CTL Report: Lopez edges Chennai's Verdasco to help Nagpur survive a shoot-out tie-breaker

IT WAS ALL looking very easy for the Nagpur Orangers after the first four sets and the mood in the Nagpur camp too, was very positive. After leading the Chennai Warriors 20-15 (games), there was little that the Warriors could have done or hoped for going into the fifth and final set. However, in a remarkable turn of events, Chennai’s Fernando Verdasco almost snatched victory from the jaws of defeat by taking the match into a super-over time. 

Verdasco won the final set against Lopez and pushed the match into over-time. Warriors' Verdasco kept exerting pressure on the Lopez serve and further pushed the tie into a super-over time after winning three successive games. 

In the end, Verdasco’s compatriot, Feliciano Lopez held his nerve to seal a memorable encounter (24-23) for Nagpur. 

First up, legends Alex Corretja and Rainer Schuettler started the proceedings for the evening and had little hesitation in hanging at the back of the court. Both men started gently from the baseline and focused on controlled play. 

The pattern of rallying and holding serve continued until, the German had set points. However, the Spaniard quickly saved the break-point and took the match into a tie-breaker. In the end, a few unforced errors from Schuettler helped Corretja eke out a tight win by 5-4. 

Jelena Jankovic and Heather Watson too, engaged in some intriguing, long rallies from the baseline. Both ladies adjusted to the conditions well, but the Brit dropped her serve and the Serb seemed to be running away with the lead. However, Watson did well to get the break back immediately and stretched the match into a second tie-breaker of the evening.  

In the breaker, Watson and Jankovic went through some nervy moments, but the former World no. 1 drew upon all her experience to nudge ahead and win the set 5-4. After dropping two sets in a row and trailing Nagpur 8-10, the home team was forced to play the catch-up game. 

As the players took the court for the mixed doubles, the crowd got excited in anticipation of some high-octane mixed-doubles tennis. Nagpur’s pairing of Jankovic/Lopez came into the match as the favourites and played like one. Chennai’s pair Verdasco/Watson committed quite a few errors to hand over the advantage to their opponents. In the end, a clinical display by Jankovic/Lopez helped the Orangers clinch the set 5-3. 

With a hat-trick of defeats in three sets, the home team was staring down the barrel and was desperately hoping for their men’s doubles pair to resurrect their fortunes. 

Both teams started serving well and Verdasco/Vishnu Vardhan did well to hang with the formidable pair of Lopez/Divij Sharan. With no breaks of serve till the ninth game, the set had to be decided by a third tie-break for the evening. Once again, it was the visitors who edged the hosts to lead by 20 games to 15. 

While many Chennai fans would have thought that their team would remain winless at home, Verdasco’s inspired tennis in the final set of the evening gave the home fans a glimmer of hope. Verdasco managed to break Lopez in the fifth game and nailed the final set 5-3 and took the match into an overtime. 

Verdasco remained in the zone and grabbed three consecutive games to further push the tie into a super-over time now. In the final, shoot-out tie-breaker of nine points, both players had match points, but Lopez held his nerve to clinch a thriller of a tie (24-23) for Nagpur.  

Although, Verdasco showed incredible resilience and fight, Chennai remained winless at home. The Orangers after having started their campaign on a positive will face the Hyderabad Aces on 29th, while Chennai too will face the Aces on the 30th November. 

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