Training the handle under the cleft on his chin,Sam Querrey tugged low on the racquet gut with his index finger. On the giant screen in the background,the trajectory of a tennis ball projected itself towards the back of a tennis court in slow motion. Down 2-4 and 30-40 in the second set after having witnessed the first one blow up in his face,the American had dragged yet another backhand long against Victor Hanescu. This challenge,hence,was do-or-die.
On the giant screen,the ball landed long,but the elliptical arc decided to share the smallest of tangents with the baseline. Deuce. Training the once suicidal gun towards the Romanians hooded eyes,Querrey rallied his way through two deuce points,before holding his serve on the third attempt. Then,with four incredible forehand return winners on Hanescus 200-plus kmph serves,the world had come alive for Querrey with his first break of the match.
With new-found gung-ho,Querreys serves now flirted with the inner box,kissing edges from the deuce court end and smacking Ts from the ad side. With his ninth screaming ace,he went up 40-15 a point away from being 5-4,and within arms length of levelling the match. Thats when he should have enacted the suicide act,for his kamikaze double faults would soon do him in anyway.
As Hanescu watched Querrey implode with a series of kick-serve errors,the Romanian served his way to the opening round of the Chennai Open,one that was gifted to him with a total of eight embarrassing double faults. Six of them haunted the American in the first,cost him the match 6-2,6-4,and the fans at the Nungambakkam Stadium a potential winner in the fourth best singles player from the USA.
Just a year back,Querrey was ranked 17th in the world while best friend and fellow American Mardy Fish was 16th. A shoulder injury took him to 93rd,while Fish lived his dream by breaking into the top-10. Beginning his new year in India,Querreys 66 frame was a tad unlucky to be drawn with a man of similar stature Hanescu. Although Querrey began the set well,eating into Hanescus drop shots with terrific wheels and sizzling winners,the Romanian soon began dominating proceedings once he stopped feeding the 93rd ranked players forehand side.
Breaking him for the first time in the first to take a 3-1 lead,Hanescu cut off Querreys angles by uncaging his torso towards the net,before the American proved that hitting five double faults over two services games is an irreparable damage.
Later in the evening,Belgian David Goffin sent past winner and compatriot Xavier Malisse packing with a 4-6,6-2,6-2 upset. A set to the good,Malisse,seeded eighth here,sought medical attention late in the second set and never looked 100 per cent fit. Goffin,ranked 174 in the world,claimed the second and the third sets in quick time,to add Malisse to his list of upsets in Chennai. The diminutive Belgian had,in the last years edition,accounted for Somdev Devvarman in the first round of the tournament,before bowing out to eventual winner Stanislas Wawrinka later in the tournament.
Results (Singles,rd 1): Yuchi Sugita bt Olivier Rochus 6-3,6-4; Andreas Beck bt Vasek Pospisil 6-3,7-6(8); David Goffin bt Xavier Malisse 4-6,6-2,6-2; Victor Hanescu bt Sam Querrey 6-3,6-4; Roger Vasselin bt Eric Prodon 6-4,6-3; Yen-Hsun Lu bt Thiemo De Bakker 6-3,6-3.