As we approach the weekend, the semifinal line-up is set in the singles draw, with three of the top four seeds having safely made their way through to the final four.
Meanwhile, Leander Paes and his South African partner Raven Klaasen are already in the doubles final, and we will find out who they will face after Saturday’s last match on court.
As Day 5 of the 2015 Aircel Chennai Open drew to a close, what loomed large was anticipation, as the big names justified their ranking to fend off their challengers.
The Iron Man Bedene
Aljaz Bedene of Slovenia is on quite the run here at the Aircel Chennai Open. The 25-year-old had reached as high as No. 71 in the world in early 2013, before injuries and other issues led to him dropping down to No. 156 by the end of 2014. That meant having to come through the qualifiers this time around, so he has played six matches in six days. He will play his seventh match on Saturday evening clash against Roberto Bautista Agut.
Two years ago, Bedene had made the semi-final on his debut here, taking out Swiss Stan Wawrinka early in the tournament (then ranked 17th in the world) before falling to eventual winner Janko Tipsarevic at this very stage.
On asked how he’s holding up physically to the demands, Bedene said, “Physically I’m feeling better today. Yesterday, I had some problems during the match, but I would like to thank the trainers here at the tournament, they have been very good, and I’m very thankful to them.”
In this year’s edition, Bedene will look to go one further than what he achieved in 2013. He will face Bautista Agut in Saturday’s first match on stadium court.
After practising together, a couple of good friends set to do battle
Speaking of that match, an interesting story emerged about the two semi-final contenders. Bautista Agut and Bedene walked in and out of the media room within about five minutes of each other and when Bautista Agut was asked about his next opponent, he revealed that they had in fact spent time practising together in the pre-season.
“He actually stayed with me for one week at my house,” said Bautista Agut.
Bedene, who came second, went on to lavish praise on his Spanish colleague, saying, “Yes, I stayed with him before the start of the season. Roberto is a great guy, he arranged for me to practise with him. And he even made arrangements for me to practise with David Ferrer in Valencia. To be honest, I am actually quite honoured to play against him tomorrow.”
Bedene has been somewhat of a Spanish slayer at this tournament so far, having beaten Feliciano Lopez and Guillermo Garcia Lopez in the last two rounds. He will hope to continue that run against Bautista Agut.
The Spaniard though, will be looking to rely on his solidity from the back and perhaps leverage Bedene’s fatigue to best the guy he knows really well now.
Stan Wawrinka sidesteps a potential banana peel, sets up blockbuster clash with Goffin
On paper, Stan Wawrinka versus Gilles Muller may not look like the toughest of matches for the top seed here at the Aircel Chennai Open. But in reality, players such as Muller, who employ serve-and-volley to good effect in a game dominated by baseliners, often manage to catch even the best shot makers off-guard.
After winning the first set, Wawrinka ran into some trouble in the second set when he was broken by the tall man from Luxembourg. However, he regrouped quickly to break back and prevent the set from getting out of his grasp.
“He is a tricky opponent, I was happy that I was able to fight back and finish it off in straight sets,” Wawrinka said.
The Swiss received plenty of crowd support in those tense moments in the second set, and he was clearly pumped for the occasion.
"He really put a lot of pressure on me in the second set. I anyway expected the second set to be tight as he is a good player on the circuit. On the whole, I was aggressive in the match and happy to have won it," the defending champion added.
Fans at the Aircel Chennai Open are in for a treat when Wawrinka plays fouth seed David Goffin, who has also looked in good form. The Belgian is a treat to watch when in full flow, especially off his forehand wing. Like Wawrinka, he too is an aggressive player, famous for his shot-making, and the match-up has all the makings of a great contest.
They have played at the Aircel Chennai Open previously (their only career meeting), back in 2011, with the Swiss winning that one in two tight tie-break sets.
When asked about that match and his thoughts on tomorrow’s game, Goffin reflected back on their previous Aircel Chennai Open encounter. “Yes, last time it was a really close match, I hope it will be the same tomorrow. But it’s been four years now, I have more experience now, Stan has won a Grand Slam, he has more confidence, but I’ve also improved a lot. So it will be an interesting match tomorrow and I’m excited,” he said.
Leander and Raven roll on
Leander Paes had said after the match against Mahesh Bhupathi and Saketh Myneni that his partner Raven Klaasen has got a whole bag of tricks waiting to be unleashed. And Klaasen unpacked them yesterday in their win that got him and Paes into the final.
“I’ll take all the credit I can get”, said a smiling Raven. “The reality is playing next to this guy (referring to Paes) is a pleasure you know, it gives you so much confidence and I just trust that when it really counts.”
“I think today was a great showcase of how Raven can take a match and actually control the match from start to finish,” Paes said.
He also referred to their preparations for the Australian Open, saying, “The main thing is we’ve got a good amount of matches under our belt, going into the Australian Open, which was one of our major objectives,” he said.
Practice, practice and more practice
"There's no magic in tennis. You have to practise hard, you have to practise everyday!"
The above quote was what Wawrinka had said earlier before his match, and that rings true for all four competitors still standing in the competition. We are set for two mouth-watering semi-finals on Super Saturday at the 2015 Aircel Chennai Open.
Battling past physical and mental hurdles, these players have made it to where they are, and they certainly look set to produce the magic.