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Michon wins battle of French southpaws

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France’s Axel Michon plays a shot during his ITF NagaWorld Futures second round match against compatriot Julien Demois, Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012, at the National Training Centre. Photograph: Sreng Meng Srun/Phnom Penh Post
Third seeded Axel Michon won a fierce battle of French left handers against Julien Demois 7-6, 6-2 to book his place in the quarterfinals of the ITF NagaWorld Futures tennis championships at the National Training Centre today.
 
For sheer entertainment and quality of tennis, nothing could match the toe-to-toe, stroke-for-stroke contest between the southpaws.

The high intensity first set was inevitably settled on a tie-break after both held their serves in a sequence of 12 games that saw some intense baseline slugging at both ends.

The third seed took the set solely because he played the points that mattered with greater finesse than his compatriot. But an early break in the second set shifted the momentum firmly to the Michon corner, as Demois began to feel his legs.

“We both served well in the first set. Just a few good points I had in the tie-breaker helped me to wrap it up. The early break was to my advantage in the second. I must say Demois played very well,” Michon told the Post after his victory.

Demois, who had beaten Cambodia’s Bun Kenny in straight sets in the first round on Monday, rued his missed chances in the tie-break. “I was getting tired in the second and Axel is a very steady and good player,” he said.

Joining Michon in the round of eight were two of his fellow Frenchmen, fifth seeded Antoine Escoffier and eighth seeded Sebastien Boltz.

The long-haired Escoffier turned his second round against Minh Quan Do into a stroll in the park, winning 12 games in a row to hand out a love sets defeat to the Vietnamese qualifier, who had an easy time against Cambodia’s Mam Phalkun in the first round.

The French quarterfinal trifecta was completed by Boltz, who had to dig deep into his reserves to beat a somewhat edgy and self critical Sergey Shipilov of Uzbekhistan 3-6, 6-4, 6-4.

After taking the first set the Uzbekh was progressively losing his grip on the game and his cool on the court, his racket bearing the brunt of his frustration.

Second seeded Marin Bradaric was given a tough ride by Taipei qualifier Ting Yu Chuang before the Croatian found his weaponry working with precision to polish off his second round victory at 6-4, 6-4.

The Gao Wan first round bubble was burst on Court 2 as the Chinese right hander, who had scalped top seeded Jeevan Neduncheziyan on Tuesday proved a one-round sensation.

Unfazed by the blaze of publicity Gao got for that pricey win, New Zealander Artem Sitak had a sound game plan in place to counter the Chinaman’s aggression. The Kiwi dourly defended his half and never loosened his grip on the match, eventually winning it 6-4, 6-4.

Lanky Israeli qualifier Dekel Bar put up a stiff fight against sixth seeded Maximilian Neuchrist, but the Austrian had the last chuckle.

Going into the tie-breaker, the first set was any body's until the Croatian built up a six-point cushion to dash Dekel’s hope of a revival.

The two were evenly poised at the half way stage of the second set before Neuchrist stole a decisive march to win 7-6, 6-3.

Indonesia's Elbert Sie conceded his second round to Mico Santiago of the United States after the two had shared the first two sets 4-6, 6-0.

The American was 2-0 up in the third when the Indonesian, clearly in distress due to heat exhaustion, decided to pull out. 

Fukuda works Japanese magic

How old is too old in competitive tennis? Clutching his wildcard firmly in one hand, Katsushi Fukuda went on to show his 19-year-old second round rival Wang Hufu of China that 36 is not over the hill.

It was more a contest between a master and a pupil, one where experience trumped youth by a long way.

Showing admirable court craft and sense of direction, the Japanese veteran pulled off what goes down as an amazing straight sets victory at 7-6, 6-0.

It was not that the Chinese youngster played badly, it was just that the Japanese old war horse was performing better all the time.

Fukuda, whose feather touch gives an impression that a bare minimum effort goes into his strokes, clearly took Wang by surprise bordering on frustration.

There were vital lessons to be learnt for the young Chinese, the number one being the art of keeping the ball in play, which Fukuda unfailingly did in this memorable second round win which gets him into a quarterfinal match up against American Santiago.

 To contact the reporter on this story: H S Manjunath at hirimanju@yahoo.com

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