The electronic hoardings flanking Nungambakkams show court are armed with rexine covers. The chair umpires high seat too owns a pull-over plastic sheet to save the soft cushion and the microphone from getting wet. But the court itself a surface that is in the process of hosting the 18th edition of the Chennai Open lies unforgivingly bare.
The first time it drizzled (for all of 45 seconds) on Wednesday during the big match of the evening,Stanislas Wawrinka versus Benjamin Becker,play was stopped for about a quarter of an hour. As the players walked off with the first set score tied at two-all,tournament director Gerry Armstrong emerged with a towel. Armstrong and 30 other boys spent the next few minutes physically mopping up the court.
When the match resumed,without any further warm-ups,Becker positioned himself on the deuce court to serve. The first serve found its mark,kicking up from down the middle towards Wawrinkas backhand. The eighth-ranked and top-seeded Swiss leaned back to counter the bounce and coiled up his right arm. Then he let it rip down the line. The ball exploded off the face of his racquet,darted deep towards the baseline and left the German gaping. 0-15.
Wanting nothing to do with Wawrinkas single-handed stunner again,Becker fired in his next serve,at 211 kmph,to the forehand side. Wawrinka replied with love this time around,blocking it back to begin a rally. Only,Becker didnt want one. He ran around it,waited for the ball to sit up to a comfortable height,and with plenty of shoulder,he screamed in an inside out forehand. The ball crashed into the net well below the tape. 0-30.
It was 0-40 within seconds following a double fault (first serve long,second short of the net). And it was game Wawrinka a moment later when Becker committed his fourth service error in as many attempts (first serve short,second long). Wawrinka had cashed in with a break immediately after the stoppage to go up 3-2. But the weather in Chennai would give Becker an equal chance soon enough.
The drizzle returned a point into the next game,with Wawrinka serving at 15-0. It what could perhaps be the shortest suspension of play in an international tennis match,the tie was officially stopped for 20 seconds. The players didnt even have to leave the court but the signs were ominous. Sure enough,after both players held serve to make it 4-3 and before the eighth game could begin,the skies opened for a third time.
It poured for about five minutes. But on a court without a cover,it was enough to suspend the match for about an hour.
Now it was Wawrinkas turn to serve after his body had cooled down. A double fault and two unforced errors later,he was down 0-40.
Pump it up
But here,at this juncture on a damp Chennai night,the crowds witnessed the difference between good and great. Even though a rusty Wawrinka was playing his first match of a new season (Becker had already broken in with an opening round fixture),he stepped it up when under the pump. And this of course was bad news for his 32-year old opponent.
Neither players were the same again after Wawrinka saved a total of four break-points to go up 5-3.
The 28-year-old Swiss was not returning his backhands,but cracking them back. The winners from this side were found with regularity for the rest of the evening,even as he began running around his forehands on a couple of occasions.
As Wawrinkas confidence ballooned,Becker simultaneously deflated. Unable to hit his lengths or find his range,the German won just one more game for the rest of the match,losing the tie 6-3,6-1.
It had ended in just 53 minutes. But it felt like a whole lot more thanks to the lack of the most basic utility on a professional tennis court in a tropical city not a super-sopper,but a simple rain-cover.
Other results: Dudi Sela bt Mikhail Youzhny 3-1 (retd),Edouard Roger-Vasselin bt Jiri Vesely 6-4,6-4,Sriram Balaji & Ramkumar Ramanathan bt Scott Lipsky & Rajeev Ram 7-5,6-3
Todays matches: Fabio Fognini vs Yuki Bhambri,Marcel Granollers vs Ramkumar Ramanathan,Yen-Hsun Lu vs Vasek Pospisil
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