Parmar empties reserve tank to seal dramatic victory

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The Independent Online

Hitchin's Arvind Parmar hammed it up by falling backwards to the ground after what was in every sense a staggering success over the Brazilian Andre Sa yesterday evening.

A few minutes before completing a 7-6, 6-7, 6-4, 4-6, 8-6 victory in the longest and most dramatic match of the tournament, at four hours 12 minutes, he had been lying flat on his back having treatment for cramp; soon after that, he was lurching around like a punch-drunk fighter who had climbed off the ropes, to save a match point in extraordinary fashion.

Sa, qualifying for the tournament as a "lucky loser", could consider himself an unlucky one this time, but after being beaten by Parmar in five sets for the second year running, he could only admire the Briton's fortitude. Parmar's problem now will be to overcome a sore groin in time for tomorrow's second-round match against Yevgeny Kafelnikov.

It was another long, attritional baseline match, with the first two sets being divided after reaching a tie-break. Parmar took the first of these shoot-outs 6-3, but should not have allowed the second set to be prolonged that far, wasting two break points at a crucial stage.

As the clock ticked on at two sets each, limbs began to seize up and, in the final set, holding serve became almost beyond either man. Parmar broke early, then had to call the trainer for a time-out and a vigorous leg massage.

On his return after the statutory three minutes, both men's concentration seemed to have been affected: each lost his serve to love, leaving Parmar 3-2 up before double-faulting to lose his serve once more.

At 5-6 and serving at barely half power, he faced a match point, saved in astonishing fashion by a sliced second serve ace. "I thought: 'Sod it, let's do it and get off the court'," he said later. "I think I've used all my luck up for the year." Somehow, he managed to break through again, then hang on to convert a third match point after wasting two.

"It crossed my mind I might have to give up, but I thought 'what's the point of pulling out after four-and-a-half sets', so I just started swinging," he added. "You kind of hit a level where it is not getting any worse. The main problem was that I couldn't land on my legs ­ I just tried to deal with it as best I could."

It all added up to something of a redemption for a player criticised by the then Davis Cup captain, David Lloyd, as being unable to last five sets, who lost a two-sets-to-love lead in the Davis Cup humiliation by Ecuador.

Lee Childs, the teenager who also made his Davis Cup debut in the past 12 months and may be a better long-term prospect, took a set off Nicolas Massu of Chile, a top 100 player, before going down 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4.

"I felt I served badly and that cost me a little bit," he said of the most notable weapon in his armoury, which was famously recorded at 107mph as an 11-year-old. Eight years on, he says: "I don't feel out of my depth against these guys and I'm going in the right direction."

Elena Baltacha, Hannah Collin and Laura Woodroffe were unable to follow Monday's unlikely heroine, Karen Cross, into the second round.

Baltacha, the Scottish-Ukrainian promoted to the Centre Court, was outgunned 6-1 in the first set by Nathalie Dechy, of France, before serving impressively in losing the second 7-5.

Collin was beaten 6-4, 6-2 by Emilie Loit, of France, and her Surrey neighbour Lorna Woodroffe was beaten 7-5, 6-4 by Iroda Tulyaganova, of Uzbekistan, a 19-year-old who broke into the top 100 at the end of last year and is already down to No 55. That is the sort of progress that British women can only envy at the moment.