Playing on their home ground for the first time, the Nagpur Orangers looked were the favourites going into their clash today against the V Chennai Warriors. As it turned out, the Orangers did look dominant right up until the third set of the match, although they faltered a few times during this as well.
That small stumble was enough for the visitors to pounce on, and the Chennai team ultimately ran out winners by a small margin, registering their first victory of the season.
Here's a look at how each of the sets unfolded:
Legends’ singles: Alex Corretja (Nagpur Orangers) vs Rainer Schuettler (V Chennai Warriors)
German Schuettler drew blood almost immediately, breaking Corretja in the very first game. An aggressive Corretja broke right back to level the set, however, following which the two held in succession, keeping neck-and-neck as the set progressed.
Neither player looked stretched or stressed in any way, playing their own game comfortably on serve. This went on until Corretja took a 4-3 lead, which meant Schuettler was forced to serve to stay in the match – and he could not. Corretja ended up breaking him to take the set 5-3, giving the home side a 5-3 advantage.
Result: Corretja def. Schuettler 5-3
Women’s singles: Jelena Jankovic (Nagpur Orangers) vs Heather Watson (V Chennai Warriors)
Former World No. 1 Jankovic was the easy favourite to win this set, considering she was up against the much-younger Watson. The young Briton, however, gave Jankovic a run for her money, hitting her groundstrokes hard and deep to stay stay on top of the rallies.
The Serbian ace's defence eventually started coaxing errors out of Watson, and she drew first blood in the set as she broke the Briton to go 2-1 and then consolidated for 3-1.
The 23-year-old kept her cool, however, winning the next game as she narrowed the Serb's lead to 3-2 – and it was this that would prove instrumental in her putting up a solid fight. Using her strong backhand to the utmost advantage, Watson eventually took a 4-3 lead, forcing Jankovic to serve to stay in the set from being up two games only minutes earlier.
Jankovic would eventually manage to level at 4-4 as the set went to tie-break, which Jankovic won as she took the set 5-4.
The Orangers led 10 games to 7 at this point.
Result: Jankovic def. Watson 5-4
Mixed doubles: Lopez/Jankovic (Nagpur Orangers) vs Verdasco/Watson (V Chennai Warriors)
Lopez and Verdasco have been doubles partners for a significant time, and would therefore have been familiar with each other’s tactics. The Spanish pair were on opposite sides of the net today however, partnering their respective teammates in the mixed doubles draw, with Jankovic fresh off a tie-break victory over the British No. 2.
The Orangers appeared to be cruising to an easy victory, leading the Warriors 3-1 at one point with the Chennai team committing a slew of unforced errors on the way. Verdasco was not one to lay low though, as he struck some blinding forehands to hold and break the Orangers, levelling the set at 3-all.
Now on the back foot, the Orangers managed to scramble and save two break points to hold and go up 4-3 in that set. That didn’t last long, however, with a second successive set going to a tiebreak.
This one did not go in Jankovic’s favour as Watson and Verdasco clinched it, and with it the first set for the V Chennai Warriors. The Nagpur Orangers still leading 14-12 at that point.
Result: Verdasco/Watson def. Lopez/Jankovic 5-4
Men’s doubles: Lopez/Sharan (Nagpur Orangers) vs Verdasco/Vardhan (V Chennai Warriors)
Lopez and Verdasco faced off again following their mixed doubles meeting, this time each accompanied by an experienced Indian singles player. Verdasco already had momentum built up from having won the previous set, and this spilled over into the men’s doubles as the Warriors took the first game and then proceeded to take a 2-1 lead.
The Orangers’ Divij Sharan committed a number of double faults, which would lead to the Warriors breaking for a 3-1 lead. Building on that, they held to go 4-1 and that spelled disaster for the Orangers, as Verdasco and Vardhan closed out the set easily.
Result: Verdasco/Vardhan def. Lopez/Sharan 5-1.
Men’s singles: Fernando Verdasco (V Chennai Warriors) vs Divij Sharan (Nagpur Orangers)
The final set was due to be played between former sparring (and doubles!) partners Fernando Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez, but Lopez wasn't feeling at his best, so the Orangers brought on Divij Sharan as his replacement.
Sharan held serve to take the initial game of the final set, but the big-hitting Verdasco broke the Indian and held serve to take a 3-1 lead, with matters looking bleak for the Orangers at that point.
The silent assassin Sharan came back to hold serve, and narrowed the Spaniard's lead to 3-2. He then used the Super Point the team had earned earlier in the next game, breaking Verdasco to level the final set at 3-3.
Verdasco kept calm, and with a massive return broke Sharan to take the lead again, following which he held serve to close out the set.
His victory, and his performance throughout the evening, brought the V Chennai Warriors back from the brink of loss to an unlikely victory over the home side, Nagpur Orangers. While the Warriors are already out of the reckoning for a place in the final, this win will be a morale-booster for them ahead of the third season.
The Orangers, meanwhile, would have to win their last match against the Hyderabad Aces if they want to reach the final, turning tomorrow's clash into a virtual semifinal.
Result: Fernando Verdasco def. Divij Sharan 5-3