When Janko Tipsarevic slammed a forehand into the net not only Milos Raonic but almost the entire stadium heaved a sigh of relief. It was exhausting just watching the two have a go at each other; energising to see neither give in an inch as they treated Chennai to the longest and the most entertaining final yet.
Raonic, the tall Canadian with a monster serve, confirmed his credentials as the one to watch out for as he overcame an epic challenge from Tipsarevic to win 6-7 (4), 7-6 (4), 7-6 (4).
Not since the 'Mallorcan showdown' in 2008, when Rafael Nadal beat Carlos Moya 6-7 (3), 7-6 (8), 7-6 (1) in three hours and 54 minutes had Chennai witnessed three tie-break sets.
Steady riseHaving made the jump from 156 to 31 in the rankings last year, Raonic started 2012 on a perfect note as he won the title on his Chennai Open main draw debut. And he did it without losing his serve even once in four matches.
"The thing is, I hate losing more than I like winning," said Raonic, who claimed his second career ATP title. "The reason I have started doing well in the past year or so is down to a lot of losses, a lot of hard times. I don't have the experience that players like Janko or (Nicolas) Almagro (semi-final opponent) have. I am still learning the game the hard way."
After winning, the Canadian picked out his insoles and threw one shoe at a time into the crowd. It must have been muggy in there, having spent three hours and 14 minutes running on court. But in fact, it had been Tipsarevic, playing his fourth match in less than 48 hours, who had done all the chasing.
The Serb fought on bravely, saving nine out of nine break points. He played the patient game from the back court, setting up points with his double-fisted backhand.
But it was one of the few occasions when fearless shot-making trumped over percentage tennis. As fearsome as Raonic's serve is, his instinct of going for the lines, whatever the stage of the match was refreshing.
It's just as well he came through in those tough three sets, tennis needed a winner that didn't arrive from the mass-production line of defensive baseliners.