Not too many times before had the Chennai crowd seen such venom in a single shot. And not many would have expected it to come from their favourite Stan Wawrinka, that too in the final of the Chennai Open. The Swiss normally heralds more than an impassive expression during play. It’s only at the end of a victorious match that he will attempt to rile up the crowd’s emotions, holding his hand to his ear, asking for more noise — all with the slightest of smiles.
But here Wawrinka was not in the best of moods. He had just been warned by the umpire for what appeared to be “obscenity”. He wouldn’t take it easily. There was a series of arguments with the official, until he had had enough. Suddenly he wanted to finish the game off.
Wawrinka was already on two break points, leading 15-40 at 5-5 in the second set. And so, positioned deep into his backhand side, with Borna Coric far cross-court, Wawrinka let loose his trademark backhand shot down the line. Yet there was a greater degree of ferocity. The movement of his right hand, brandishing the racquet was still as elegant as it has always been. But that one particular shot wasn’t just a graceful combination of hand and eye coordination. It was a full-blooded thump.
The power and speed with which the ball struck the backboard took a few seconds for the audience to grasp. There was a second of silence. Then the unheard of roar of ‘come on’ from Wawrinka, then eruption of cheering from the stands. The 30-year-old took less than five minutes to finish the match from there, ending it 6-3, 7-5.
It had been a close encounter till then, despite Wawrinka winning the first set 6-3. Most games went into deuce, with the two-time Grand Slam champion often grappling intensly with the 19-year-old Croat for points. The world number four’s approach in the game revolved more around forcing errors from his young opponent, steadily working the teenager around the court and tiring him out. But that single backhand, though late in the game, revealed another side to Wawrinka. There was an arrogance, all backed by his undoubted ability. It also provided an insight into his thought process — when he wanted to finish the game, he would do just that. It was also the symbol of his dominance of the Chennai Open.
For eight years, the Swiss has been travelling to the Tamil Nadu capital to partake in the ATP 250 event. He continues to profess that it is the love of the fans that keeps bringing him back. But at the same time, there is also an unmatched legacy he has built over the years at the SDAT Tennis Stadium in Chennai.
He’s now won four singles titles here, the latest making it three in a row. Further statistics explain that he has a single runner-up finish, when he lost to Marin Cilic in the 2010 final. Then there is also a win in the doubles event, when he partnered Frenchman Benoit Paire to the 2013 title.
The latest win means that he has now won 24 consecutive sets, last losing it when he lost the quarterfinal to Aljaz Bedene in the quarterfinal in 2013.
But his presence has also been felt at the Grand Slam stage as well. In 2014 he won the Australian Open, his first ever Grand Slam, barely a fortnight after his win in Chennai. The following year he denied Novak Djokovic a career and calendar slam, when he beat the Serbian at the French Open final. Now that Wawrinka has won his third successive title, there are predictions that he will win his third Grand Slam.
Yet he isn’t one to believe in the tournament as an omen, calling himself unsuperstitious after he won the semi-final. Nonetheless, for the Chennai Open, Wawrinka is the undisputed king.
Marach-Martin win doubles
Doubles pair of Austrian Oliver Marach and Frenchman Fabrice Martin took 68 minutes to beat Austin Krajicek and Benoit Paire to win the doubles title of the Chennai Open. The third seeded pair took the tie in straight sets, winning 6-3, 7-5. This was the 35-year-old Marach’s 14th doubles title, and the first for his 29-year-old partner. The duo had also packed off top seeded pair of Raven Klaasen and Rajeev Ram 4-6, 7-5, 10-5 in a tightly contested semi-finals clash.
Moments before Stanislas Wawrinka was handed over the trophy for his fourth Chennai Open title, Tamil Nadu Tennis Association (TNTA) president MA Alagappan announced that the tournament will continue in the following years. The announcement was made on the day the three-year contract between the tournament owners IMG-Reliance and organisers TNTA was scheduled to expire. “The contract between IMG-Reliance and TNTA comes to an end today. With the support of the government and other sponsors, we will be continuing the tournament,” he said, at the SDAT Tennis Stadium.
The new contract between the owners and organisers of South Asia’s only ATP tour event extends for three years, lasting till 2019. “An MoU was signed this afternoon to ensure the tournament stays here for another three years,” said Karti Chidambaram, chairman of the Chennai Open organising committee, and vice-president of the TNTA.