CHENNAI: “Chennai always loves its tennis,” said noted presenter and commentator Charu Sharma ahead of the WTA Chennai Open 250 contest between top seed Alison Riske-Amritraj and Anastasia Gasanova here.
One of the reasons behind the popularity of the sport in this part of the globe is the fascinating stories that Chennai Opens (be it the ATP or WTA events) are part of.
On Tuesday, it was Gasanova’s turn to show not only the sparse crowd at the SDAT Stadium but also the wider tennis world what she is capable of.
In the first round of the tournament which she was initially not meant to compete in, the World No.147 took down Riske-Amritraj, who is ranked 124 places higher than her and was playing at ‘home’ away from home.
“To be honest, I was waiting to take a break after the US Open. I had been waiting for the US Open, but I suffered a terrible loss (she was knocked out in the first qualifying round). But when I looked at the tournament in India, I was like: ‘Let me go and give it a try’,” said Gasanova after thrashing American Riske-Amritraj 6-2, 6-3 in one hour and 29 minutes. With the straight-set victory, Gasanova booked a second-round date with Katie Swan, who demolished Arianne Hartono 6-1, 6-2.
Domination from the word go
Prior to the much-awaited match, one would have anticipated the spectators to lean towards Riske-Amritraj, obviously because of the Chennai connection. But, Gasanova pulled the thousand-odd crowd, which included table tennis legend Sharath Kamal Achanta, to her side with some exhilarating tennis.
“This is an amazing stadium. The people in Chennai are amazing. They have big hearts; they are always ready to help,” said Gasanova in an on-court interview.
The 23-year-old dominated the opening-round encounter from the word go, breaking her senior rival three times in the first set. Gasanova went 1-0 up in the match when an erroneous Riske-Amritraj double-faulted. The storyline did not change much in the second set as Gasanova completed the comfortable win after Riske-Amritraj went long. Asked if she will celebrate the special victory, Gasanova replied: “There are more matches to come in the tournament (laughs). I want to take it step by step.”
Maria crushes Ankita
A day after her compatriot Karman Kaur Thandi pulled off an upset victory over Chloe Paquet, India No.1 Ankita Raina went down without a fight to Tatjana Maria. The fourth-seeded Maria hardly broke a sweat during the walk-in-the-park 6-0, 6-1 win. “I am really happy. I just tried to make her (Ankita) play as many balls as possible. My slice is basically my game and it worked really well,” said Maria.
Meanwhile, second seed Varvara Gracheva and the third-seeded Magda Linette sailed into the next round with wins over Mariia Tkacheva and Moyuka Uchijima respectively.
First round: Singles: A Riske-Amritraj lost to A Gasanova 2-6, 3-6; A Hartono lost to K Swan 1-6, 2-6; A Raina lost to T Maria 0-6, 1-6; M Linette bt M Uchijima 6-4, 6-0; M Tkacheva lost to V Gracheva 3-6, 2-6; O Tjandramulia lost to C Zhao 1-6, 1-6; O Selekhmeteva bt D Papamichail 6-3, 6-1; N Podoroska bt K Okamura 6-4, 6-3.
Doubles: E Bouchard/Y Wickmayer bt K Kawa/X Han 6-2, 6-4. SECOND-ROUND SINGLES MATCH-UPS (ON WEDNESDAY): R Peterson vs L Fruhvirtova; N Hibino vs Q Wang; K Thandi vs E Bouchard; K Kawa vs R Marino.