Leander and Vishnu go down guns blazing against the formidable Tsonga and Llodra
India’s Leander Paes and Vishnu Vardhan left everything on the court against the formidable combination of Michael Llodra and Jo Wilfried Tsonga, but eventually lost their second round match 67(3), 64, 36 after a titanic battle that lasted two hours and 7 minutes. It was a disappointing loss no doubt, especially after the shenanigans of the senior players considering that entire ruckus has turned out to be much ado about nothing. On a positive note though, Vishnu Vardhan gave a fabulous account of himself and that he did not drop his service even once through the three set match should give him plenty of confidence on the road ahead.
The Indians looked in trouble at 0-30 in the seventh game, but a masterful drop shot by Leander to draw level was followed by an equally adept backhand volley by Vishnu to close out the game. Vishnu might be the junior partner but he was more than holding his own in the company of his legendary senior.
Even though they were constantly pushed by the fancied French combination, they held their own to force a tie-breaker. Tsonga and Llodra used their power and superior serve to nail the Indians 7-3 and take the first set in 46 minutes.
But the spirited Indians broke serve early in the second set to take a 2-0 lead. The French looked to attack the Indians to avoid stretching the match, but the resilient spirit of the Indians prevailed as the hastily arranged combination of Leander and Vishnu showed remarkable co-ordination to hold on to the advantage.
Leander served to even the tie at one set each, but a fantastic return winner down the line by Tsonga had them in trouble at 15-30. Vishnu played well at the net to nudge a backhand volley winner behind the moving Tsonga to recover to 30-30. But once again a strong return from Tsonga forced Leander on the defence who could only feed the ball for Llodra to put away a volley winner.
While the French saved the first set point with a crisply struck winner, Leander floundered on an easy volley to squander the second opportunity. On the third set point, Vishnu let the return go, but the fall looped down to fall inside the court. The Indians then saved a second break point thanks to a good smash from Vishnu. Finally, Leander and Vishnu levelled the match at the fourth time of asking when Llodra sent a return into the net.
The start of the third set underlined the growing tension, as the aggression at the net from both sides literally threatened the safety of the players as they went hammer and tongs looking for an early break. A strong to the mid-court stretched Tsonga and a backhand volley from Leander brought up deuce in the third game.
A good return from Leander drew Llodra towards the deuce court and the Indian took advantage of the opening to craft a forehand up the line winner to earn a break point. But Tsonga found a couple of big serves to hold serve to 2-1. Serving second is a tough ask, but Vishnu was showing remarkable composure for a debutant. The match was evenly poised at 3-3 in the decider.
After Tsonga held to love for 4-3, they stepped it up in the next game to put Leander under pressure – a couple of brilliant returns set up two break points and Llodra split the Indians down the middle to seal a decisive break for 5-3. A double fault by Llodra offered a glimmer of hope for the Indians at 15-30. But a big serve on the next point followed by a backhand volley winner by Llodra gave the French their first match point.
With the backs to their walls, the Indians found a few moments of celebrated magic to earn a break point. Llodra wiped it out with a big serve, before a thundering smash by Tsonga gave the French their second match point. Quick hands at the net from Leander saved another agonising moment for the Indians as they clawed back to deuce, a third time.
The French earned their third match point when Leander dumped a hurried forehand into the net. Llodra erupted into a dance of celebration to imitate his illustrious team mate when he clinched the match with a huge serve down the middle. It was the end of the Indian challenge in men’s doubles with Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna having lost at the same stage on Tuesday. At least, Leander and Vishnu gave a good account of themselves against a team that was seeded second and the obvious favourite by taking them the distance and losing by a narrow margin.
Llodra and Tsonga made the last eight with their victory. Earlier in the day, Israel’s Jonathan Elrich and Andy Ram upset the defending champions Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka in their second round encounter 16, 64, 63 to also reach the quarter-finals.