In the thirteen year history of the Chennai Open, only four times has there been an Indian qualifier into the singles main draw. Twice over it has been Rohan Bopanna.
The 28-year-old had last managed the feat in 2006 and on Monday he thumbed his nose at the organisers who had denied his request for a wild card by edging past Michael Berrer 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
As to why the Chennai Open chose to give his rightful wild card as India number 3, to Leander Paes' partner Lukas Dlouhy is of course strange.
It did seem to fire up the Indian though who was actually scheduled to be in Australia playing doubles except that he never made the main draw cut there. Then, he was match point down in the qualifying first round against sixth seed Michel Koning before he prevailed in a match that saw three tiebreakers to decide the outcome.
Today, he was a set down and serving to stay in the match at 3-3 in the second when he seemed to find just the second wind which has been missing from his sails for far too long. The game was poised at deuce seven long times and Bopanna saved three breakpoints — two with aces — to assert his own and ride the tide in his favour.
"I have been working hard off-court and the fitness is now bringing in the results," he said later. He is not called 'Bofors' for nought as 15 aces peppered all over the service box made him decidedly indelectable fare for the German second seed.
Berrer, at 134 on the rankings is far ahead of Bopanna's 332 but mere numbers can seldom contain those large of heart. All along Bopanna's problem has been an inability to sustain his big-hitting towards the closing stages of a match. It appears the sweat in the gym is now paying off.
It appears the sweat in the gym is now paying off. In the main draw Bopanna runs into Denis Istomin (ATP 109) of Uzbekistan.
Prakash Amritraj was just not sharp enough to dull the challenge of Rainer Schuettler as the world number 33 overcame his first match of the year blues to beat his opponent 6-2, 4-6, 6-1. Amritraj continued to prove to be undeserving of his wild card as this is the fifth straight year he has crashed out in the first round.