Kudryavtsev beats Donskoy in a friends’ semifinal

It was a battle between two players whose paths never crossed each other’s. The closest they came to finding themselves on either side of the net was as hitting partners at various Davis Cup ties. There was indeed familiarity, but still unknown elements in each for the other to find out and exploit.

Yuki Bhambri and Somdev Devvarman set out to discover that in their semifinal match-up at the Shriram Capital-P.L. Reddy Memorial ATP $50,000 Challenger on Friday.

At the end, Bhambri came up trumps winning 6-2, 6-4 to book a place in the final. He will meet World No. 238 Alexander Kudryavtsev who beat World No. 130 and second seed Evgeny Donskoy 7-6(4), 6-3.

The seventh seeded Indian also made the doubles final giving himself a chance to earn a grand double. For that he will have to overcome the pair of Sriram Balaji — another of the Indian success stories — and Blaz Rola of Slovenia.

High tempo

The Bhambri-Devvarman affair settled into a high tempo from the first point. It was credit to both players that they didn’t turn it into a series of monotonous cross court exchanges.

Each player was willing to strike first. For Devvarman especially it was a marked difference from his earlier rounds where he was his subdued self.

Bhambri broke twice in the first set, to 3-2 and then 5-2. He attacked relentlessly, went for the lines with abandon and pegged Devvarman way back.

On his final service game he was down two break points. But it forced no rethink on Bhambri’s part as he continued the offensive and it succeeded.

The feat was repeated while serving for the match at 5-4 in the second set as well. The latter was particularly crucial as both players had struggled to hold serve until then.

There were only three holds — Bhambri twice and Devvarman once — in 10 games. In between, Devvarman made desperate attempts to shake things up, by making a couple forays into the forecourt, but failed.

“I missed a lot,” said Devvarman. “He played really well. I didn’t serve well at all. I held serve thrice and that’s a pretty bad stat. There can be no excuse for that. I am not playing great tennis. I need to go back to the drawing board.”

On his part, an ecstatic Bhambri said: “I didn’t expect this. I have nothing more to ask. I settled into a good rhythm and played really well. I hope to win both titles. Singles will be harder.

“He [Kudryavtsev] hits the ball really hard. I need to retrieve better and make the switch from defence to offence quickly.”

Tough match

The second semifinal was also between two players quite familiar with each other but with a difference. “It’s always tough to play against a friend,” said Kudryavtsev with a grin. “It’s easy to switch off for a while. Also you can’t say the things that you might with others on court. But you have to fight on the court and I am happy to win.”

The results (Semifinals): Singles: Yuki Bhambri bt Somdev Devvarman 6-2, 6-4; Alexander Kudryavtsev (Rus) bt Evgeny Donskoy (Rus) 7-6(4), 6-3.

Doubles: Sriram Balaji & Blaz Rola (Slo) bt Ti Chen (Tpe) & Marek Semjan (Svk) 6-3, 7-6(5); Yuki Bhambri & Michael Venus (Nzl) bt Ruben Gonzales (Phi) & Artem Sitak (Nzl) 6-2, 6-1.

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