Somdev Devvarman’s title hopes were dashed as the second-seeded Indian fell to third-seeded Evgeny Donskoy of Russia in the semifinals of the State Bank of India $50,000 ATP Challenger at the BTA Complex here on Friday.

Devvarman, who looked in good touch after some impressive performances during the tournament, faltered after making a strong start. The highest-ranked Indian (current ranking 100) in the pro circuit seemed on course for another victory when he broke Donskoy in the very first game and held on to the advantage to win the opening set 6-3.

The 29-year-old Indian, who scored a comeback win against the 23-year-old Donskoy in an ATP event in Miami in March last year, saw the Russian hit back with revenge. The form and shape of his game appeared to suddenly desert Devvarman when the Russian came hard at him with forehand returns in the second set.

The players traded four breaks from the fourth to seventh games before the Russian levelled the contest with another break in the 12th game.

In the decider, Devvarman failed to raise the bar and remained more of a retriever as his opponent pounded winners with his penetrative approach. Donskoy broke Devvarman twice in the third set to script a great comeback win — 3-6, 7-5, 6-2 — in two hours and 24 minutes.

“I did not feel well with my game in the opening set, but my returns got going in the second and I felt more comfortable with my shots. In the final set, I got two to three good winners that appeared to have unsettled my opponent,” said Donskoy.

The Russian will face giant-killer Illija Bozoljac, the Serbian Davis Cupper, in the final on Saturday. The unseeded Bozoljac, who is ranked 270th in the world, showed great temperament and tact to outplay the top-seeded Aleksandr Nedovyesov in the other semifinal.

The Serbian, down 6-0 and 3-0 at one point, made a dramatic turnaround, easily the best in the tournament.

Bozoljac, whose previous best was an appearance in the final of an ATP Challenger at Fergana, Uzbekistan, in September last year, outclassed his 93rd-ranked opponent with a great display of mental endurance in a battle that lasted nearly two hours.

Myneni-Sanam win

While Devvarman’s exit ended India’s challenge in singles, the doubles crown went to Saketh Myneni and Sanam Singh who defeated compatriots Divij Sharan and Vishnu Vardhan 6-3, 3-6, 10-4 in the final.

The results: Singles (semifinals): Illija Bozoljac (Srb) bt Aleksandr Nedovyesov (Kaz) 0-6, 7-5, 6-3; Evgeny Donskoy (Rus) bt Somdev Devvarman 3-6, 7-5, 6-2.

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