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Chennai: Stanislas Wawrinka is two on two, on his seer score. Asked on the day of the draw, where he thought the Marin Cilic-Kei Nishikori contest was headed, “It's a tough one. Three sets for sure, Maybe Kei” he ventured. Right on both counts!
Cilic, in his post match press conference, attributed the defeat to on-court reasons than the apparent Gothic ill-luck that afflicts returning champions here.
“After the second set, he had all the momentum and it was not easy to come back from that. He obviously played very well” he said.
You can't touch this!
If one expected the Croat to serve his opponent out of the match, it was Kei who was dishing it out in the third set. After winning seven straight points in the second set tie break, Nishikori, whose serve is largely atoxic, won all sixteen points on his serve in the third set. In other words, Cilic could not win a point off Nishikori's serve all set.
The statistics also belies the popular notion that the ball here gets bigger in the evenings, enabling the ace merchants to walk away with the match. Maybe this is the year of the counter puncher. Somdev, are you watching?
Tomas Berdych, ranked sixth in the world, will have a routine first round match up against Portuguese Frederico Gil, who despite making it to the final of the World Tour event at Estoril, languishes outside the top 100.
This appears to be a straight forward one for the top seed, except for the reputation of Chennai, branded the graveyard of the seeds. Berdych arrived from Abu Dhabi on Sunday, and will get in three or so sessions of practice before his campaign kicks off on Tuesday.
The schedule mirrors, and ominously so for the top seed, that of Robin Soderling, who struggled to come to terms with the jet lag, the surface, and ultimately his first round opponent here, last year.
The betfair match odds on Berdych stand at 1.12 while that on Gil is a whopping 8.1. Go on, gift yourself a tidy package for the new year.
The single-handed backhand is the weapon of choice for quite a few players on the circuit, and Chennai will get to see a fair bit of the smooth killer too. The draw, unaffected by an appeal to aesthetic sensibilities, pits Richard Gasquet and Stanislas Wawrinka, arguably the best exponents of the stroke, in opposite halves.
However the crowds will not have to wait until the final for the battle of the backhands. A tasty starter shall come its way when Wawrinka will take on Rohan Bopanna, whose version of the stroke may lack the conclusiveness of his higher-ranked rival, but has come in handy in the doubles circuit.
Bopanna, who gave a good account of himself in the two Davis Cup singles rubbers against Brazil at the very same ground, reckons it's the doubles arena that will probably see his best.
“I did well here during the Davis Cup and let us hope for the best. With a huge difference in the ratings (between his singles and doubles rankings) it is difficult to get into even the qualifiers of the singles events. For the first time, Aisam and I can plan out a schedule and prepare for the year ahead.”
Quote of the day:
“It is bad for the tournament but there is nothing I can do. But good for me.” Nishikori after knocking out Cilic.
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