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Harsh to meet Ivanov in final

Sunil Kumar serves as his partner Ajay Ramaswamy takes position near the net against the Russian duo of Pavel Ivanov and Evgueni Smirnov in the men's doubles semifinals of the ITF tennis tournament in Chandigarh on Thursday . — Photo: Sandeep Saxena

Sunil Kumar serves as his partner Ajay Ramaswamy takes position near the net against the Russian duo of Pavel Ivanov and Evgueni Smirnov in the men's doubles semifinals of the ITF tennis tournament in Chandigarh on Thursday . — Photo: Sandeep Saxena  

CHANDIGARH OCT. 31. The much-expected contest never really took off with Harsh Mankad sprinting to a 6-3, 6-4 victory over the top-seeded Rohan Bopanna in the semifinals of the BSNL $10,000 ITF Futures tennis tournament at the CLTA Complex here on Thursday.

For the handful of spectators present, it was a big disappointment as Bopanna complained of a painful bicep that prevented him from putting up his best.

It was then no surprise that Bopanna got broken five times in the match including in the opening game. He surrendered the match with a string of errors in the tenth game of the second set after Harsh had failed to convert two match points on his serve in the ninth game.

"My biceps have been hurting me for quite some time. I took a painkiller, but it still hurt. I am pulling out of the next two tournaments in Delhi and Davangere. I will rest and get ready for the Challengers in Japan and Thailand", said Bopanna, even as he hastened to add that he would play the doubles, as it would require him to serve once in four games.

Later teaming up with Vijay Kannan, Bopanna beat qualifiers Somdev Dev Varman and Jaco T. Mathew 6-1, 6-4, in the doubles. Here he did not drop the serve even once.

Asked whether he could have conserved some energy rather than blast the opponents in the earlier rounds, Bopanna said he could not have planned that way, and was confident of playing Harsh competitively, had he been fully fit.

Bopanna did get some medical aid after the first set, but the icing and ointment application were not of much help to his hurting service arm.

He hit nine winners in the second set, after drawing a blank in the first in which he had nothing to show except for a service and a return winner. For someone who delivers a minimum of a half dozen aces, Bopanna could not conjure one this day. He had to be content with $480 singles prize.

On the other hand, Harsh served three aces, two service winners and ten other winners. Harsh was hampered by a string of seven double faults, and said that he needed to focus on his serves a little more to be consistent.

"I was surprised that he threw in the towel so quickly. But right in the first game, when I broke him, I could make out that his serve was not the same", said Harsh, who lost to Bopanna in the in the final of a tournament in Chennai recently.

"I need to find my rhythm and need to close out matches", said Harsh who dropped serve after having a set point while serving for the first set and later the match.

The 809th ranked Harsh will play the final, his third in the Futures circuit, against the 783rd ranked Pavel Ivanov of Russia.

Ivanov blew away the challenge from the second-seeded Juraj Hasko of Slovakia for the loss of three games.

"I know that he is a solid baseliner. I shouldn't worry about his game much, and focus on doing my things the best I can", said Harsh, who did not have to do much this day, and rarely approached the net, as his opponent was giving it all away freely in a clutch of errors, in a match that lasted an hour and 15 minutes.

Hasko caves in meekly

After having beaten a string of Indians from the brink of defeat, Hasko seemed to have forgotten how to play a solid baseliner, and caved in meekly, getting broken six times in the match. The Russian who beat the fourth-seeded Sunil Kumar, for his only Indian scalp in the tournament, has been helped considerably by his coach and father, in terms of tactics and strategy. Yet, there is no doubt about the shrewdness of Harsh, and it should be an interesting contest between his craft and the Russian's power.

Wild cards awarded

The wild cards for the $10,000 ITF Futures tennis tournament to be held in Delhi from November 4 have been given to Kamala Kannan, Shivang Mishra, Saurabh Singh and R. Arun Prakash.

The results (semifinals): singles: Harsh Mankad bt Rohan Bopanna 6-3, 6-4; Pavel Ivanov (Rus) bt Juraj Hasko (Svk) 6-1, 6-2.

Doubles: Rohan Bopanna/Vijay Kannan bt Somdev Dev Varman/Jaco T. Mathew 6-1, 6-4; Ajay Ramaswamy/Sunil Kumar bt Pavel Ivanov/Evgueni Smirnov (Rus) 6-2, 6-2.

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