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Srichaphan rallies past Delgado

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FIGHTING SPIRIT: Radek Stepanek quelled a strong challenge from Navarro Pastor of Spain. Photo: Vino John
FIGHTING SPIRIT: Radek Stepanek quelled a strong challenge from Navarro Pastor of Spain. Photo: Vino John

Nandita Sridhar

Chennai: It seemed like people were witnessing scenes of the human enactment of the hare and the tortoise story. Ramon Delgado growled, grunted and won the first set. He probably decided that 40 winks in the second set would do him no harm. The forty turned into a hundred, and Srichaphan decided to shed his tortoise shell and expose the game that took him to four Chennai Open finals. Maybe the grunts and the other words that those privileged enough to reside in his native Paraguay could understand helped Delgado, because what came out in the second set was nothing more than a purr. To his credit, he woke up with a jolt in the third set, but could not stop the umpire's fateful words that sounded something like 'game, set and match, Srichaphan 4-6, 6-1, 7-6(3)', in the first round of the Chennai Open, at the Nungambakkam Tennis Stadium, on Tuesday.

Rusty fashion

Srichaphan started off in rusty fashion. In most cases, the ball seemed to stubbornly fancy the net, rather than make it across to its hitter's desired destination. The single-handed backhand seemed more like a half-handed and half-hearted one. The first four games in the first set went on serve. Srichaphan chose the wrong time to play an error-filled service game, and when he hit outside the line at 30-40, his chance in the first set went out of the window in the process and he lost the first set 4-6.

That was when the Delgado slumber began. Srichaphan was a different player after that. The net showed a little more mercy this time around, and the volleys, cross-court shots and serves that seriously threatened a camera started pouring in. The half-hearted backhand was beginning to solidify, and before he, Delgado or anyone for that matter had even a semblance of an idea of what was happening the scoreline rapidly changed to 5-0, in the second. Delgado jumped up, served a series of bombs and saved the embarrassment of a 0-6 scoreline. But Srichaphan finished it off with an ace (the camera was in trouble again).

Delicious fare

The third set clearly served up the more delicious fare. Both players lifted their games in tandem. Level at 4-4, the most entertaining game came after then. Srichaphan showd that you don't require Nadal-like muscles to do a little fist-pump and Delgado nearly tried a Becker-like dive while attempting a backhand volley. But thankfully the ball sped off the racket and saved him the trouble. Both players were not ready to part with their service game and an up and about Delgado growled back in the third set. Both players served well, played the passing shots even better, and the cameraman could not have feared for his camera more. In the tie-break, Srichaphan decided not to let his opponent race away, only to play catching-up later. He started off in brilliant fashion with a forehand that would have nearly created a bit of smoke on the court and finished with a splendid volley, making it 0-1, in his favour. A double-fault by him made it 1-1, but after that some good serves and some of Delgado's successive shots finding itself outside the baseline made it 6-2. Delgado managed to change two to three, but that was it. A return shot outside the baseline signalled the end of a match that could be termed a match of fightbacks. Srichaphan in the second and third, and Delgado in the third.

Upset

Rohan Bopanna caused an upset, but only of the rankings kind, beating Cyril Saulnier 6-3, 6-3 in the first round. Up 4-3 on serve in the first set, Bopanna broke Saulnier in the next game, making it 5-4 and ended up clinching the set, 6-4. He started well in the second set, breaking Saulnier in the first game itself. The match lasted 55 minutes.

Other results: Radek Stepanek bt Ivan Navarro Pastor 6-4, 7-6(3); Michael Berrer bt Lukas Dlouhy 3-6, 6-3, 6-2; Rainer Schuettler bt Fernando Vicente 6-4, 6-3.

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