New Delhi: Top seed Yuki Bhambri looked a pale shadow of his usual self as he exited from the singles event of the Delhi Open with a first round defeat but advanced to the doubles quarterfinals with seasoned pro Mahesh Bhupathi here yesterday.
It was the fourth successive first round defeat this season for the Delhi lad, who lost 4-6 6-7(4) to Belgium's Joris de Loore, ranked 302 as to Yuki's 99. Yuki, who played with a lot of authority towards the end of 2015 season and broke into the top-100, was nowhere near his best, making many unforced errors in the match that lasted one hour and 40 minutes.
After dropping his serve in the second game of the opening set, Yuki was always catching up. He struggled to contain unforced errors and could not stay solid in his service games. He saved a match point in the 10th game of the second set to make it 5-5, raising hopes of a turnaround but it never happened.
He saved another match point in the second set tie-break but hit a forehand long on the third to crash out of the USD 50,000 hard court event. Yuki is yet to win a match in the 2016 season. "Yes, I am struggling now. There were a lot of unforced errors that I tried to cut down but I still need to get back to practice, keep hitting the balls," Yuki said after the match.
Asked if he has fully recovered from his elbow injury, the 23-year replied in affirmative but said apprehensions were still there. "I am surely not feeling any pain. But it keeps playing in mind that it may come back. And there is lack of match sharpness. I have played two close matches which, on any other day, I would have won. I am just not able to string those two points together," he said.
"The start of the season has always been difficult for me, no matter how you end the season." The Delhi boy was also disappointed that he has not got any support from the government. "I think I have a realistic chance to qualify for the Olympics. I have never got support from the government which is sad. AITA has tried, sending letter to the ministry but there is no word on that. But I will keep fighting, it won't affect my tennis," he said.
Later in the day Bhambri combined with Bhupathi to beat wild card brother pair of Lakshit and Chandril Sood 4-6 6-1 10-2 in the opening round. In the singles, national champion N Sriram Balaji and fellow wild card entrant N Vijay Sundar Prashanth also lost in the first round. Balaji lost 6-7 (4) 3-6 to seventh seed Chinese Yan Bai,
while Prashanth suffered defeat against Taipiei's Jimmy Wang.
In the battles of the Indians, Prajnesh Gunneswaran won 6-4 6-4 against Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan and qualifier Vishnu Vardhan expectedly thrashed Adil Kalyanpur 6-1 6-1. Adil had entered the event after winning the Rendez-Vous event. Vardhan will next take on Chinese Zhi Li, who knocked out fifth seed Yannick Mertens 4-6 6-3 6-4, and Prajnesh will clash with Yan Bai. In the women's event being played simultaneously, India's number one singles player Ankita Raina beat compatriot Prerna Bhambri 6-1 7-6.