Karan loses the match but wins Nadal?s heart

Rastogi shows a large heart and spunk in battling top seed Nadal before losing 4-6, 1-6 in the second round of the Chennai Open, reports S Kannan.

india Updated: Jan 04, 2007 23:33 IST
S Kannan
S Kannan

It really did not turn out to be a David versus Goliath contest as predicted, with Karan Rastogi showing a large heart and spunk in battling top seed Rafael Nadal before losing 4-6, 1-6 in the second round of the Chennai Open.

In the last decade, the Nungambakkam Stadium has witnessed several contests that have measured high on the Richter scale. On Thursday, as fans packed the stadium like sardines, Rastogi played with the swagger of a millionaire. The word pressure just did not exist in Rastogi's lexicon as he stroked with freedom in the first set and lost the second set simply because the World No.2 upped his game.

Rastogi is 20, and so is Nadal, but the similarities end there. The Spaniard, whose bulging biceps can put bodybuilders at home to shame, showed fluent mobility and motility on the court, which was a huge treat for the fans.

But for almost 45 minutes, what Rastogi threw at Nadal was high-octane stuff. Rastogi enjoyed every minute on court, playing long rallies and hitting winners into corners. "I just wanted to go out there and have fun," said Rastogi at the post-match conference.

Rastogi certainly did not let stage fright get the better of him. And for all those who had predicted that the Indian would crumble under pressure, this was a day when the underdog came out with his tail up.

The rallies were breathtaking as Nadal changed pace and direction. So, for Rastogi to hang in meant he had to be solid. The Indian had no pressure on him and he took chances with some shots he would never have tried in Futures events. The number of times he came to volley was something new. Nadal looked under pressure when he was down 0-30 in the sixth game of the first set, but the top seed came out strong.

"That was perhaps the only time I was really down. Karan played as well as he could and he can do better in the future," said Nadal. In the second set, Nadal was an altogether different player. The groundstrokes were booming and Rastogi was finding it difficult to maintain the tempo. Yet, for the Indian, not blessed with a big serve, he committed just one double fault -- in the dying stages of the match.

"It was fantastic to be playing the world No. 2 today. I wanted to enjoy myself and not get kicked. I will go back with a few lessons from this match… the biggest would be how much I have to work on my fitness," said Rastogi.

And what did Nadal have to say about Rastogi? "He played without any pressure. But to get into the top-100, he has to play more solid," said Nadal. Does Rastogi have to work on his fitness? "I am not his fitness coach," retorted Nadal. Legend Ramanathan Krishnan, who was watching the match from the VIP box, said: "I think Karan played some very good points in the first set. He now knows what it means to be playing a world No.2."

Paradorn Srichaphan, who has won the title here twice before, lost in straight sets to Austrian Stefan Koubek.

Results (2nd round): Rafael Nadal bt Karan Rastogi 6-4, 6-1; Stefan Koubek bt Paradorn Srichaphan 6-1, 6-2; Fabrice Santoro bt Bjorn Phau 6-4, 6-2; Davide Sanguinetti bt Nicolas Mahut 7-6 (8/6), 3-6, 6-3.

First Published: Jan 04, 2007 22:28 IST