Sriram Balaji laboured for more than three hours to get past Vishnu Vardhan, prevailing 5-7, 6-3, 7-6(4) in the semifinals of the $10,000 ITF men’s Futures tennis tournament here on Friday. Yuki Bhambri beat fifth-seeded Torsten Wietoska of Germany 6-3, 6-1 in the other semifinal.

Third-seeded Balaji missed a set-point in the ninth game and went on to lose the first set. But he served better and found his rhythm and timing in the second set; he stepped it up whenever he intensified his focus. After breaking for 5-3, he served the set out at love.

The decider was a scrappy affair. Balaji broke Vishnu in the first game but struggled to hold, having to save four break-points. Vishnu got the break back in the fourth game.

Balaji found himself serving for the match after breaking Vishnu at love for 6-5, but dropped serve again.

Balaji shrugged off a sluggish start in the tie-break to open up a 5-2 lead, and went on to close the match out in style with a service winner and a backhand volley.

Balaji conceded that the fact that he had never beaten Vishnu in a full match before in four meetings was playing on his mind, keeping him from playing his best.

In contrast, Bhambri was quick to shut out Wietoska, a quality player, with his attacking style. The top seed returned aggressively and opened up the court by pushing his opponent into the corners.

Wietoska saved himself the embarrassment of a bagel in the second set, managing to save a breakpoint and holding serve after going down 0-3. After that, it was Bhambri all the way.

Later, Balaji and V.M. Ranjeet won their seventh title together defeating R. Ramkumar and Ashwin Vijayragavan 7-6(3), 6-3 in the doubles final.

Doordarshan will telecast the singles final ‘live’ on Saturday morning.

The results: Singles (semifinals): Yuki Bhambri bt Torsten Wietoska (Ger) 6-3, 6-1; Sriram Balaji bt Vishnu Vardhan 5-7, 6-3, 7-6(4). Doubles (final): Sriram Balaji and V. M. Ranjeet bt R. Ramkumar and Ashwin Vijayragavan 7-6(3), 6-3.

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