New Delhi: India's number one singles player Somdev Devvarman advanced to the second round with a straight set victory but sixth seed Yuki Bhambri made a shock first round exit from the ONGC-GAIL Delhi Open, here
today. Second seed Somdev brushed aside the challenge of wild card compatriot Karunuday Singh 6-2 7-5 in one hour and 28 minutes while Yuki squandered a match point against Frenchman Lucas Pouille to be knocked out with a 6-2 5-7 5-7 scoreline in two hours and 20 minutes at R K Khanna Tennis stadium.
Karunuday, playing only his second main draw at a Challenger event, began well by serving out the first game at love with an ace but keeping the points short was a big task against Somdev, who has amazing ability to retrieve the ball. The two players were happy playing from the baseline and it only helped Somdev, who sent many a balls short but Karunuday did not latch on to them. Rather he kept the ball in play and there it was difficult to outrally Somdev. "It was strange.
The wind was coming from both the sides. It was not cleanest of the match I played. It was difficult situation out there. The intention was to put pressure on his serve and I did that. I kind of start slow," Somdev said after his win. He also praised his opponent saying, "KU (Karunuday) is promising. He has a good team behind him. He's on right track." Yuki was cruising at one stage as he pocketed the first set in no time but Pouille upped the ante, forcing the Indian to re-think his strategy.
Pouille raced to a 4-1 lead in the second set but Yuki was up to task as he made it 5-5 with his tremendous ground strokes. Egged on by the partisan crowd, Yuki served well and was solid from the baseline but Pouille further raised the level of his game and the Indian was again on the backfoot. Pouille packed a lot of power in his ground strokes and stood out with his returns. It was Yuki who went up in the decider by breaking the Frenchman in the third game and had a match point in the ninth game on Pouille's serve but could not cash in on.
Yuki still had a chance to serve out the match in the next game but he dropped his serve to allow his rival to make it an even affair again. Pouille served well under pressure in the 11th and broke Yuki's serve and the hearts of the people rooting for the Indian. Another Indian who suffered defeat was wild card Saketh Myneni, who fought his heart out before losing 6-7 (4) 6-7 (4) to Italian Thomas Fabbiano in one hour and 59 minutes of intense tennis. In the Somdev match, Kaurunuday kept playing aggressively with big shots, a strategy which has worked against Somdev for a few players.
There was risk of committing errors with that ploy and it happened. He dropped serve at love in the third game with a double fault on the first breakpoint and Somdev made it 3-1 with an easy hold in the next. Kaurunuday was again down a breakpoint when he hit a forehand long but saved with a good service. Good rallies followed in the next game and it was now Somdev, who was down by three breakpoints. In all, Somdev saved four chances in the sixth game to keep the lead with him. Yet again the double fault came at a wrong time for Karunuday, who had just hit a forehand long to be 30-40.
Somdev raced away with the first set in just 35 minutes with an easy hold in the next. Both of them struggled to hold serve in the second set, in which Karunuday lost his serve four times and Somdev thrice. Despite dropping his serve in the very first game, Karunuday managed to take a 3-1 lead but allowed his opponent to come back and soon it was 5-5. Somdev hit a forehand winner on a breakpoint in the 11th game to be in position to serve out the match and he was helped by Karunuday's unforced errors.
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