Karman and Bouchard pass the first test

No amount of out-of-competition drill can quite prepare you for dragging your aches and pains through a full day of in-tournament action.

Chennai was hosting its first Tour-level tournament in five and a half years. Karman Thandi was playing her first Tour-level main draw match in four years. Eugenie Bouchard was playing her first Tour-level main draw match in 18 months.

Chennai seemingly passed the test. Karman and Bouchard definitely did, beating eighth seed Chloe Paquet of France 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 and Swiss Joanne Zuger 7-6(4), 6-2 respectively to set up a mouth-watering second-round clash at the WTA Chennai Open.

Monday will be extra special for Karman, for she beat a player ranked 250 places above her (109) for what was her second-ever 250-level match-win.

“This is very special, because it is at home,” Karman said. “It wasn’t an easy match. But I stayed put and fought hard. The crowd helped. I could feel the energy. Will power and grit to fight, that’s what I showed.”

Standout shots

Karman went up 3-1 in the first set only to lose it 4-6 by double-faulting on set point. But she shrugged off the disappointment relatively quickly, breaking to love at 3-3 in the second set, with two powerful forehand winners the standout shots.

Karman’s serve came under pressure immediately after, as Paquet earned a break point. But the Indian whipped a low ball for a fine forehand winner to get out of jail, and then levelled the match, courtesy two gritty service holds. In the third, Paquet was 2-0 up but Karman won six of the next seven games to coast to victory.

“I took a break [after the first set], refreshed and told myself that it was like love-all,” the 24-year-old. “To find solutions to what was happening was the main goal and I could do it pretty often and that’s how the match came my way.”

Earlier, Bouchard set the tone with a straight-sets victory over Zuger to charm the sparse but enthusiastic crowd. The Canadian didn’t play a flawless match, but shaded the tennis when it mattered the most.

Bouchard and Zuger traded early breaks before the former established a 4-1 lead. Bouchard’s was the flatter stroke, hitting with near-zero net clearance. Zuger’s tennis was more controlled, but not as penetrative.

But the tables soon turned, as Zuger restored parity and even broke in the eleventh game to serve for the set. But on set-point, Bouchard came up with a crunching backhand down-the-line return winner. It deflated Zuger and the Swiss never recovered.

The results (first round): Eugenie Bouchard (Can) bt Joanne Zuger (Sui) 7-6(4), 6-2; Karman Thandi bt Chloe Paquet (Fra) 4-6, 6-4, 6-3; Rebecca Marino (Can) bt Anna Blinkova 7-5, 6-2; Katarzyna Kawa (Pol) bt Astra Sharma (Aus) 6-4, 6-3; Nao Hibino (Jpn) bt Jana Fett (Cro) 6-0, 6-4; En Shuo Liang (Tpe) bt Linda Fruhvirtova (Cze) 4-6, 6-1, 6-3; Qiang Wang bt Yanina Wickmayer 6-4, 1-6, 6-4.

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