Chennai Open: Pavic stuns Almagro

When Almagro took the first set with ease, a twist was not too foreseeable. Pavic retrieved well, served competently, and approached the net with urgency in the evenly contested second and third sets to defeat Almagro.

Ante Pavic more in control over the tiring, frustrated Nicolas Almagro in the third set.   -  K. V. Srinivasan

The body language of Nicolas Almagro had been languid in his first round outing at Chennai Open, something he must have considered a warm-up for the future rounds.

For his opponent Ante Pavic was a qualifier, ranked 449 in the world. And when Almagro took the first set with ease, a twist was not too foreseeable. Pavic retrieved well, served competently, and approached the net with urgency to the evenly contested second and third sets to defeat Almagro 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 in a little over two hours to provide the event’s first upset in the very first match.

If Pavic was made to run around behind the baseline by Almagro, he made sure his backhand slices made points difficult to snatch. After levelling the match 1-1, after trying to ‘stay in the present and enjoy every point’, Pavic seemed more in control over the seemingly tiring or frustrated Almagro.

The one asset for him in the ensuing third set was the accuracy of his serves: he landed correctly 68 percent of his first serves, as against 39 percent by Almagro.

Even though Almagro delivered a few aces to steal a few points, it wasn’t enough to deny Pavic a tilt at winning. Three match points were saved by the Spaniard, but in the tie-break that followed, Pavic undid him with fierce groundstrokes to take 6-0 lead, and then clinch it 7-1.

The turnaround came about with an attempt to, as Pavic called, ‘taking risks’. Almagro had been comfortably engaging in fierce rallies from behind the baseline, but when Pavic arrived to the net in the middle of the rally, Almagro’s discomfort arose.

“I was trying to play a certain way because I’m aware of my physical advantages, in that I can serve big and move forward. Nicolas was playing very well from behind the baseline; I knew I had to try and play short points, when I was doing that, things were going in my favour. When we played longer points, things were going in his favour. So, that was my objective, to try and make the points shorter.”

This was one of Pavic’s biggest win of his career, but he was modest about the result. “We all know about Nicolas Almagro, so from that point of view, the win was big.”

In the second round, Pavic will face the winner of the match between Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, the fifth seed, and Taro Daniel.

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