The eighth-seeded Ukrainian squeezes through after a mid-match slump

“At 4-4 in the third set, on break point, I missed the down the line passing shot by…half an inch. Who knows, I could have been sitting on the winning side.”

And the difference, really, was that. Perhaps, it was even lesser than half an inch. Sanam Singh ran full throttle to try and beat Illya Marchenko at the net with a down-the-line winner. And failed.

At that moment, one sensed that the miss would prove decisive. So it did.

Eventually, eighth seed Marchenko escaped Sanam’s charge to win the first-round match 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 at the ONGC GAIL Delhi Open $100,000 ATP Challenger tennis tournament on Monday.

After two hours and ten minutes, a poor approach by Sanam Singh led to a netted volley and brought in the end.

However, the 26-year-old should take heart from this display, for Sanam had started abysmally.

In no time, the first set was conceded. Sanam’s struggle to come to terms with the court’s pace saw him commit numerous errors. Marchenko especially benefitted from hitting forehands laden with heavy top-spin to his opponent’s backhand.

“I started really slowly, but found my rhythm in the second set. Down a set and a break against a quality player, it’s tough to come back, but I found a way,” he said. And find a way he did.

The Indian was helped in no less measure by his opponent. Marchenko had won 71 per cent of the points on his first serve in the opening set, but the success rate fell to 43 in the second. Sanam’s strong returns of serve and aggressive play were much to blame for that.

Yet, Marchenko used his experience well in the decider to sneak through.

Third seed Peter Gojowczyk, though, failed to do the same as Egyptian Mohamed Safwat knocked him out 7-5, 7-5.

The results:

First round: Mohamed Safwat (Egy) bt Peter Gojowczyk (Ger) 7-5, 7-5; Illya Marchenko (Ukr) bt Sanam Singh 6-2, 3-6, 6-4; Marco Chiudinelli (Sui) bt Go Soeda (Jpn) 6-2, 6-1.

Final qualifying round: Ti Chen (Tpe) bt Richard Becker (Ger) 7-6 (4), 7-6 (2); Daniel Cox (Gbr) bt Prajnesh Gunneswaran 6-2, 6-1; Axel Michon (Fra) bt Kevin Krawietz (Ger) 5-7, 6-3, 6-4; Rui Machado (Por) bt Liang-Chi Huang (Tpe) 6-2, 6-2.

Doubles:

First round: Ti Chen (Tpe) and N. Sriram Balaji bt Steven Diez (Can) and Go Soeda 7-5, 6-4; Adrian Menendez-Maceiras (Esp) and Aleksandr Nedovyesov (Kaz) bt Lucas Pouille (Fra) and Matt Reid (Aus) 7-6 (5), 6-4; Matthias Bachinger (Ger) and Thomas Fabbiano (Ita) bt Ramkumar Ramanathan and V.M. Ranjeet 2-6, 6-2, 10-6; Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan and Vishnu Vardhan bt Ruben Gonzales (Phi) and Artem Sitak (Nzl) 6-3, 6-2; Michael Venus (Nzl) and Yuki Bhambri bt Ruan Roelofse and Izak van der Merwe (Rsa) 6-2, 6-3.

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