Tennis

Leander lights up an otherwise dark day for Indians

Blaz Rola of Slovenia who won against Sumit Nagal of India at the Bengaluru Open-2020, ATP Challenger Tour at KSLTA on 13 February 2020. Photo: V Sreenivasa Murthy/The Hindu.

Blaz Rola of Slovenia who won against Sumit Nagal of India at the Bengaluru Open-2020, ATP Challenger Tour at KSLTA on 13 February 2020. Photo: V Sreenivasa Murthy/The Hindu.   | Photo Credit: V Sreenivasa Murthy

In singles, the Indian hopefuls — watched by Davis Cup coach Zeeshan Ali — drew a blank

Leander Paes’ fireworks lit up an otherwise dark day for Indians at the $1,62,000 Bengaluru Open ATP Tennis Challenger here on Thursday.

The Indian singles players — Prajnesh Gunneswaran, Sumit Nagal, Saketh Myneni, Sidharth Rawat, Ramkumar Ramanathan and Niki Poonacha — all faltered in their third round matches. It was left to Paes to lend some cheer to the goodly KSLTA crowd, and he did not disappoint.

It would not be an easy quarterfinal outing for Paes and his Australian partner Matthew Ebden, however, as they took on Tata Open Maharashtra champions Christopher Rungkat and Andre Goransson.

With Paes off-colour early in the encounter, Ebden carried the burden to help the pair claim the first set 7-5. Rungkat-Goransson fought back to take the second set without losing a game.

The stage was set for a dramatic super tiebreaker finish. Paes-Ebden did not start well, with Ebden making two unforced errors. A timely volley winner from Paes evoked a rallying cry from the veteran, who was keen to get the crowd involved. The move worked, as a pumped-up Paes then took control, putting away two crisp volleys and one overhead smash.

His serves — right down the ‘T’ — proved to be too hot to handle as well. Rungkat and Goransson, now reeling under pressure, threw in the towel a short while later.

Paes, who entered his first semifinal since the 2019 Hall of Fame Open in Newport (USA), said, “we just beat a pair which won a ATP Tour 250 series event (Maharashtra Open) a few days ago. That’s pretty cool. You have to create your own momentum. There will be doubters through life, but you have to shut the noise out and keep going.”

In singles, the Indian hopefuls — watched by Davis Cup coach Zeeshan Ali — drew a blank. The tournament is now set for a foreign winner for the first time in three editions.

Defending champion Prajnesh went down 6-7 (5), 0-6 to unseeded Benjamin Bonzi. Nagal, Myneni and Ramkumar were similarly outclassed, going down without much of a fight.

Impressive wildcard Poonacha — equipped with a strong serve and powerful groundstrokes — did well to record his best performance in a Challenger event. Poonacha’s fine run came to an end at the hands of third seed and World No. 82 Yuichi Sugita.

The results (Indians unless mentioned):

Singles (third round): Thomas Fabbiano (Ita) bt Saketh Myneni 6-4, 5-7, 6-2; Ilya Ivashka (Blr) bt Ramkumar Ramanathan 7-6(2), 6-1; Blaz Rola (Slo) bt Sumit Nagal 6-3, 6-3; Benjamin Bonzi (Fra) bt Prajnesh Gunneswaran 7-6(5), 6-0; Yuichi Sugita (Jon) bt Niki Poonacha 7-5, 6-3; Julian Ocleppo (Ita) bt Sidharth Rawat 7-5, 6-4.

Doubles (Quarterfinals):

Saketh Myneni & Matt Reid (Aus) bt Cheng-Peng Hsieh (Tpe) & Denys Molchanov (Ukr) 3-6, 6-4, 10-8; Matthew Ebden (Aus) & Leander Paes bt Andre Goransson (Swe) & Christopher Rungkat (Ina) 7-5, 0-6, 10-7; Purav Raja & Ramkumar Ramanathan bt Frederico Ferreira Silva (Por) & Nikola Milojevic (Srb) 6-4, 6-4.

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Printable version | Feb 19, 2020 3:49:57 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/tennis/leander-lights-up-an-otherwise-dark-day-for-indians/article30812297.ece

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