Bopanna standing tall again

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VICTORY SHOUT: Rohan Bopanna is ecstatic after beating Cyril Saulnier. - PHOTO: R. RAG
VICTORY SHOUT: Rohan Bopanna is ecstatic after beating Cyril Saulnier. - PHOTO: R. RAG

K. Keerthivasan

The Indian came up with a memorable performance Playing the qualifiers has boosted my confidence, said Bopanna

Chennai: It was the 2003 Davis Cup play-off against the Netherlands in Zwolle. An unknown Indian, measuring six foot three inches, made a huge impression with his gutsy display and booming serves in the very first rubber against the then French Open runner-up Martin Verkerk.

Rohan Bopanna fired on all cylinders that day, eventually going down 12-10 in the fifth set. After that remarkable encounter, his career graph slid sharply due to shoulder injuries and indifferent form.

In the three qualifying rounds here, Bopanna showed that he could still stand up to the best in the business.

The Indian, ranked 176 places below Frenchman Cyril Saulnier, came up with a memorable performance that would be fondly remembered by the fans who witnessed the match played on the outside court. Bopanna sailed past Saulnier 6-3, 6-3 to reach the second round.

Bopanna was obviously a pleased man while signing autographs. Asked to mention the last time he had played so well, Bopanna shot back: "probably the Davis Cup at Zwolle."

Turning point

The momentum shifted in Bopanna's favour in the eighth game of the first set.

A foot fault by Saulnier on his first serve gave the Indian a chance to attack the Frenchman's second serve and he hit a superb forehand winner.

Up 5-3, Bopanna's chief ally - his serve - enabled him to close out the set. The ball boys had a lot of work to do, as Bopanna's powerful serves kept bringing down the scorecard often.

Pleasing shots

Saulnier, ranked 90 in the world, too had his moments. He showed his calibre with some pleasing shots and solid baseline play.

However, the Indian just didn't allow him to settle down into a rhythm.

Bopanna opened up a 2-0 lead in the second set and sustained the pressure on his opponent with forehands and approach shots. He was, however, in a spot of bother in the sixth game.

Leading 3-2 and facing breakpoint, Bopanna first fired an ace and then produced a breathtaking forehand passing shot.

Saulnier started to lose his cool and his game fell apart. "I think I concentrated on the breakpoints better. Playing the qualifiers has boosted my confidence," said Bopanna who had never met Saulnier before.

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