Si­tak gets in­sight into top-level sin­gles

Nelson Mail - - SPORT - TEN­NIS

New Zealand dou­bles spe­cial­ist Artem Si­tak has lost in the first round at the ASB Clas­sic, go­ing down to French­man Jeremy Chardy 6-4 6-2.

The first set was tight, with Chardy try­ing to tar­get Si­tak’s back­hand, not re­al­is­ing it was one of his great strengths.

But Si­tak was bro­ken at 3-3 in the open­ing set and later at 3-5 had to save two set points, one of them com­ing with a sec­ond serve ace. How­ever, two games later the set was Chardy’s.

The start of sec­ond set was tight again. How­ever, the more ex­pe­ri­enced sin­gles player, Chardy was able to play just a bit bet­ter and got two breaks later in the set.

‘‘I had a lot of fun there,’’ Si­tak said af­ter­wards. ‘‘It was re­ally cool to play against a player of his high cal­i­bre. I don’t think I’ve ever played a sin­gles match against a guy who plays that fast and big.

‘‘It was fun to see that and I could see why he was top 30. He’s now 70 in the world, but he can eas­ily get back up there.’’

It was some­thing of a sur­prise that Si­tak got to play in the main draw of the Clas­sic, but he played an out­stand­ing match to beat Finn Tear­ney 6-2 6-0 in the fi­nal of the NZ Champs be­fore Christ­mas and he cer­tainly didn’t dis­grace him­self against Chardy.

‘‘I had no ex­pec­ta­tions at all,’’ he said. ‘‘I just wanted to play well, have fun and hope­fully en­gage and please the crowd. I think I didn’t play as well as I could have, but he didn’t give me a chance to play well. He was hit­ting re­ally fast and tak­ing every ball on the rise and all I did out there was run side to side.

‘‘I couldn’t do any­thing to pres­sure him, ex­cept for my serve. I think I served well in the first set.’’

Si­tak’s chances of win­ning a match at the Clas­sic will be stronger on Wed­nes­day when he and Ni­cholas Mon­roe from USA take on Kiwi Michael Venus and Robert Lind­st­edt from Swe­den in the last match of the evening ses­sion. Si­tak and Mon­roe reached the semi­fi­nal of the ATP event in Chen­nai last week.

Ear­lier, Mar­cos Bagh­datis has won his first match in Auckland, 11 years af­ter his first at­tempt to do so.

The Cypriot, who got to the fi­nal of the Aus­tralian Open in 2006, lit up Cen­tre Court on Tues­day night, beat­ing Adrian Man­nar­ino from France 6-4 6-4.

It was by far the best match over the week and a half of ten­nis in Auckland and Bagh­datis has in­stantly be­come a crowd favourite. He came to Auckland in 2006 and lost in the first round on court two, then in 2014 he was back and lost first up on the Grand­stand court.

Fifth-seed Al­bert RamosVi­no­las was dumped out in the first round by Por­tu­gal’s Joao Sousa, 6-1, 7-5. Three Aus­tralian ten­nis play­ers have been found guilty of cor­rup­tion by the sport’s in­ter­na­tional in­tegrity watch­dog, only days af­ter an­other promis­ing ju­nior was charged with match fix­ing.

A Ten­nis In­tegrity Unit in­ves­ti­ga­tion also re­vealed that the only con­firmed crim­i­nal case of match fix­ing in Aus­tralia was sig­nif­i­cantly wider than was first thought, rais­ing fur­ther ques­tions about the con­duct of the na­tion’s young ten­nis play­ers.

The TIU con­firmed in a state­ment that Nick Lin­dahl, Bran­don Walkin and Isaac Frost were all found to have com­mit­ted cor­rup­tion of­fences in re­la­tion to a match at a tour­na­ment in Toowoomba in 2013.

Lin­dahl, 28, was banned for seven years and fined US$35,000 (NZ$50,000) for his role in the fix, which oc­curred at a Fu­tures tour­na­ment in Toowoomba in Septem­ber, 2013.

Walkin, 22, was hit with a six­month sus­pen­sion, sus­pended for six months, and Frost, 28, with a year sus­pen­sion, which he has al­ready served.

Lin­dahl and an­other former player, Matthew Fox, are the only peo­ple to have faced crim­i­nal charges in con­nec­tion with the fixed match. Both were con­victed. A coach and an­other player, Adam Feeney, were also linked to the case, but they were never charged.

The in­volve­ment of Walkin and Frost, nei­ther of whom had been highly-ranked but who reg­u­larly played in tour­na­ments in Aus­tralia and in­ter­na­tion­ally, in­di­cates that at least five play­ers were aware of Lin­dahl’s match fix­ing.

It was re­vealed last week that Oliver An­der­son, the reign­ing Aus­tralian Open boys cham­pion, had been charged by Vic­to­ria Po­lice with match fix­ing of­fences in re­la­tion to a tour­na­ment in Trar­al­gon last Oc­to­ber.

It is un­der­stood An­der­son was ap­proached to drop the open­ing set of his first-round match at the tour­na­ment.

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

Artem Si­tak of New Zealand plays a shot against Jeremy Chardy of France at the ASB Clas­sic last night.

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