Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Kristian Pless of Denmark proved a hard nut to crack for Harsh Mankad and raced to a 6-4, 6-2 victory in the first round of the $50,000 Challenger tennis tournament here on Tuesday.

Mankad had a chance to nose ahead in the third game as Pless delivered three double faults and faced a break point, but the Dane came up with big serves and strong ground strokes to bail out of trouble.

Once Pless broke Mankad at love in the 10th game to pocket the first set, the writing was on the wall. In the second set, Mankad got broken in the fourth and eighth games while surrendering meekly.

The story was almost similar in the other matches featuring the Indians, except for the one between qualifier Rohan Gide and the second-seeded Gilles Muller of Luxembourg.

In a battle of the left-handers, Gide would have fancied his chances had he converted the break point in the 11th game of the first set. In the tie-breaker, Muller was a class apart and Gide paid for his over-enthusiasm in going for the big shots without getting into position. Gide was unable to serve well for long and was broken in the third and seventh games.

Another qualifier, Purav Raja, was good in patches but found Rajeev Ram of the U.S. too good, though it has to be admitted that the Indian’s challenge was snuffed out in the second set due to a bad call when the American’s big serve was under scrutiny.

Best match

In the best match of the day, Samuel Groth of Australia fired 25 aces and saved three match points in the second set tie-breaker to overcome the finalist of last week, sixth seed Brendan Evans of U.S. in two hours.

The results: Singles (first round): Yen-Hsun Lu (Tpe) bt Nick Lindahl (Aus) 3-6, 6-3, 6-0; Sun Peng (Chn) bt Olivier Charroin (Fra) 6-3, 6-2; Kristian Pless (Den) bt Harsh Mankad 6-4, 6-2; Samuel Groth (Aus) bt Brendan Evans (US) 4-6, 7-6(8), 6-4; Go Soeda (Jpn) bt Tushar Liberhan 6-1, 6-0; Alexandre Kudryavtsev (Rus) bt Toshihide Matsui (Jpn) 6-2, 6-4; Rajeev Ram (US) bt Purav Raja 6-1, 6-3; Gilles Muller (Lux) bt Rohan Gide 7-6(2), 6-2.

Doubles (quarterfinals): Alexandre Kudryavtsev (Rus) & Ilia Marchenko (Ukr) bt Lars Elvstroem & Kristian Pless (Den) 6-2, 6-1; Pre-quarterfinals: Yuki Bhambri & Kamala Kannan bt Sriram Balaji & Sunil Kumar 6-4, 7-6(3); Elvstroem & Pless w.o. Travis Rettenmaier (US) & Prakash Amritraj.

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