Krotiouk upsets top seed Hasko

CHANDIGARH, NOV. 15. He had been seeking revenge for two years. When he got his chance, Sergei Krotiouk of Russia did not flinch as he survived six matchpoints to defeat the top-seeded Juraj Hasko of Slovakia 6-7 (2-7), 7-6 (9-7), 6-3 in the quarterfinals of the $10,000 ITF Futures tennis tournament at the CLTA Complex here on Wednesday.

In a nerve-racking contest that spanned three hours and 14 minutes, it was the better fitness, concentration and confidence of the Russian that prevailed even as the Slovak lost energy in his movements and punch in his strokes in the climax.

The 22-year-old Krotiouk had lost to Hasko in three sets in the qualifying event of a similar tournament in Uzbekistan two years ago. There was purpose in his calm approach this day as the Russian conserved all his energy in blunting the challenge of the Slovak.

Down 4-5, 15-40 in the tenth game of the second set, Krotiouk came up with good serves to force the tie-break. He was down 3-6 in the tie-break, but forced three errors from Hasko to survive those matchpoints as well. The Russian faced one more matchpoint at 6-7, and had the luxury of three first serves to save that point, as Hasko got his gut broken in returning one first fault serve, and then a falling umbrella on the court side allowed one more first serve for Krotiouk.

Hasko put a backhand long in dropping his sixth matchpoint, netted the next point as well to face a setpoint and the Russian came up with a backhand down the line winner to clinch the set, and declared his control with a clenched fist.

In the decider, serves were exchanged in the first four games and Krotiouk broke Hasko decisively in the sixth game, survived a breakpoint in the seventh and wound up the show in the ninth after setting up three matchpoints for himself. He needed only one of them, as Hasko put a backhand long to bring an end to his agony.

It was a high quality contest in which every rally was intensely fought. The beauty of the whole contest was that Krotiouk did not commit one doublefault but came up with four aces. Hasko had three aces and five doublefaults.

``It was my better physical fitness that won me the match today. In the winter I had worked on physical fitness for four hours every day for four months with an athletics coach. It is paying off,'' said Krotiouk who was a bundle of energy till the last ball was hit long.

``I was thinking that I must win when I had all those matchpoints. I put pressure on myself, and I played a bad game. I did not have the concentration,'' said Hasko, who had lost after holding a matchpoint in the second set tie-break against Dario Pizzato on grass last week in the quarterfinals in Lucknow.

In another exciting encounter, the second-seeded Viktor Bruthans of Slovakia came up with four passingshots in the last game in beating the big-serving Kamil Patel of Mauritius 2- 6, 6-2, 7-5 in two hours. In a battle of left-handers, Kamil caught the attention of the sparse gathering with his smooth serves and sharp volleys, but it was the better groundstrokes of the Slovak that helped him have the last laugh. Kamil served as many as 14 aces to none by his opponent, but could not gain a grip over the proceedings despite winning the first set rather comfortably.

If anything, the gangling Bruthans had the will to fight it out, and delivered the fatal blows in the end despite being teased all through the match.

Despite putting an array of his passing shots on display in the second game when he broke back against Kamil, Bruthans was unable to hold serve more than once in the first set. However, he gained a grip in the second set when he raced to a 5-2 lead with breaks in the fourth and sixth games. The Slovak broke Kamil in the eighth game as well to even the scores.

In the decider, Bruthans took a 3-1 lead with a break in the fourth game, but dropped serve in the next game as Kamil came up with sizzling passingshots and return winners. The Slovak did well to save a breakpoint each in the seventh and ninth games to eventually take a 6-5 lead.

Three passingshots from Bruthans, hit with a relish saw Kamil facing three matchpoints. Kamil saved one as Bruthans netted a volley, but the Slovak came up with another of his spectacular passingshots to close out the match. It was a telling scenario as Kamil lay on the ground on his stomach, with chin on the turf, after flinging his racquet even as he was slipping while trying to save the point in sheer desperation.

In other quarterfinal matches, the fifth-seeded Branislav Sekac of Slovakia had it easy as his opponent, qualifier Vincent Mackey of the U.S. retired because of an upset stomach; and another qualifier, John Doran of Ireland, scored a comfortable 6-4, 6-3 triumph over Efe Ustundag of Turkey. Krotiouk will meet Sekac, and Bruthans will be challenged by Doran in the semifinals.

In doubles, the top-seeded pair of Mustafa Ghouse and Vishaal Uppal made it to the semifinals, with a walkover from Vincent Mackey and Syed Fazaluddin. Another Indian pair of Nitin Kirtane and Saurav Panja also made the grade with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Ben Gudzelak and Jonathan Marray of Britain.

The champion of the Lucknow event, Tomas Janci, and Michal Mertinak of Slovakia continued their victory run and beat the second-seeded Kamil Patel of Mauritius and Efe Ustundag of Turkey 6-3, 7-5 after being 2-5 down in the second set.

The results (quarterfinals):

singles: Sergei Krotiouk (Uzb) bt Juraj Hasko (Svk) 6-7 (2-7), 7- 6 (9-7), 6-3; Branislav Sekac (Svk) bt Vincent Mackey (U.S.) 5-3 (retired); John Doran (Irl) bt Efe Ustundag (Tur) 6-4, 6-3; Viktor Bruthans (Svk) bt Kamil Patel (Mri) 2-6, 6-2, 7-5.

Doubles: Mustafa Ghouse/Vishaal Uppal w.o. Vincent Mackey (U.S.)/Syed Fazaluddin; Viktor Bruthans/Branislav Sekac (Svk) w.o. Miloslav Grolmus/Juraj Hasko (Svk); Nitin Kirtane/Saurav Panja bt Ben Gudzelak/Jonathan Marray (GBR) 6-4, 6-4; Tomas Janci/Michal Mertinak (Svk) bt Kamil Patel (Mri)/Efe Ustundag (Tur) 6-3, 7-5.