Marin Cilic, the biggest star of 2017 Chennai Open, will finally be seen in action at the Centre Court on Wednesday as he takes on Jozef Kovalik in the pre-quarterfinal.
At 6’6”, Cilic is an imposing figure on the court and his amiable persona is but a camouflage for his destructive tennis. Wins over Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray and a Masters title in Cincinnati took him to career high No. 6 in the world. Pitted against him in the pre-quarterfinal (he received a first-round bye) is a qualifier, who is ranked 117th in the world.
With the 2014 US Grand Slam champion being the firm favourite to take apart the Russian qualifier, the most anticipated match of the day will be the doubles clash between Purav Raja-Divij Sharan, India’s most successful doubles pair in recent times, and the country’s most decorated doubles specialist Leander Paes, who is pairing with Brazilian Andre Sa for the first time.
Paes: End of the road?
With the 43-year-old dropping enough hints at drawing curtains to his illustrious career this year, it may well turn out to be his last outing in Chennai.
In such a scenario, every match that the 18-time Grand Slam winner plays in the SDAT courts at Nungambakkamb will be followed keenly. With the Indo-Brazilian pair drawing Divij-Purav in the first round, there is a genuine threat that this may well be Leander Paes’ last match here.
The Indian pair has had an extremely successful 2016, winning two ATP 250 titles (in Los Cabos, Mexico) and reaching the last four on three other occasions. They also have four Challenger titles and a runner-up finish to show for their 2016 exploits.
It is but natural that the doubles match is generating huge interest among the tennis fans.
It was a disappointing Tuesday for Indian wildcards Saketh Myneni and Ramkumar Ramanathan in the singles encounters. While Myneni put up a decent resistance against the 2008 champion Mikhail Youzhny, local boy Ramkumar caved in meekly against compatriot Yuki Bhambri.
The two, who have also been granted a doubles wildcard, will have to pick their pieces up soon enough as they have been pitted against French-Belgian pair of Benoit Paire and Steve Darcis, both in the top-100 of the singles ranking.
What may work in the Indian pair’s favour is the fact that Belgian Darcis will be coming into the match shortly after his match against third-seeded Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain.
Rohan Bopanna , India’s best-placed player in the doubles, and his partner Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan will also been seen in action on Wednesday. The duo will meet Marco Demoliner (Brazil ) and Nikola Metkic (Croatia) in the first round.
Will Leander Paes, 18-time Grand Slam winner, and his Brazilian partner see through their challenge to fight another day? Or could this be the end to Paes’ trophy-laden career? Only time will tell.
Order of Play:
Centre Court (From 5.05pm): Marin Cilic (CRO) v Jozef Kovalik (SVK); Dudi Sela (ISR) v Hyeon Chung (KOR); Purav Raja/Divij Sharan v Leander Paes/Andre Sa(BRA)
Court 1: (From 5.00pm): Albert Ramos-Vinolas(ESP) v Steve Darcis(BEL); Marcelo Demoliner (BRA)/ Nikola Mektic(CRO) v Rohan Bopanna/ Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan; Saketh Myneni/ Ramkumar Ramanathan v Steve Darcic(BEL)/Benoit Paire(FRA)
Court 2: (From 5.00pm): Daniil Medvedev (RUS) v Yen-Hsun Lu (TPE); Nicholas Monroe (USA)/Artem Sitak (NZL) v Konstantin Kravchuk(RUS/ Mikhail Youzhny (RUS); Johan Brunstrom(SWE)/ Andreas Siljestrom (SWE) v Guillermo Duran( ARG)/ Andre Molteni (ARG)