Sunday, Nov 27, 2022

Chennai Open: In Benoit Paire, Yuki Bhambri finds wrong match

With a delectable dose of eccentricity and flair, Benoit Paire ousts the Indian from Chennai Open, won 6-3, 6-4.

Benoit Paire, Yuki Bhambri, chennai open, Chennai Open 2017, Yuki, Paire, Indian players at Chennai Open 2017, Leander Paes, Paes, Tennis news, Tennis France’s Benoit Paire beat home favourite Yuki Bhambri 6-3 6-4 in the second round of the Chennai Open.

Benoit Paire’s racquet reached his chair long before he could. It was launched from the far side of the baseline, where he stood. He had just missed his chance of breaking Yuki Bhambri in the third game of the second set – he had already won the first 6-3. It wasn’t his first sign of frustration though.

He had been bouncing his racquet on the hard blue centre-court of the SDAT Tennis Stadium here. Not always out of self-admonition, but sometimes when he won a point. “I don’t care what I do with my racquet between points as long as I am focused during a point.” Not an entirely unexpected statement from a man who has reportedly broken 48 racquets in a single season!

On tour, Paire’s unpredictability has served him well. A baseliner, with the ability – as much as the tendency – to mix it up with drop shots and charges to the net. It was a trait that fully manifested in the round-of-16 tie against Bhambri at the Chennai Open as well, to win 6-3, 6-4. “It’s hard to plan for a player as unpredictable as he is,” confided a slightly confounded Bhambri. At game point to go up 4-2 in the second, Paire shared a thrilling backhand cross-court rally with Bhambri. Till he sliced back a delicate drop shot. Bhambri never moved. There was no point in it.

In the very next game, with Paire serving to save a break point, he stretched Bhambri to the right with a strong forehand to force a weak lob back onto the court. Any other player might have allowed the ball to land before unleashing a smash. Paire instead leapt to meet the ball. With a frame reaching the six-foot-five mark, he exhibited a perfect technique in generating more hang-time – bending his knees while in the air like the fancy slam dunkers in NBA would. The resulting smash was more polite than the harsh back-board thumping drive. Rather, it was a mid-air dink towards Bhambri’s vacant ad-court side. Another break point saved. One of seven. Instead he managed to break Bhambri twice, in 11 attempts, over the two sets.

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Playing backhand

Still, for a man known more reputed for his erratic playing style, he did have a set strategy in place for the ace Indian player. “My backhand is my strong shot and I wanted to hit more on his backhand because his forehand is his best shot.” Often the world number 47 would engage his opponent in a backhand-crosscourt fest. More often than not, Bhambri’s strokes would give way and crash into the net.

The former world number 18, who has twice reached the semi-final of the Chennai Open, has a well-documented history of eccentricity both on and off court. At the Tokyo Open in 2015, he took a nap on court during a changeover, was thrown out of the national academy by his home federation for ‘indiscipline’ in 2009 and had an on-court bust-up with fellow Frenchman Michael Llodra in Miami – promising never to speak to him again. And while most in the tennis world regard Wimbledon as the spiritual home of the game, he’s happy to leave it as soon as possible. “I hate Wimbledon,” he was quoted saying by the Telegraph after losing in 2014.

But it isn’t that he hasn’t tried to arrest his temperament. Of late, he’s taken up boxing to help his concentration while playing. “It’s helped my focus on the court better. Because in boxing if you lose your concentration, you might get punched in the face,” he says. It may also give him a little more strength on the shoulders to add more power to his shots.

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Still his antics have continued to keep the crowd in Chennai enthralled. Last year, he hit a ball over the stands and out of the stadium in frustration after missing an easy point at the net. This year he has only thrown his racquet, at least in the right direction. For now. He has sought professional help as well by consulting a psychologist. The result, he told Tennis World USA: “Apparently, I’m not crazy.” Results (Round 2): Aljaz Bedene (Britain) bt 4-Martin Klizan (Slovakia) 7-6(3) 6-7(3) 7-6(2); 5-Benoit Paire (France) beat Yuki Bhambri (India) 6-3 6-4; 7-Mikhail Youzh (Russia) bt Renzo Olivo (Argentina) 6-1 7-5; 2-Roberto Bautista (Spain) bt Rogerio Dutra Silva (Brazil) 6-3 6-2

Retirement comment taken out of context: Paes

Chennai: Days after Leander Paes hinted at his retirement in the coming ‘months,’ the 43-year-old has asserted that the ongoing Chennai Open will not be the last time he participates at the event. The 18-time Grand Slam champion (eight in men’s doubles and 10 in mixed) further added that he still holds a strong desire to continue his pursuit of further victories at the majors. “I hope to be back (to Chennai Open) and hope to be holding this trophy again,” he said after crashing in the first round of the tournament on Wednesday. “I hope to win a Grand Slam with this man (current partner Andre Sa). That’s what I want to do,” he added.

Clearing up his statement about his upcoming retirement, he maintained that he was misunderstood at the pre-tournament press conference. “Somdev (Devvarman) announced retirement and I was asked about it. I said it could be today, tomorrow or six months from now. So it just became ‘Leander is retiring.’ Things got put out of context. So there was a misunderstanding the other day,” he said.

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At the media conference, he claimed to have been misquoted. He said he had merely mentioned that he was struggling to find a new goal when asked about his targets for the coming season. “After a while I find that winning Grand Slams, I have won 18 now, are just numbers,” he had said.

When asked about how he kept his consistency up at the highest level, he hinted that he may decide to hang up his racquet in the next few months. “At 43, I am blessed to be playing at this level. We have a few new people on my team now, who are going to help me in the last few months of my playing career, and my post-tennis career,” he added.

Then while winding ups the press conference with pleasantries and routine “thank you”, he choked: “There will come a point when the curtain comes down, before that curtain comes down, a big thank you to you all. It’s been a fun run.”

First published on: 06-01-2017 at 05:19:12 am
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