Ramkumar falls in straight sets to sixth-seeded Granollers
Italian third seed Fabio Fognini and Chinese Taipei’s Yen-Hsun Lu joined Janko Tipsarevic — who pulled out even before a ball was hit — and Mikhail Youzhny on the list of players whose withdrawals have marred the Aircel Chennai Open so far.
Fognini, who had pulled out of the doubles competition two days earlier citing trouble with his left quadriceps, was trailing Yuki Bhambri 1-6, 5-5 when he decided to throw in the towel, thus sending an Indian into the quarterfinals of an ATP tour event for the first time since Somdev Devvarman in 2009.
However, there were to be no more heroics from local lad R. Ramkumar, as he lost 6-2, 6-4 to sixth seed Marcel Granollers.
Lu, nursing his right quadriceps, gave up even before a ball was struck against fifth seed Vasek Pospisil.
“It’s the same injury,” Fognini said. “I was feeling better since yesterday, that’s for sure. Otherwise I would not have turned up. After the last practise (Thursday morning) I felt better. I was, may be, 70 per cent (fit). I was actually happy to come again (to Chennai) this year. Last time I came (2012) I was injured. Now I am injured again. May be I will be third time lucky.”
The injury, coming as it did just ten days before the start of the Australian Open, the World No.16 looked anxious.
“Right now, if you ask me about it (going to Australia), I would say no,” he said. “But I’ll probably go home, assess (the injury) and then decide. Let’s see.”
Going for his shots
The flamboyant Italian did show glimpses of the kind of shot-making he is known for. His forehands, when hit from the sweet spot, were lethal. His movement was restricted, as expected, but his reach, even when static, was exemplary.
However, it was the curtailment of Fognini’s movement that Bhambri sought to exploit. In a marked difference from his earlier match — where his plan at the outset was to stay with his rival — the 21-year-old Indian opened up the court with well directed serves that drew his opponent wide.
Though Bhambri lacked the power to blast the ball past Fognini, he did induce a slew of errors, especially off the Italian’s backhand slice that either hit the net or went long.
Breaks in the fourth and sixth games were enough to clinch the set.
The performance was by no means flawless. On more than one occasion, Bhambri seemed to lose concentration.
He continued to open up the court as he had done in the first set but played it safe. On any other day, a top-20 player would have punished him.
But Bhambri did hit some incredible winners, even wrong-footing Fognini on a couple of occasions.
There were to be no fist pumps after the victory, nor were arms thrown up in glee. A wide grin said it all.
“I’ll take the win,” Bhambri said after emulating Somdev Devvarman.
“We work hard to get there on court. Reaching the quarterfinals is special, more so in Chennai. To beat the World No. 64 and the No.16 for a set-and-a-half is great.
“I hope to play a great match tomorrow too (against Pospisil). I’ll back myself and am hoping to have a third good day.”
Second round: Singles: Yuki Bhambri (Ind) bt 3-Fabio Fognini (Ita) 6-1, 5-5 retired.; 5-Vasek Pospisil w/o Yen-Hsun Lu (Tpe); 6-Marcel Granollers (Esp) bt R. Ramkumar (Ind) 6-2, 6-4.