Richard Gasquet became yet another big-name casualty in the Chennai singles, who lost in three sets to Bjorn Phau.
The unexpected exits of Marin Cilic and Somdev Devvarman created news on the first two days of the Chennai Open and Day Three at the SDAT Centre, Nungambakkam, provided yet another shock result.
Fourth seed Gasquet was stunned by Phau 6-1 6-7 (5) 6-7 (4) on Wednesday in the pre-quarterfinals.
The win was all the more remarkable for Phau as he was down and out at one stage, trailing by a set and 2-5 in the second. Twice Gasquet served to close out the match in the second, but both times Phau pulled out all the stocks, taking the set into a tie-break.
But the way things started on Centre Court, not even the most ardent German supporter would have expected the match to reach a second set tie-break. Gasquet struggled with his serve to start off with, as Phau was able to force deuce in the Frenchman’s first-two service games. But, the world No. 30 managed to hold on both times and then broke Phau in the fourth game of the set.
Phau had been going for his explosive one-handed backhand straight from the word go, and while it fetched him a few points, he erred quite often. Even more erratic was his forehand and that was his undoing in the first set, as Gasquet broke him once more in the sixth game. A rare forehand winner took the Frenchman to advantage and he then made the most of a weak second serve to take a 5-1 lead before serving out the set with an ace.
The second set initially followed much the same script as the first, with Phau’s serve coming under the hammer in the very first game. Gasquet is known on the circuit for his deadly one-handed backhand and his favourite shot, the backhand down the line, fetched him a winner off the Phau second serve for the early break.
The match was turning into a backhand dominated slugfest as both players battled it out over long cross-court rallies. A forehand error by one or a brilliant drop by the other would eventually be the way things ended and after going on serve for three games after the initial break, Gasquet broke for the second time in the fifth game.
A delightful backhand down the line got Gasquet to 0-15 and a beautiful forehand pass at the net took him to 0-30. He then showed his class, pushing Phau back with a monstrous backhand cross-court before following it up with a drop that the 31-year-old German was unable to reach. But Phau fought back to deuce, only to undo all the good work with two consecutive errors after that.
The first hint of a fight-back came in the next game, when Gasquet dropped his serve for the first time. Phau broke Gasquet to love, with a double fault from the Frenchman sealing the game. But, in the see-saw battle that was the second set, there was another break on hand for Gasquet, as Phau dropped his fifth game of the match to give his opponent a 5-2 lead.
Serving for the match, Gasquet dropped serve in the eighth and tenth game and after a shaky hold by Phau in the eleventh, the match headed to a tie-break.
Gasquet got the first mini-break, taking advantage of a second serve from Phau. A deep backhand return forced Phau on the defensive, and a drop from Gasquet prompted the German to go for a lob, which he sent long to trail 1-3. After trailing 2-4 at the changeover, Phau immediately got the mini-break back, getting a backhand pass right on the second chance.
An ace from the German tied things up at 4-4 and after forcing an error from Gasquet to lead 5-4, a trademark backhand down the line at the end of a long rally gave Phau two set points. He put away the second chance, coming in off his serve to finish an easy volley and tie the match up at one set apiece.
The crowd was backing Gasquet to take his game to a higher level, but Phau broke his serve in the third game to race to a 2-1 lead. That looked like being the one crucial break in the set but serving for the match at 5-4, everything went wrong for Phau.
A forehand error by Phau for 0-15 was followed by a beautiful backhand pass at the net by Gasquet for 0-30. Phau then sent two successive forehands long to lose serve to love and the match was again level at 5-5.
In the tie-break, Gasquet served first and a booming serve gave him a 1-0 lead. Phau did well with his two serves to go up 2-1 and then got a mini-break when Gasquet netted an attempted forehand cross-court.
Gasquet got the mini-break back after Phau hit a wild forehand at the end of a long rally to take the score to 4-3 in the German’s favour. But the Frenchman was unable to level things on his serve as Phau went up 5-3, hitting a deep return that landed right at Gasquet’s feet.
Phau was beating Gasquet at his own game and there was a certain irony in the fact that he brought up three match points with a backhand down the line winner at the end of a long backhand-to-backhand cross-court rally. He missed out on the first chance but still had one more serve to go. A big serve from Phau was too good for Gasquet and after two hours and 31 minutes, the match finally ended in the German’s favour.
In the last game on Wednesday night, 2007 champion Xavier Malisse of Belgium beat Frenchman Stephane Robert 6-2 6-2. Earlier, top-seeded Czech star Tomas Berych eased into the quarterfinals with a 6-2 6-4 defeat of Croat Ivan Dodig. Also, Slovenian Blaz Kavcic thumped American Robert Kendrick 6-2 6-2.
In the doubles, second seeds Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi beat the Brazil-Argentina pairing Marcos Daniel-Eduardo Schwank 6-3 7-6 (3) in the first round. The other two seeded teams had a bad day out on Court 1 as third seeds Dustin Brown and Rogier Wassen lost to Scott Lipsky and Rajeev Ram 1-6 2-6. Fourth-seeded Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins lost to the Ratiwatana twins, Sanchai and Sonchat 6-7 (7) 1-6.
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This post was submitted by Mudit Agrawal.
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