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Devvarman in final as Schuettler pulls out

Nandita Sridhar

Cilic tames Granollers in straight sets

— Photo: R. Ragu

EASY MATCH: Croatian Marin Cilic was hardly stretched by Spaniard Marcel Granollers in their Chennai Open semifinal clash on Saturday.

Chennai: Marin Cilic and Marcel Granollers were whetting the appetites of thousands at the SDAT Nungambakkam Stadium, when the news on Rainer Schuettler trickled in. The German’s persistent strokeplay was scheduled to provide Somdev Devvarman an interesting challenge. Instead, Schuettler pulled out of the tournament citing a wrist injury, on Saturday.

The walk-over made Devvarman the first Indian to enter the final of the Chennai Open. Marin Cilic made a more muted entry into the final, defeating Granollers 6-4, 6-3.

The Chennai crowd reacted with surprising restraint when informed of the match’s cancellation. There was token compensation when Somdev walked in to a resounding applause. “I could not have made it this far without you guys,” said the 23-year-old.

Later on, Somdev appeared unfazed at playing a match after a day’s gap. “I did have a day’s gap after my first and second round, so this shouldn’t matter. Like the other matches I won, I have to put this behind me as well. Handling Cilic is going be tough enough without me having to think about these things. I’d like to keep things simple,” said Somdev, who bettered Leander Paes’s semifinal run in 1998. The last Indian to win an ATP title was Leander Paes in Newport (1998).

Wrist injury

Schuettler’s injured wrist, aggravated on Friday, puts him in doubt for the Australian Open.

“During Friday’s doubles match I started feeling pain in my left wrist. As I warmed up for the semifinal, I wasn’t able to hit a double-handed backhand. I felt a strong pain. I would only be able to slice and I’m also afraid that the injury would get worse. I had the same a few years ago, but it wasn’t as bad as now,” said a press release from Schuettler.

“I also have to pull out of Sydney. I will now fly to Melbourne and see if I can be ready in time for the Australian Open. I feel sorry for the crowd and the tournament. It is a very disappointing moment for me,” it said.

Somdev’s opponent in the final, Cilic, overpowered his Spanish opponent from the baseline.

Cilic’s countenance and serve were becoming of his illustrious countrymen. The serve, in particular, showed its unmistakable Croatian breeding.

The third seed produced six aces against Granollers’s two, but the numbers do little justice. Cilic’s service motion is imposing, with his six foot three inch frame adding muscle. The serve works more because of its power, than placement.

The Spaniard’s counter-punching skills were severely tested by the 20-year-old Cilic. Granollers sent in his balls short and allowed Cilic the time to execute his winners.

The Croatian moved surprisingly well for someone with his height and managed 22 winners against Granollers’s six.

The effort he put into his shots saw 23 unforced errors from his racket, but Cilic was always in control of the match. Granollers’s backhand was tapered down to a slice, and there was little he could do to stop Cilic. “I think I played my best so far in the tournament. I was hitting the ball well and overall, it was a very good performance. Somdev is obviously in the form of his life.

“He is playing the best tennis of his career so far, and played great against Moya and Karlovic as well. It is going to be a tough match tomorrow.

“The stadium will be pretty full, and he will be getting all the support, but I will try to stay calm,” said Cilic.

The results:

Singles: Semifinals: Marin Cilic (Cro) bt Marcel Granollers (Esp) 6-4, 6-3; Somdev Devvarman w/o Rainer Schuettler (Ger).

Doubles (semifinals): Jean-Claude Scherrer (Sui) & Stanislas Wawrinka (Sui) bt Scott Lipsky (USA) & David Martin (USA) 4-6, 6-2, 10-7; Eric Butorac (USA) & Rajeev Ram (USA) w/o Bjorn Phau (Ger) & Rainer Schuettler (Ger).

Doubles: Quarterfinals: Phau & Schuettler bt Granollers & Santiago Ventura (Esp) 6-3, 6-7(4), 10-7; Jean-Claude Scherrer & Stanislas Wawrinka (Sui) bt Mahesh Bhupathi (Ind) & Mark Knowles (Bah) 3-6, 6-3, 10-8.

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