| Carlos Moya of Spain with the trophy in Chennai on Sunday. (AFP)
Chennai: Former world No.1 Carlos Moya of Spain started the ATP season in style, beating defending champion Paradorn Srichaphan in a closely fought match in the Tata Open on Sunday. Playing before a packed stadium, the Spaniard defeated the Thai star 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5) in a match that lasted 114 minutes.
Moya, the 1998 French Open champion, became the fourth top seeded player to claim the title. This was his 15th tour title and his second win against Srichaphan. With the rivals playing to their potential, the match went right down to the wire and Moya won the last two points, particularly the match point on Srichaphan’s serve, as the latter sent the ball wide and long. Moya summed up his match as one of the best finals he had played and gave credit to Srichaphan for his recovery in the second set.
“Paradorn is a champion and took the match to the wire today. It was a situation where one of us had to win and I was able to do it to start the season on a good note,” he said. Srichaphan returned Moya’s compliments and said, “I hope Moya and I will be able to keep up this momentum throughout the year”.
From the outset, Srichaphan matched his higher-seeded rival, even though his first serves deserted him. The players had to earn their points the hard way until 4-4. Srichaphan started off with an ace and repeated the compliment of winning the game at 40-0. The way in which the players went about their task in a power-packed serve and volley game, indicated that the match would go the full length.
Moya claimed his ninth game in his usual style mixing his forehand and double-handed returns to power packed serves and then banked on his experience to win the set at 6-4. Srichaphan let himself be broken in the tenth game and lost the initiative to Moya.
Down a break point, Srichaphan argued with the chair umpire on a line call. He never recovered from that position and lost the first set.
In the second, Srichaphan stuck to the baseline, concentrated on his return and kept the ball in play for Moya to make mistakes. But the Spaniard was in excellent form and hardly allowed Srichaphan to dictate terms. More often than not, Moya was able to score points on his double-handed passing shots with Srichaphan stuck at the other end.
However, Srichaphan applied himself well in Moya’s third game and came out on top. He made Moya run from end to end with effective placements and was praised by the knowledgable crowd. Moya failed to improve from a break point down and the Thai went on to lead 2-1.
Though Srichaphan broke Moya in the third game, he had the turn point in his eighth game. For the first time in the match, there were successive rallies and on all the three occasions the Thai bettered Moya. Here, Srichaphan, having held his eighth game with remarkable recovery shots, grew in confidence. He gained control and transformed the match in his favour to a great extent. Srichaphan broke Moya in the ninth game of the second set. There was nothing to choose between the rivals in the decider, which went on serves until 4-4 but Srichaphan was at his best, testing Moya on both back and forehand. He kept up the tempo of playing all court game and led 5-4.
In the tie-break, Moya, equipped with lot of variety, led 2-1 and then made it 3-3 but Srichaphan was gaining ground as the Spaniard looked to be under pressure. The Thai led 5-3, but failed to cross the net after a short rally. Moya, serving 4-5, engaged Srichaphan in a rally and the latter sent the ball wide. Facing a match point on 5-7, Srichaphan failed to get his first serve in and managed a 124 kmph second. Moya pounced on the opportunity to hit a blistering inside out forehand return, which just fell on the line, forcing Srichaphan to hit it out to concede the match.
Unseeded Rafael Nadal and Tommy Robredo of Spain shocked top seeded Israeli pair of Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram 7-6 (7-3), 4-6, 6-3 to lift the doubles title on Sunday.
The Nadal-Robredo victory made it a Spanish sweep. The Spaniards held a slight edge as they played an attacking game, putting the top seeds under pressure. Nadal was more pronounced in his forehand smashes from the net which helped them to hold their serves on many occasions.
The Isarelis too played well, but a few errors on crucial stages cost them the match which did not rise to any great height. (PTI)