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Sport - Tennis Printer Friendly Page   Send this Article to a Friend

Harsh crashes out

By Kalyan Ashok

BANGALORE, MARCH 29 . It was a contrasting display by the two Indian Davis Cuppers, Harsh Mankad and Prakash Amritraj. The fifth seed and champion at Chennai, Harsh Mankad, playing a rather subdued game crashed to a 6-3, 7-6(5) defeat against Uzbek qualifier Denis Istomin, while Prakash Amritraj struck the right chord with his big strokes to demolish Pakistan's No. 2 Aqeel Khan 6-1, 6-2 in the opening round of the $15,000 ITF men's Futures tennis championship at the KSLTA Stadium here on Monday.

In the 80-minute contest, Harsh was under pressure against the big hitting Uzbek who had played some close matches earlier in the qualifying rounds. With nothing much to lose, having made the main draw the hard way, Istomin, tested his Indian rival with hard hit ground-strokes and a booming first serve.

Harsh moved rather sluggishly in the first set and often ended up at the wrong end as Istomin kept him off balance with his searing returns and crisp volleys. He broke Harsh in the sixth game and went 4-2 up in the first set.

Harsh then turned the heat on his rival in the seventh game. After forcing two deuces, he held a break point with Istomin hitting a forehand wide. The Uzbek charged right back into the game, with a strong return and forced deuce No. 3 and grabbed the advantage with an ace and held serve for a 5-4 lead and closed it at 6-3.

In the second set, Harsh put up a much better display and he was getting his length right and despite conceding a break in the seventh game (3-4), he struck back in the 10th and squared the set score at 5-all. The set spilled into a tie-breaker where Istomin forged ahead to a 4-1 lead. Harsh made a valiant comeback, levelling at 5-all, but his luck ran out and Istomin ended it with a cracking volley winner past Harsh.

Simply devastating

Prakash Amritraj was all over Aqeel Khan with his all court play. Prakash was simply devastating with his returns and he matched Aqeel's serve, blasting a couple of big aces. Aqeel was simply outhit in a tie played at a scorching pace by Prakash who wrapped it all up in 49 minutes.

Prakash, who had a good outing at a Challenger in Ho Chi Min City last week, was upbeat about his form.

"Ever since that Davis Cup tie against China, I have been playing the right game and at Ho Chi Min City, I made the quarterfinals. My confidence level is up and I look forward to some tennis ahead," said Prakash.

Another Indian, who made a winning return to form was Rohan Bopanna. He was sidelined with an injury for seven months, before he played the championship at Chennai where he won the doubles title with Vijay Kannan. Rohan, ranked 682, beat the higher placed American, Eric Taino (404) at 4-6, 6-2, 6-4. Rohan won despite being tired after a three set doubles tie last night.The other Indian contenders, Vinod Sridhar and Vishal Uppal also moved up. Sridhar beat the German qualifier, Peter Mayer Fischer 7-5, 7-6(5).

The top seed, Aisam Quereshi of Pakistan doused a spirited resistance from qualifier, Ravishankar Pathanajali at 6-4, 7-5.

The results: (All Indians unless specified): Singles (first round): 7- Prakash Amritraj bt Aqueel Khan (Pak) 6-1, 6-2, Rohan Bopanna bt Eric Taino (U.S.) 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, 1-Aisam Quereshi (Pak) bt Ravishankar Pathanjali 6-4, 7-5, Kyu Tae Im (Kor) bt Kaushik Raju 6-2, 6-4, Denis Istomin (Uzb) bt 5-Harsh Mankad 6-3, 7-6(5), Nick Monroe (U.S.) bt Hayato Furakawa (Jpn) 6-0, 6-4, Vinod Sridhar bt Peter Mayer Fischer (Ger) 7-5, 7-6(5), 8-Rainer Eitziner (Aut) bt Richard Wire (GB) 7-6(5), 6-3, Vishal Uppal bt Vijay Kannan 6-2 (retd.), Jasper Smit (Ned) bt Jamie Delgado (GB) 6-1, 3-6, 6-3. 3-Simon Gruel (Ger) bt Konstantin Gruber (Aut) 6-3,6-4; Adam Fass (US) bt Karan Rastogi 6-4,6-4; Ivan Cerovic (Cro) bt Kai Lung Chang (Tpe)6-3,6-4; 4-Sebastian Ftiz (Ger) bt Sunil Kumar Sipaeya 6-3,7-6 (7-2).

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