Yuichi Sugita of Japan with the singles trophy after vanquishing Adrian Menendez-Maceiras in the final of the KPIT-MSLTA ATP Challanger in Pune.-

The victory in the Pune Challenger placed Yuichi Sugita (121) fourth among the Japanese on the ATP Tour, behind the seventh-ranked Koi Nishikori, Tatsuma Ito (98) and Go Soeda (114). By NANDAKUMAR MARAR.

Yuichi Sugita is a persistent player, who is prepared to slog for each point. At the KPIT-MSLTA ATP Challenger in Pune — the second successive tournament on the ATP Challenger Tour after the Indore Challenger — the Japanese chased down every ball and played his shots deep and low to take points off his impatient opponents. For five matches in a row, he stuck to this tactic and walked away with the men’s singles title.

When the final was delayed by 24 hours owing to a drizzle and wet court at the Shiv Chhatrapati Tennis Complex, Sugita waited patiently for the conditions to improve and play to begin.

Sugita’s thoughts were on bagging the 90 points for the winner in order to improve his chances of earning a direct entry into the main draw of the 2015 Australian Open. So the Japanese, who had qualified for the 2014 Wimbledon, was not letting a steady drizzle dampen his enthusiasm or ambition.

That entire Saturday (October 25), Sugita shuttled between the hotel where he was staying and the Shiv Chhatrapati Tennis Complex court, accompanied by Adrian Menendez-Maceiras (Spain), his opponent in the final.

Sugita had qualified for the 2014 Wimbledon after 17 qualifying attempts since 2009.

For Sugita, who had participated in the Australian Open as a junior in 2005 and 2006, the prospect of returning to the tournament as a senior pro was inspiration enough to go all out in Pune.

Maceiras too displayed a similar hunger, but his failure to hang in there as the pressure mounted proved to be his undoing.

Sugita, a quarterfinalist at the Chennai Open in 2012, won his first Challenger title after slugging it out with the Spaniard for almost three hours. The Japanese (career-high ranking 116) moved from 144 to 121 in the rankings list, which brought him within the range of a direct entry into the Grand Slam.

The winner cheque of $7,200 should keep Sugita going. Three Indian players — Ramkumar Ramanathan (No. 226), Yuki Bhambri (179) and Saketh Myneni (283) — crossed his path in Pune, but they were all beaten by a rival who was a lot hungrier.

Ramkumar lost in the first round, while Yuki went out in the quarterfinals. (In fact, Sugita staged an escape after trailing 1-4 in the second set against Yuki.) Myneni lost to the Japanese in the semifinals.

In the final, Maceiras had his nose in front after winning the first set tiebreaker and being up by two break points at 5-3 in the second. However, he lost the initiative to lose in three sets.

The victory in Pune placed Sugita fourth among the Japanese on the ATP Tour, behind the seventh-ranked Koi Nishikori, Tatsuma Ito (98) and Go Soeda (114).