LONDON, GREAT BRITAIN: World No. 1 Stephane Houdet took just 39 minutes to get his London 2012 Paralympic Games challenge off to a winning start when he beat Thailand’s Suthi Khlongrua 61 60 in the opening match on Centre Court at Eton Manor.
It was the second time in two Paralympic Games that Houdet had beaten Khlongrua by the same score aft er they met in the second round of the men’s singles in Beijing in 2008.
Houdet started the match with two aces before serving out the first game to love and dropped jus two points on Khlongrua’s serve before taking a 2-0 lead with a crisp forehand winner.
Khlongrua found it hard to cope with the power generated by Houdet at times and the Frenchman, a former talented junior able-bodied player, soon opened up a 3-0 lead
Khlongrua remained resilient and pulled out some stunning shots down the line en route to earning his first game point of the match in the fourth game and got himself on the score board when Houdet mishit a backhand that sailed out of court.
However, thereafter Houdet dominated the remainder of the set and at 5-1 up he powered a cross court backhand to set up three set points. Khlongrua saved the first set point with a fine cross court backhand of his own, but Houdet place a winner down the line on the second set point match m to firmly seize control of the match.
Houdet again started confidently in the second set, serving out the second game to love to take a 2-0 lead and quickly extended his lead to 3-0. Another powerful service game ended with Houdet firing down an unreturnable serve to take the game for the loss of just one point.
Khlongrua should be proud of the way he fought against the world’s top ranked player and took the next game to deuce game before earning another game point. But the Thai world No. 103 failed to connect cleanly with an attempt at a backhand from just inside the service line and Houdet made the most of the opportunity to move to within one game of victory, amid some enthusiastic French support.
Although Klongrua managed to get two more points on the board in the last game of the match, Houdet brought up his first match point with a forehand winner and then placed a backhand dwon the centre of the court to seal his first round victory and set up a second round against Brazil’s Mauricio Pomme.
“It was nice to play on Centre Court this morning, with the atmosphere and with the crowd,” said Houdet, who was a singles quarterfinalist on his Paralympic debut in Beijing four years ago. “This morning was perfect conditions to play tennis and I was really surprised by the crowd, they really enjoyed it. This court is faster and less used which is perfect. I hope I will always play on this one. This one suits perfectly to my game.”
Follow the scores from the Paralympic Tennis Event on the Schedule page.