CHENNAI: Yuki Bhambri won 104 points. Jordan Thompson won 103 points. But the Australian handled the bigger points better to clinch the Chennai Open Challenger in a gruelling encounter which lasted two hours and 37 minutes. While the 23-year-old Thompson, who came into the tournament with three first-round losses in January, will get back into the top-100 on Monday, Bhambri will be wondering about the denouement.
Especially when it was 30-40 in the tenth game of the deciding set. The Indian had match point on the Thompson serve. Bhambri was in control of the point itself but the Sydney native unfurled a superb backhand down the line winner to bring it to deuce. He then hit two aces down the T to level the match at 5-5. One sensed that the 25-year-old Indian had lost the opportunity. That premonition was proved right as a backhand Bhambri shank was enough to give Thompson his fifth title at this level. The match in itself (7-5, 3-6, 7-5) was up and down. Momentum swung between both players as they struggled for consistency. The surface was on the slower side and there were a total of 16 breaks (eight each) in the match. In the third set alone, there were seven breaks.
Thompson conceded that he had ‘got out of jail’. “I was on the back foot when I was facing match point,” he said. “He had a couple of deep forehands and I kept defending them. Finally, I had a shot that I thought could get a winner and took my chance. Maybe got a little lucky on match point... yeah got myself out of jail.”
While his major weapon is his ability to outlast opponents on the court, he does have a bigger serve than Bhambri and that’s what gave him the win. “My serve was up and down, yes (eight doubles faults and seven aces),” he said. “It wasn’t my best serving day but it gave me the win in the end. While Bhambri accepted that it came down to a few points, he said he won’t be spending too much over the nature of the defeat. “A loss is a loss.
Doesn’t matter if you lose after having a match point or not. Two days later, nobody is going to remember the scoreline.” His plan revolved around keeping the points short as Thompson’s strengths rely on retrieving skills. “I was always going to be the aggressor as he is a great retriever,” he explained. “You always look at the risk but you need to see whether it was the right shot or not.”
Unfortunately for him, the unforced errors shaded the winners and that made the difference.