Bengaluru Open: Nagal trumps top seed to set up semifinal clash with Bhambri

Sumit Nagal gave a rousing performance on Friday to pack off top seed Blaz Kavcic 6-3, 6-4 and enter the semifinals of the Bengaluru Open, where he will face Yuki Bhambri.

Sumit Nagal in action during his 6-3, 6-4 win over Blaz Kavcic on Thursday.   -  V. Sreenivasa Murthy

Prior to this, Sumit Nagal hadn’t strung together even two wins in the main draw of a Challenger event. Having done that hobbling on Thursday, the 20-year-old gave a rousing performance under the lights on Friday to pack off top seed Blaz Kavcic 6-3, 6-4 and enter the semifinals of the $100,000 Bengaluru Open.

In the last four, Nagal will meet Yuki Bhambri, who was only marginally less clinical in his 7-5, 6-2 triumph over Prajnesh Gunneswaran.

Kavcic was admittedly suffering from an inflamed knee. Neither were the courts to his liking as he had confessed before. It should however take nothing away from Nagal’s victory. Beating a top-100 player, however compromised, is no easy task, even more so for an upcoming player ranked more than 200 places below. In fact, Nagal himself had overcome severe cramps in his previous round and had competed in doubles as well.

READ: Bengaluru Open: Bhambri advances, Ramkumar exits

Nagal was clearly the enforcer throughout. Kavcic, mindful of his own inability to control the shots under high-altitude conditions, was circumspect. Nagal broke in the fourth game and but for a shy he allowed the Slovenian while serving for the set, dominated him.

The two traded breaks early on in the second, but at no stage did Kavcic seem like staging a comeback. Nagal used his backhand slice remarkably well – both as a defensive time-buying option as well as something to pin Kavcic deep into the corner and set himself up for the next put away. He broke Kavic in the third game and never looked back.

“I was not thinking on winning or losing,” said Nagal later. “It was about going there and doing my best. It was my first quarterfinal and I was nervous. It was going through my head. But I believed I could win this. I didn’t want to think on the result. It was about the process.”

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He will however face a far stiffer challenge in Bhambri. The India No. 1 and Prajnesh kept pace with each other until the 11th game before the former broke through. Bhambri did face two break points while serving for the set at 6-5, but the manner in which wriggled out – with a remarkable cross-court forehand and an inch-perfect pick-up volley – was indicative of his form through the last two weeks. The second set was a mere formality.

Later in the day, Divij Sharan, in the company of Russian Mikhail Elgin, entered the doubles final following a 6-4, 4-6, [10-8] win over Vishnu Vardhan and Sriram Balaji.
 

The results (Quarterfinal, Indians unless specified): Singles: Sumit Nagal bt Blaz Kavcic (Slo) 6-3, 6-4; Yuki Bhambri bt Prajnesh Gunneswaran 7-5, 6-2; Jay Clarke (GBR) bt Ante Pavic (Cro) 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (1); Tsung-Hua Yang (Tpe) bt Antoine Escoffier (Fra) 6-4, 6-4.

Doubles: Semifinal: Ivan Sabanov & Matej Sabanov (Cro) bt Timur Khabibulin & Aleksandr Nedovyesov (Kaz) 7-6 (3), 6-4; Divij Sharan & Mikhail Elgin (Rus) bt Sriram Balaji & Vishnu Vardhan 6-4, 4-6, [10-8].