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Not a 'single' cheer for India

For an hour, Somdev Devvarman and the Chennai crowd waited for the boy from Belgium to falter. David Goffin was striking the ball so hard and quick, that, like an inexperienced long-distance runner trying to sprint into lead, they hoped he would run out of steam. Deepti Patwardhan reports.

sports Updated: Jan 05, 2011 00:22 IST
Deepti Patwardhan

For an hour, Somdev Devvarman and the Chennai crowd waited for the boy from Belgium to falter. David Goffin was striking the ball so hard and quick, that, like an inexperienced long-distance runner trying to sprint into lead, they hoped he would run out of steam.

Goffin had taken the tough route, beating the top seed in qualifiers to make it to the main draw for the first time ever. But the 20-year-old slammed his way into the second round, defeating home favourite Devvarman 6-2, 6-4 in an hour and 26 minutes on Tuesday night.

It rounded up a disappointing day for India at the ATP event, as wildcards Yuki Bhambri and Rohan Bopanna also lost their first-round matches. Bhambri, 18, was outclassed 2-6, 1-6 by Russian qualifier Alexandre Kundryavtsev, while Bopanna failed to put away an out-of-sorts Stanislas Wawrinka.

Bopanna was playing Wawrinka in the first round for the second successive year. The Swiss had ruled supreme last year, but Bopanna, steeled by some confidence from his Davis Cup win here against Brazil's Ricardo Mello in September, ran him close.

Coming into the new season, both the players looked rusty; the match a scratchy, scrappy affair. But a better quality from the baseline ensured a 6-4, 6-4 win for Wawrinka.

All hopes were pinned on Devvarman in the last match of the day. But even the fittest, fastest Indian on a tennis court was outpaced by Goffin's shot making. The small-built Belgian packed some serious punch, hitting hard and heavy, making Devvarman stumble further behind the baseline.

Every now and then, he exchanged the whipping shots for delicate drops. After the initial shock, Devvarman seemed to retrieve some ground in the second set. He stayed up with the Belgian, engaged him in more rallies. But the defence was not enough. He lacked another dimension to the game, to unsettle the player who was firing with sure-shot precision.