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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Alves gives Simon a tough scrap

Photo Titled Gilles Simon
Gilles Simon
In something of a David and Goliath contest, eighth seed Gilles Simon finally triumphed against Brazilian Thiago Alves after two hours 37 minutes of play, winning in four sets, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.

On paper, the Frenchman should have made mincemeat of the Brazilian, ranked 111 places beneath him. And the opening game of the match had the crowd believing it would be thus. The scene was set as Simon thumped down a trio of aces followed by a neat approach to net and volley to snap up the first game in the blink of an eye. But this was a script that the (p)lucky loser had simply not read.

Alves only earned his debut place at the tournament courtesy of Rafael Nadal’s withdrawal. Intriguingly, he was also a lucky loser at the French Open, but he lost in the first round.

In this, their first encounter, Alves quickly showed how he likes to run around the ball to use his favoured forehand. And he put its power to good use, the echo of its energy reverberating around the court. By the 11th game, the 24-year-old Simon was looking a little bemused at the level of quality on the opposite side of the court, and his defensive backhand strategy of pumping the ball back across the net and waiting for Alves to make an unforced error was not working.

Alves took his chance for the first break, and followed it up with a strong service game for the first set.

In the second set, the 27-year-old Alves had a couple of advantageous net cord calls in his favour, including one to save break point. But it was the Frenchman who eventually broke, and he looked to the skies in relief at finally making the points pay. Simon’s service game for the set wasn’t easy, but the eighth seed got there.

The fourth game of the third set saw Alves earn a break point with that fearsome forehand, with which he then whipped up a delight of a lob for a 3-1 lead. But Simon’s break back was immediate. In the last game of the set, Alves ran deep to retrieve a Simon smash, but ran into a ballboy and the back wall.

He needed an ice pack for his racket wrist, but was soon playing the game again, though he dropped the third set a couple of points later.

By now, Simon was finding more of his superior form, and with dark, and deeply-focused, eyes revealing his intense concentration, he forced the break in the fifth game for a gutsy 3-2 lead. This was a lead he was not to relinquish, finally allowing him to serve out the match.

Court 3 - Gentlemen's Singles - 2nd Round
Thiago Alves BRA 7344
Gilles Simon FRA (8)Winner5666

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