Hedonists, racquet-trashers and combustible on-court personalities aren’t rare in Russia. Add to that an intrinsic tendency to play mercurial tennis, and it renders an exciting mix. Alexander Kudryavtsev is one such player.
On Saturday, in the final of the Shriram Capital-P.L. Reddy Memorial ATP $50,000 Challenger, he showed glimpses of his various facets before Yuki Bhambri beat him 4-6, 6-3, 7-5. That the seventh seeded Indian hung in there in spite of struggling and handled the tricky Russian with elan says a lot about his mental make-up.
The Indian then made it a grand ‘double’, pocketing the doubles crown as well, in partnership with Michael Venus, by beating Sriram Balaji and Blaz Rola 6-4, 7-6(3). The singles victory — his third Challenger title — will give Bhambri 80 ranking points, and is certain to push him into the World’s top-150.
“It’s my first double,” said Bhambri. “Definitely lucky in singles. Barely got out of it.”
“I don’t think my tactics worked today. He (Kudryavtsev) is a great hitter. I needed to be patient. In the first set I just wanted to put the ball back in play. In the second and third, I got a bit more aggressive.
“It’s good to come back from a down-and-out situation. I am very happy to have pulled it off.”
From the outset, Bhambri worked to a set plan. Serves were directed wide to the backhand to keep the Russian’s lethal forehand out of play. Bhambri’s chance of winning points lay in the first three or four exchanges, for, when drawn into a rally, the Russian showed a remarkable ability to out-hit his opponent from virtually any position.
Kudryavtsev hit nine aces to Bhambri’s zero. Yet, his first serve percentage was a paltry 48. Bhambri, though, took his time to find a way to capitalise; he improved as the match wore on but before that Kudryavtsev broke in the tenth game to take the first set.
The Russian went 3-1 up in the second and was seemingly in control; it looked like curtains for Bhambri.
Then, Kudryavtsev started imploding. Bhambri reeled off five games in a row, helped partly by some erratic play by Kudryavtsev.
Fortunes swung wildly in the third set. Bhambri had a tough hold for 1-0 staving off three break points. Kudryavtsev broke to love in the third game, but was under pressure on his serve immediately having to fend off five breakpoints to go 3-1 up.
However, parity was restored at 3-3.
Kudryavtsev kept both Bhambri and the crowd on tenterhooks, for no one seemed to know what to expect from him. A jaw-dropping winner would be followed by the most unforced of errors with both the court and the opponent at his mercy.
There was suspense even as he served for the match at 5-4. A break was on the cards and, sure enough, Bhambri broke to love.
A crucial hold after fending off multiple break points, gave Bhambri a 6-5 lead, leaving the Kudryavtsev having to hold to stay in the match.
Typically, Kudryavtsev double-faulted on match point to hand Bhambri the win.
The results: Final: Singles: Yuki Bhambri bt Alexander Kudryavtsev (Rus) 4-6, 6-3, 7-5. Doubles: Yuki Bhambri & Michael Venus bt Sriram Balaji & Blaz Rola (Slo) 6-4, 7-6(3).