AirAsia Open: Somdev Devvarman knocked out, Sanam Singh advance

While the third-seeded Indian inexplicably squandered away two breaks of serve — the first came in the third game and the second when he went up 6-5 — in the first set, the 331st ranked Italian stayed focused and raked in the crucial points.

With the crowd egging on Somdev Devvarman, the Indian managed to bring it to 4-all but the writing was on the wall as he handed back the initiative two games later, again at love.   -  K_MURALI_KUMAR

Having had had a bad run of opening round fixtures, Somdev Devvarman thought that the first round loss in doubles at the $50,000 AirAsia Open would prove to be a blessing in disguise and allow him to focus on the singles.

While Devvarman did get through his first round match against Australian Maximillian Neuchrist, Alessandro Bega was not so accommodating of the crowd favourite at the KSLTA stadium here on Thursday.

While the third-seeded Indian inexplicably squandered away two breaks of serve — the first came in the third game and the second when he went up 6-5 — in the first set, the 331st ranked Italian stayed focused and raked in the crucial points.

The tie-break was called when Devvarman missed an easy backhand into the net to draw the set back on level-terms at 6-all. With the momentum on his side, Bega quickly broke Devvarman’s serve twice to go up 3-0 in the tie-breaker and was up 5-2 before a miss-hit forehand with an open court on offer gave the Indian a crack back at the set.

A Bega double-fault bought the scores back on level terms at 7-7, but Devvarman again took his foot off the pedal. Not one to look a gift-horse in the mouth, Bega rammed in a couple of winners to win the tie-breaker 9-7.

Bega then drove home the advantage in the second set by going a break up by the third game; a delectable back-hand down-the-line winner clinching the game at love. With the crowd egging on Devvarman, the Indian managed to bring it to 4-all but the writing was on the wall as he handed back the initiative two games later, again at love.

Though he fought gamely to deuce in the final game, Bega’s inside-out forehands pushed Devvarman to one corner before the Italian suckered him with a winner at the other end to wrap up the match.

Meanwhile, Briton James Ward, the second seed, continued his imperious run as he swatted aside Belarussian Ilya Ivashka in straight sets on Court 1. But the venue was not to be denied its seeded victim of the day, when American Daniel Nguyen sent the seventh-seeded Russian Alexander Kudryavtsev crashing out via two tie-breakers.

Earlier in the day, Sanam Singh, who had rocketed past eighth seed Germain Gigounon on day three, made things tough for himself as he huffed and puffed his way past Egor Gerasimov of Belarus in three sets.

There were three distinct phases to both the protagonists’ play on Thursday. While Sanam was sublime in the first and mediocre in the second, the roles were reversed for Gerasimov. The two, however, decided to even things up in the third, deciding to stick to the middle ground with the occasional flashes of brilliance.

An indication of how close things were between the two in the third set can be gauged from the fact that it stretched for 58 minutes, 15 minutes more than the first two put together.

In the final analysis, Gerasimov should be kicking himself for not taking his chances. Back from a set down and twice a break down in the third set, Gerasimov went as far as match-point in the third set tie-break.

Sanam, however, was not be denied; his relief palpable as he buried his head in his hands after his escape.

Results:

Singles: Pre-quarterfinals: Alessandro Bega (Ita) bt Somdev Devvarman 7-6(7), 7-5; Sanam Singh bt Egor Gerasimov (Blr) 6-2, 2-6, 7-6(6); Daniel Nguyen (USA) bt Alexander Kudryavtsev (Rus) 7-6(7), 7-6(3); James Ward bt Ilya Ivashka 6-3, 6-4.

Doubles: Quarterfinals: Saketh Myneni & Sanam Singh bt Chandril and Lakshit Sood 6-2, 6-4.