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Bopanna goes down blazing in Wimbledon qualifier
Deepti Patwardhan in London | June 19, 2007 08:36 IST
At one stage it looked like the match would never end. With both the players holding their serve like a fortress, the Rohan Bopanna vs Wesley Moodie match extended well into the sunny evening and soon became the focal point of the first round Wimbledon qualifying.
The tall big-serving South African, ranked 137, out-aced the tall big-serving Indian, ranked 287, 3-6, 6-1, 19-17 in a three-and-a-half hour battle to advance into the second qualifying round if the men's singles.
"It was a little unfortunate that we met in the first round," said a Bopanna after the tiring effort. "I am sure if we had played some else both of us could have gone through. It's the luck of the draw."
After the players had split the first two sets, the third turned into a dogfight with neither giving an inch.
The Indian Davis Cupper probably had the better chances earlier in the third set, as he stretched Moodie to five break-points in the eighth game. But every time the South African came up with a killer serve when he seemed in danger of being broken.
"Out of those five opportunities I touched only one of the serves but he came up with a great volley," said Bopanna. "I was serving very well but he was better. The match could have gone either way but he served fantastically on the crucial points."
Bopanna, who agreed that the match was worth a five-setter, had to be fortified with chocolate and called the trainer after 16-all as he started cramping up.
"It's tougher on grass because though the points are short, you are constantly serving and volleying, moving forward all the time."
While matches on the adjoining courts at the Roehampton grounds, which are as charming as an open-air theatre, starting and finished rapidly, Bopanna and Moodie were indulged in an intriguing battle. Both had the game for the surface, and as far as possible tried to finish the game in four
points, five max.
With crowd converging on the narrow aisle next to the court, both the players delighted them with their fiery serves, array of slices and volleys. After another ace or service winner to close out the game, could come the familiar gasps, as the umpire called out the score, third set 14-all.
Though the match stretched far longer than expected, Wimbledon maintaining it's tradition of not having last-set tie-breaks even for the qualifiers, the players looked fit enough to play into the evening. One bad service game would separate the winner from the loser.
And Moodie got the lucky break in the 35th game.
With Bopanna down a break point, his reliable serve failed him. First serve- fault, second angled away from Moodie just eluded the line. Though Bopanna protested the call from the umpire, the dye was cast as Moodie headed back into the games break 18-17 up.
He then served out the match with ease and not a semblance of nerves to send the top Indian player packing.
Bopanna has teamed up with Lovro Zovko of Croatia for the doubles qualifying. The pair is seeded sixth and with take on Italy's [Images] Flavio Cipolla and Konstantinos Economidis of Greece in the first round on Tuesday.