Janko Tipsarevic survived a severe, near forensic, examination of his game on Saturday to advance to the final of the Aircel Chennai Open. Aljaz Bedene, who had defeated Robin Haase and Stanislas Wawrinka in the two earlier rounds, stretched the second-seeded Tipsarevic before the Serb won 4-6, 6-2, 6-2.
Later, Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut made the final after a 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory over the fifth seed, France's Benoit Paire, in the second semifinal.
Playing his first ATP World Tour semifinal, the 23-year-old Bedene didn’t seem fazed by either the significance of the occasion or the stature of the opponent. After the introductory period, in which each gingerly tested the other, Bedene established the tone.
Stationing himself asymmetrically, to the left of centre, the Slovenian ensured he had a play on the forehand for most part. From here he used the inside-out stroke to pin Tipsarevic on his backhand. The tactic did two things: it forced Tipsarevic to hit his backhand down the line to avoid being stuck in an unequal rally; after he had missed two such strokes, the World No. 9 grew tentative and retreated further behind the baseline.
Creating an angle
Bedene now had the opportunity to create more of an angle wherever he chose to hit his forehand; he used this to hurt Tipsarevic even more. So successful was this tactic that when Tipsarevic was attempting to save a break-point at 4-All, 40-Ad, and he had a short ball to put away, he tried to avoid the Bedene forehand and ended up pushing it wide.
Tipsarevic had to find answers — the short cross-court backhand was an option, as was attempting the down-the-line again. Or he could position himself much as Bedene had, and start taking the initiative to change direction, but this time with his forehand.
Curiously, none of this happened; sure Tipsarevic hit two short cross-court backhands over sets two and three and he had better success with what Andre Agassi called the money shot, the two-hander down the line. But this was a case of Tipsarevic not so much addressing these questions as switching the question paper altogether.
He took a little off his first serve, just enough not to make too much of a difference but enough to improve its consistency, and started using serve-and-forehand patterns.
His serve taken care of, Tipsarevic tried keeping more balls in during return games and occasionally stepping into the court and hitting it with more intent. Bedene began making more errors, showing why, for all his potential, he isn’t top-50 yet.
The third set, despite the score-line, was a tight affair. Bedene found his forehand after it had gone walkabout; Tipsarevic, searching for the double break, began to tighten. There was plenty of drama in game seven: two net-cords that had Bedene apologising profusely, a racquet-rimmed overhead that allowed Tipsarevic to hold a tough service game.
That game settled the contest. Had Bedene managed the break, the set would have been back on serve and Tipsarevic will have felt the anguish of an opportunity lost. Instead Tipsarevic played freer to break Bedene and enter his second final in as many years.
Singles: Semifinals: 2-Janko Tipsarevic (Srb) bt Aljaz Bedene (Slo) 4-6, 6-2, 6-2; Roberto Bautista Agut (Esp) bt 5-Benoit Paire (Fra) 3-6, 6-1, 6-4.
Friday’s quarterfinal: Bautista Agut (Esp) bt 1-Tomas Berdych (Cze) 7-5, 2-6, 6-3.
Doubles: Friday’s quarterfinal: Sanchai Ratiwatana (Tha) & Sonchat Ratiwatana (Tha) bt Somdev Devvarman (Ind) & Sergiy Stakhovsky (Ukr) 6-3, 7-5.