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Aircel Chennai Open 2015 Day 3: Underdogs Borna Coric and the Sood twins take centre stage

Aircel Chennai Open 2015: From the baseline, Day 3 - Day of the underdogs as Borna Coric and the Sood twins took centre stage.

FEATURED COLUMNIST
08 Jan 2015, 13:23 IST
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The Sood twins in action in the doubles last evening

More than any other medium, sport consistently throws up stories that make you stop your bike and turn your gaze. Amongst the glitter and the glamour of the established lot, there come along the plucky upstarts, keen to make an impression and get one over their fancied rivals. Wednesday at the 2015 Aircel Chennai Open was all about such stories and more.

Twin magic with the Soods

The fact that I’m talking about the last match of the day first up tells you something about the kind of impact these guys had. Chandril and Lakshit Sood, a pair of twins from Faridabad in Haryana, got parachuted into the first round of the men’s doubles after the team of Alejandro Falla and Alejandro Lopez pulled out with injury.

As soon as news broke out that Mahesh Bhupathi and Saketh Myneni would be playing the Soods in the final match, the word on almost everyone’s lips around the stadium was ‘Sood’. There were discussions afoot everywhere – “Hey, have you heard about the twins from Haryana playing doubles?”, “Twins, like the Bryans?”. They even had some of the ladies swooning over them – “Those twins who are playing are so cute.

One of my more interesting experiences today was with a British couple that I bumped into; they were having trouble following the game. I was wondering why they’d come to watch a game they didn’t understand, but they told me that they were in fact there to watch the Soods, having met them in the hotel the previous day and being impressed with how lovely the boys were to get to know!

Chandril and Lakshit caught people’s attention over the first two days whenever they were spotted around the stadium together, thanks to the twin factor. Now they were actually getting a chance to play, and the crowd was majorly behind the young boys from up north. And when they took the first set in a tie-break, the stadium roared in appreciation.

Showing no signs of nerves or stage fright, the Soods matched their opponents all the way before their opponents’ advantage in experience overpowered them in the match tie-break in the third. Despite the loss, the boys received a standing ovation from the crowd at the end of the match.

Bhupathi and Myneni run into Mahesh’s former partner next, the top seeds Leander Paes and Raven Klaasen. That should be fun!

Coric has plenty of talent and fight, but Stan came to play

A lot of excitement was centred on this clash between last year’s champion and top seed here Stan Wawrinka and the hugely talented teen Borna Coric of Croatia. While Coric disposed of Robin Haase quite easily in the first round, fans wanted to see how he’d do in the deep end and whether he could cause another major upset, the way he’d done with Rafael Nadal in Basel last year.

The Croat teenager had no answer to Wawrinka’s play during the match

But Wawrinka looked to have taken up the match as a challenge and came out all guns blazing. The 18-year-old Croat had to withstand a barrage of Wawrinka’s best strokes, THAT backhand in particular, as he was run ragged all around court. He reeled off the first five games of the match, and after allowing his opponent a game, soon had the first set in the bag 6-1. The marker had been laid down as one fan enthusiastically screamed out – Stan, you’re the man!”

Coric held on gamely, making it more competitive in the second set, but Wawrinka got the one break he needed and proceeded to serve it out. There was not to be a three-set thriller here; the top seed didn’t even face a single break point. But we got to see Coric’s fighting abilities and resolve, and he later admitted that Wawrinka had simply been too good and that his loss wasn’t for want of effort.

Wawrinka, if he plays as well as he did last evening, will likely still be THE man come the end of the tournament.

Goffin’s dream start

16 minutes was all it took for the No. 4 seed David Goffin of Belgium to bagel Ricardas Berankis in the opening set of his first match of the season here at the Aircel Chennai Open. He was stroking his forehand ever so smoothly, both crosscourt and down the line, and was dictating play.

But a combination of a lapse in concentration from Goffin and a change of tactics from Berankis that saw him hit his strong backhand to target the Belgian’s weaker backhand side, soon turned the tables. Goffin’s rhythm was disrupted, and Berankis started making more approaches to the net as well as using more drop shots with his opponent camped deep on the baseline.

David Goffin had to dig deep after a fast start to emerge victorious

”I don’t know what happened, started so well, suddenly 6-0, first set was over,” said Goffin post-match as he tried to ponder exactly what happened.

On being asked if Berankis’ above mentioned tactics played a hand, he replied, “Yes, I was not playing aggressive in the second set, was very deep behind the baseline, and he used lot of shots to bring me close to the net.”

Goffin needs to come up with a back-up plan to when his opponents change things up. Even during the final in Basel last year, Roger Federer used similar tactics to take Goffin out of his comfort zone en route to winning the title.

But for now, he was happy to have come through the challenge and start his season with a win.

The day of the underdog

Day 3 had some of the biggest stars in world and Indian tennis, but it was a day that undoubtedly belonged to the underdogs. Coric and the Sood twins received some of the loudest cheers of the day.

When Coric won his first game of the match after being 0-5 down, the applause was thunderous. And in the second set, the crowd was egging him on every step of the way to get back into the match. Even when Wawrinka served for the match, at 30-30, the crowd smelled an opportunity and chants of “Coric, Coric” broke out. The support didn’t go unnoticed, with Coric acknowledging that he felt happy about the support especially since it was his first time here.

Saketh Myneni and Mahesh Bhupathi (on the left) congratulate the Soods twins after the match

And then there were the Soods. With everything about them nearly synchronized, including their warmups, the crowd just lapped it all up and gave them a marvellous welcome, truly elevating their big day. As Bhupathi/Myneni moved closer to wrapping up the game in the match tie-break, the feeble noise levels were testimony about which team they were behind.

Vijay Sundar Prashanth who made the main draw after coming through qualifiers, Coric, the 2014 ATP Star of Tomorrow Award winner, and now the Soods – here’s to seeing more of them through 2015!

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