Breaking bad for Benjamin Becker

Benjamin BeckerBenjamin Becker had no answer for Stanislas Wawrinka's power, losing in straight sets (AP)

The electronic hoardings flanking Nungambakkam's show court are armed with rexine covers. The chair umpire's high seat too owns a pull-over plastic sheet to save the soft cushion and the microphone from getting wet. But the court itself a surface that is in the process of hosting the 18th edition of the Chennai Open lies unforgivingly bare.

The first time it drizzled (for all of 45 seconds) on Wednesday during the big match of the evening, Stanislas Wawrinka versus Benjamin Becker, play was stopped for about a quarter of an hour. As the players walked off with the first set score tied at two-all, tournament director Gerry Armstrong emerged with a towel. Armstrong and 30 other boys spent the next few minutes physically mopping up the court.

When the match resumed, without any further warm-ups, Becker positioned himself on the deuce court to serve. The first serve found its mark, kicking up from down the middle towards Wawrinka's backhand. The eighth-ranked and top-seeded Swiss leaned back to counter the bounce and coiled up his right arm. Then he let it rip down the line. The ball exploded off the face of his racquet, darted deep towards the baseline and left the German gaping. 0-15.

Wanting nothing to do with Wawrinka's single-handed stunner again, Becker fired in his next serve, at 211 kmph, to the forehand side. Wawrinka replied with love this time around, blocking it back to begin a rally. Only, Becker didn't want one. He ran around it, waited for the ball to sit up to a comfortable height, and with plenty of shoulder, he screamed in an inside out forehand. The ball crashed into the net well below the tape. 0-30.

It was 0-40 within seconds following a double fault (first serve long, second short of the net). And it was game Wawrinka a moment later when Becker committed his fourth service error in as many attempts (first serve short, second long). Wawrinka had cashed in with a break immediately after the stoppage to go up 3-2. But the weather in Chennai would give Becker an equal chance soon enough.

... contd.

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