 minutes of intense tennis, Falla and Nishikori were tied at one sets apiece. Falla served first in the decider and after closing out the fourth point (to Nishikori's second) of the game, was surprised to find the chair umpire call out ‘deuce.' El Jennati, the official in the chair, had mistakenly awarded Falla's point to his opponent, going on to underline the scope of human error in the midst of technology as precise and conclusive as the hawk eye.

Falla lost it, to put it mildly, earning code violations for smashing his racquet repeatedly and launching a ball out of the stadium in disgust.

Falla won just one of the next 11 points, hardly moving as he let Nishikori's serves sail past untouched. Falla won one of nine (11 per cent) second serve points, nine of 26 (35 per cent) return points and 20 of 53 (38 per cent) total points in the set- the lowest across the match by either player. When it was his turn to serve, he faulted thrice in a row, and floated a first serve over at 84 mph. A slightly baffled Nishikori walked away with the match. Intent, or the lack of it, on a player's part is difficult to prove but the stats seem conclusive.

Keywords: Leander Paes

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