Chennai Open: Paire sends Bhambri packing

For a player who loathes Wimbledon, fifth seed Benoit Paire's volleys and net game were top notch. A soft touch overhead or a sleek drop, he had the crowd rooting for him with his casual brilliance.

chennai open

Yuki Bhambri congratulates his victor Benoit Paire after a 3-6, 4-6 defeat.   -  R. Ragu

Indian challenge ended in the singles after Yuki Bhambri went down to Benoit Paire after putting up a spirited display. With a 6-3, 6-4 victory over the Indian, Paire progressed to the quarterfinal of the Chennai Open on Thursday.

Earlier in the day, second seed Roberto Bautista Agut also progressed to the quarterfinal with a clinical 6-4, 6-2 win over Rogerio Dutra Silva in an hour and 14 minutes. In the last eight clash, he will face Russian Mikhail Youzhny, who downed Argentina’s Renzo Olivo 6-1, 7-5 in the outside court.

Meanwhile, Aljaz Bedene beat Martin Klizan 7-6(3), 6-7(3), 7-6(2) in a match that lasted for three hours and five minutes to set up a last eight clash with Paire.

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Paire tried his best at breaking the racquet at least thrice -- it looked more out of habit than frustration and played a casual game of tennis without a sense of absolute seriousness in his approach, but he was still too good for Bhambri.

For a player who loathes Wimbledon, his volleys and net game were top notch. A soft touch overhead or a sleek drop, he had the crowd rooting for him with his casual brilliance.

"It was a good match, I didn’t concentrate well but I was moving well which was important for me. That’s why, I am really happy to win this match. It’s good for the confidence," he said.

Bhambri began on a dismal note, conceding a break in his first game. Only when he was down 0-3 that the Indian qualifier began to rise up to the challenge. After winning his service game at love, he began moving around the court well and started winning a lot more points on Paire’s returns.

But with Paire also moving well, a few moments of indecision cost Bhambri many points. After setting himself up to play winners, Bhambri would end up feeding it to the Frenchman.

The 24-year-old Indian played with a lot more freedom in the second game and had multiple breakpoint opportunities, but Benoit would invariably negate the threat with a superb serve.

What cost Bhambri dear was his inability to hit the winners when the situation presented itself. After Yuki conceded his service game at 2-2, Paire entertained the audience with some brilliant net play and closed out the match with an ace.

"I had a lot of chances which was a positive. It could have been a different outcome had I taken them. But it felt good to have a higher-ranked player sweat it out," Bhambri said.

AGUT HAS IT EASY AGAINST SILVA

Agut had little trouble dismantling the challenge of Silva. The Brazilian didn’t play bad tennis by any account, he had more number of aces, had better first serve percentage and definitely possessed a good all-round game.

But all Agut had to do was keep the ball in play and wait for the odd error from the 32-year old, which kept coming in the most inopportune moments. It hurt all the more because it came immediately after a moment of brilliance. A case in point was the strong backhand winner he conjured to finish off the first long rally in a game. He followed that up with two wide shots to concede that game and with it, any hopes of breaking back.

The Spaniard made it all the more difficult for the World No. 98 by retrieving balls from both ends of the court and effecting excellent drop shots. He also showed glimpses of his credible volleying skills at the net to leave Silva panting.

After a 33-minute first set, it was Silva who had the opportunity to break at 1-2. Agut kept his cool, dished out a service winner followed by a cross-court forehand winner. A long rally later, Silva undid the good work with a forehand that went wide as Agut captured the game.

At 2-2, Silva committed a foot fault, which was called after the point was played. An irate Silva stood still, glared at the line umpire, stared longer at the chair umpire before serving again. What followed was probably the best point of the match from Agut. He ran in from the baseline to return a drop shot from the alley for a passing winner down the line for the break of serve.

"I don’t think one point makes such a difference, that you lose a match," Agut said, referring to Silva’s blowout.

The Brazilian’s unwillingness to fight back was evident when he didn’t even attempt to return after keeping the ball in play for a couple of rallies during match point.