Wildcard entrant Karman Thandi created the biggest upset of the day, as she beat eighth seed Chloe Paquet 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, in a two-hour and 35min match at the WTA Chennai Open.
“This is a super special win for me, because I won in front of a home crowd and that too in Chennai, a city which loves its tennis, and beating a higher ranked player is always special,” said Karman.
However, the start to the tournament was slightly different for Karman, “Let’s not go there, maybe I get it maybe I don’t, even if I have to start from the qualifiers, I am ready to go.” said Karman, who had earlier stood at the tournament desk distressed, hoping to get a last-minute main draw wildcard at the start of the tournament.
However, her wildcard blues went away at the thought of playing in front of a large Indian crowd for the first time. “It’s going to be so exciting to have an entire stadium full of people cheering for you if that does happen. Otherwise, you must wait to play at Arthur Ashe or Rod Laver arena for something like this to happen.”
While the stadium might not have been filled, the crowd at centre court was with Karman every point of the game, cheering, hooting, and rooting for the local girl.
“I spent the last four months playing on hard courts, I also had a two-week stint training in Chandigarh with my coach, which helped me acclimatise in advance before I got here.”
While the journey to reaching the round of 16 at a WTA 250 in front of a home crowd seems like a fairy-tale, it’s been a turbulent road for the Indian.
“It was very hard because I’d never dealt with anything like that before, I didn’t do anything except train and undergo intense physio sessions for almost six months, but to not give up mentally was the biggest challenge” says Karman, who’s career had come to an abrupt halt in 2018, just when she had broken into the top 200, because of a shoulder injury.
“I’ve spent my life since I was eight living out of a suitcase, travelling for tournaments, so the only time I really got to spend with my family was those months when I didn’t play,” says Karman, who believes the trade-off for this lifestyle is the fact that she gets to travel the world with her mother by her side, who travels to every tournament with her.
However, having help from the best in the world helped her spring back into action. She spent a few months training at the Mouratoglou Academy in France, a hub for elite athletes with players like Stefanos Tsitsipas to Coco Gauff and even Serena Williams at one point training under their tutelage.
Karman will face wildcard entrant and 2014 Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard in the round of 16. The Indian, at the post-match press conference, spoke about keeping a game plan ready with her coach “ She’s got the experience of playing at the highest level, but I’m just thinking of taking it one step at a time and putting by best foot forward.”