On Day 3 of the 2015 Champions Tennis League, the hosts Chennai would have been wary of the visitors Hyderabad who boast of big names and frames in Martina Hingis and Ivo Karlovic. But they mustered up their courage to go out all guns blazing in their home field, egged on by thousands of their supporters.
None of that was enough though, as the V Chennai Warriors were totally outgunned by the Hyderabad Aces 16-25. The visitors looked in total control of every contest that took place, not missing a beat right from the legends’ match all the way up to the men’s singles.
The fans who turned up at the SDAT Tennis Stadium in Chennai must have left disappointed after such a one-sided evening of tennis, but the Warriors are a good, young side, and will have their day. Here is a closer look at how the day’s events played out:
1. Legends’ singles: Rainer Schuettler (Chennai) vs Thomas Johansson (Hyderabad)
The day started on a good note for Chennai, with team captain Rainer Schuettler holding serve confidently in the first game of the tie. He would continue to stay level with 2002 Australian Open champion Thomas Johansson until the scoreboard read 3-3, whereupon the Swede dug into his reserves and broke the Schuettler serve.
The match between the two Olympic silver medallists ended with the Hyderabad Aces’ Thomas Johansson serving it out, thus taking the opening frame 5-4 to give the visitors an early lead..
Result: Johansson def. Schuettler 5-4
2. Women’s singles: Heather Watson (Chennai) vs Martina Hingis (Hyderabad)
Chennai would have hoped that youth would prevail against experience in the second set of the evening, as yesteryear's superstar Martina Hingis faced off against the young and talented Brit Heather Watson, who is 12 years younger than the Swiss Miss. Things certainly seemed set to go in favour of Watson early on, as the five-time singles Grand Slam winner was left gasping for breath after the first two games.
But Hingis made up for her fitness issues with her finesse, and repeatedly broke the Brit's serve with ease. Watson gamely tied the set at 3-3, but that was as close as Hingis would allow her to get. The 2015 Wimbledon women's doubles champion used all of her court smarts and deft touch to take the set 5-3 and give her team a healthy lead two sets into the tie.
Result: Hingis def. Watson 5-3
3. Mixed doubles: Verdasco/Watson (Chennai) vs Karlovic/Hingis (Hyderabad)
The tallest player in tennis history, 6’11” Ivo Karlovic, teamed up with the fabulous Martina Hingis to form a formidable duo against the hosts’ team of Fernando Verdasco and Heather Watson. Karlovic's serve was expected to be the difference-maker and that's exactly how things panned out, as Verdasco and Watson could barely get a read on it.
That serve coupled with Hingis’ superlative net skills made the contest a little too one-sided. The set turned out to be a brief affair, with the Hyderabad team losing just two games to the home team.
Result: Karlovic/Hingis def. Verdasco/Watson 5-2
Men’s doubles: Verdasco/Vardhan vs Karlovic/Nedunchezhiyan
Hyderabad’s momentum would continue in the penultimate contest, as they went up 2-0 early in the set. Chennai, determined not to be outdone in front of their home crowd, put on an inspired performance to equalize at 3-3, but Karlovic would use his monstrous serve to put them ahead once again.
The scoreboard pressure then got a little too intense for the home team. As Verdasco and Vardhan served to stay in the set, they let their nerves get the better of themselves, and the Aces needed no second invitation to wrap up the match.
Result: Karlovic/Nedunchezhiyan def. Verdasco/Vardhan 5-3
5. Men’s singles: Fernando Verdasco vs Ivo Karlovic
Trailing far behind at 12-20, Chennai were hoping for more than a miracle as they headed into the ultimate contest of the day. But the set wasn't as big a walkover as expected; the Spanish Davis Cup winner Verdasco managed to keep the big-serving Karlovic's lead to 2-1.
Calling it a glimmer of hope would be an exaggeration, but Verdasco showed resilience as he drew level with Karlovic at 3-3. The self-possessed giant then put things into overdrive, cutting off the court with his gargantuan frame and using his break-neck serve to win the next game and put Verdasco under immense pressure.
The Spaniard held on, winning the eighth game to take the set into a tie-breaker, but Karlovic would not be denied. He took the breaker 5-4, and with it, the set and the match for the Hyderabad Aces.
Surprisingly, it was Johansson, not Karlovic, who clocked the fastest serve of the tie at 210 kmph.
Result: Karlovic def. Verdasco 5-3