Tennis

Tata Open Maharashtra | Sasikumar’s efforts fall short against Daniel

Too good: Taro Daniel’s experience and the ability to hit the heavier ball at crunch moments proved the difference.

Too good: Taro Daniel’s experience and the ability to hit the heavier ball at crunch moments proved the difference.  

‘My attitude was great as I hung in there, but the tennis itself wasn't’

Sasikumar Mukund put up a spirited fight but couldn’t stop Taro Daniel from winning 6-2, 7-6(7) and advancing to the second round win of the Tata Open Maharashtra on Wednesday. Sasikumar’s loss now leaves Prajnesh Gunneswaran as the only Indian in the singles main draw.

Against a player ranked more than a hundred places above (263 to 102), the 23-year-old Indian, after having lost the first set tamely, refused to surrender and even earned a set point to take it into the third. But in the end Daniel’s experience and the ability to hit the heavier ball at crunch moments proved the difference.

At the start though, Sasikumar displayed none of the nerves that can accompany someone playing his first tour level match. In the very first game he strung together a forehand winner, an ace, a service winner and a backhand pass on the stretch to hold to love.

But the level didn’t last. The Indian was forced to save four break points to hold to 2-1 before losing serve twice to go 2-5 down. On the Daniel serve at 5-2, Sasikumar had his opponent down at 15-40, but the two-break cushion helped his opponent play without nerves and seal the set.

Continued struggle

Sasikumar’s struggle with his serve continued into the second as he had to wipe out three more breakpoints to hold to 3-2. But unlike in the first set, he tidied his game up and held to 4-3 and then 5-4 for the combined loss of just two points.

The wobbly serve though returned to haunt him at 5-5, with three unforced errors and a double fault handing Daniel a chance to serve for the match. It was just that the Japanese faltered too, with three unforced errors of his own, before a crushing forehand winner by Sasikumar, one of 28 he hit on the day, stretched it to a tie-break.

At 3-3, Sasikumar won back-to-back points, the second courtesy another fine forehand. With a serve still up his sleeve, the second set seemed his to lose. But when presented with an overhead, he decided to take it on the bounce rather than full as he couldn't sight the ball clearly under the lights. The move proved costly as he hit it way out.

Daniel then made it 5-5 with a bullet ace before earning his first match-point when a Sasikumar backhand didn't cross the net. The latter erased it with a fine inside-out and when a defensive lob from Daniel sailed wide he had a set point to take the match to the third. But a fine body serve by Daniel followed by two unforced errors from Sasikumar, including a botched volley, handed Daniel the match.

“The tennis was very disappointing,” Sasikumar said later. “Considering it was the first time, my attitude was great as I hung in there. But the tennis itself wasn't great. I was more aggressive in the second set because out-rallying him was proving tough. Wish I had done that from the start.”

Later Belarus's Ilya Ivashka dumped the tournament's third seed Stefano Travaglia out 7-6(5), 7-6(3).

The results:

Second round: Jiri Vesely (Cze) bt Salvatore Caruso (Ita) 7-6(5), 6-4; Yuichi Sugita (Jpn) w/o Viktor Troicki (Srb); Ricardas Berankis (Ltu) bt Cedrik-Marcel Stebe 7-6(2), 6-1; Ilya Ivashka (Blr) bt Stefano Travaglia 7-6(5), 7-6(3). First round: Taro Daniel (Jpn) bt Sasi Kumar Mukund 6-2, 7-6(7).

Doubles: First round: Purav Raja & Ramkumar Ramanathan bt Egor Gerasimov (Blr) & Sumit Nagal 7-6(6), 6-3.

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Printable version | Apr 4, 2020 10:08:38 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/tennis/tata-open-maharashtra-sasikumars-efforts-fall-short-against-daniel/article30745975.ece

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