TENNIS The Aircel Chennai Open stayed true to its character, providing an inviting concoction of seasoned favourites and promising tyros. Let’s take a look at the stars who sizzled in this year’s edition. ARUN VENUGOPAL
Having made an early exit from the tournament last year after losing in the qualifiers, Raonic returned this time to clinch the title. The 21-year-old Canadian delivered ace after explosive ace to make sure that there was only winner. His duel with Janko Tipsarevic in the final was easily one of the best matches in the tournament – it lasted more than three excruciating hours. Raonic had a phenomenal year in 2011, making a giant leap in the world rankings from 156 to 31. The Chennai conquest has now propelled him to No. 25 in the ATP standings.
Yuki Bhambri and Vishnu Vardhan
The two wildcard entrants weren’t expected to do much in the tourney especially after Somdev Devvarman pulled out with a shoulder injury. But 19-year-old Yuki was fortitude personified as he sent packing Slovakian Karol Beck in the first round. The astounding victory took many by surprise as he booked a second-round berth against Tipsarevic. Despite losing the match, his valiant effort earned him a resounding applause. For Vishnu Vardhan, it was a case of so near yet so far after he lost the battle to cramps in his first round match against World No. 36 Ivan Dodig. Winning the first set and dominating the second, Vishnu was well on course to achieving a famous win. However, he fell short after losing momentum in the decider.
Arguably one of the more popular players in the competition, Tipsarevic’s incredible fitness levels came to the forwhen he made it to the finals in both the categories – singles andoubles. After finishing a close second in a pulse-racing final jouswith Raonic, the Serb was expected to run out of gas ahead of thedoubles match. But, in tandem with Leander Paes, the 27-year-old summoned great resolve to bag his maiden doubles title.
Probably in the twilight of his career, Paes continues to be the turbo-charged hunk he was in his pomp. While the crowd was disappointed at not seeing the Lee-Hesh pairing, the 38-year-old formed a productive alliance with Tipsarevic. The duo came back from the brink to win a thrilling super tie-break against Rajeev Ram and Scott Lipsky in the semifinals. The Indo-Serbian association had a relatively easier job in the final, coasting to a straight-set victory over Israelis Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram. The sight of Paes carrying his partner on the shoulder sent the crowd into raptures
Go Soeda and David Goffin
Japanese Go Soeda turned out to be a pocket-sized battleship as he became the first qualifier since Kristian Pless in 2001 to reach the semifinals of the Aircel Chennai Open. The 27-year-old provided one of the tournament’s biggest upsets when he pinned down defending champion Stanislas Wawrinka in the quarterfinals. Belgian qualifier David Goffin had a dream run too as he reached the quarterfinals. Starting with a first round dismissal of former champion Xavier Malisse, Goffin looked good until he ran into Tipsarevic in the last eight
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