AirAsia Open: Yannick Mertens toys with Vijay Sundar

Yannick Mertens walked out as the winner with 6-2, 6-2 victory over the Indian.

Vijay Sundar Prashanth in action.   -  THE HINDU

There was a hint early on, just a hint mind, when N. Vijay Sundar Prashant would have fancied his chances against the fifth-seeded Belgian Yannick Mertens. After winning on serve the first game of the match at love, Vijay Sundar pulled it back all the way to deuce in the second after being down 40-15.

He of course lost that game, but there was more to come in the third, when he handed Mertens three break points. But two long rallies – Mertens hit a tired shot into the net at the end of the second – an unforced error and a deep serve to Mertens’s backhand later, Vijay Sundar had held serve.

But that was the sum total of the Indian’s challenge in round one play of the $50,000 AirAsia Open ATP Challenger tennis that got underway at the KSLTA stadium here on Monday morning.

From there on it was the Belgian all the way, as he constantly favoured Vijay Sundar’s backhand to draw a series of weak returns and unforced errors. Having wrapped up the first set in double quick time, Mertens refused to take his foot off the pedal and so complete was the Belgian’s domination in the second set that Vijay Sundar had to wait till 15-0 in game three to win his first point.

And 52 minutes after Vijay Sundar first tossed the ball to serve, Mertens walked out a 6-2, 6-2 winner.

With both players preferring to man the baseline – only Mertens made two half-hearted attempts, once in each set, to move up to the net – it made for some uninteresting viewing for the tennis purists.

Of interest for them would have been the match on the adjacent Centre Court where local lad and wildcard entrant Suraj R. Prabodh and the day’s other Belgian in action, Arthur de Greef, decided to play a more adventurous serve and volley game.

Throwing caution to the winds, the duo time and again sliced and chipped, and ran in. Both came to grief with their efforts, the Indian more than the Belgian. And that ultimately translated into a win for de Greef, his one hour 19 minute battle against Suraj ending in a 6-3, 6-4 result.

Taking an almost similar amount of time to get his first round match out of the way was the tournament top seed Adrian Menendez-Maceiras. While the 6-4, 6-4 scoreline would be unflattering of opponent Petros Chrysochos’s efforts, it is a fact that the Spaniard was stretched, especially in the first set by the Cypriot qualifier.

Up a break at 3-1, level again at 3-all, up 5-3 and then back to 5-4, Menendez-Maceiras was constantly pegged back by the counter-punching Chrysochos. Clearly hassled, the top seed soon spat out a string of Spanish cuss words after messing up a few shots.

There was the occasional ‘vamos’ too after winning a few – the first of these was when Chrysochos tried a cute backhand slice, only for the No. 1 seed to chase it down for a beautiful crosscourt winner.

Things finally fell in place for the Spaniard in the second set and from then on it was smooth sailing. Menendez-Maceiras will be up against another qualifier next, India’s G. Prajnesh. The left-hander defeated wildcard holder J. Mohit Mayur 6-4, 6-3.

In the day’s other singles action, sixth-seed Ti Chen of Chinese Taipei made light work of Uzbeki Temur Ismailov’s challenge and Australian Dane Propoggia saw off Spaniard Gerard Granollers; both matches ended in straight sets.

Later in the afternoon, close to two hours – marathon times by doubles standards – were required to separate the battling duo of Chandril & Lakshit Sood from Somdev Devvarman & Christopher Marquis.

The psychedelically attired Sood twins – they threw the fans and the press a lifeline by sporting different hairdos and facial hair styles to identify who is who – required two tiebreaks to best their compatriots.

While the Devvarman-Marquis combo neutralized whatever advantage gained by hammering in seven aces by serving five double faults, the Soods with an ace and a double-fault walked away deserving winners; the match point coming of a staccato burst of shots with all four players bunched close to the net.

On the adjacent court the pair of Sumit Nagal and Vishnu Vardhan came back from a set down to defeat the Russo-Czech combination of Alexander Kudryavtsev and Michal Konecny even as a simian – the venue is right inside the picturesque Cubbon Park – decided to forage the garbage bins placed in the stands.

The day’s only upset was reserved for the last match of the day when the top-seeded duo of Maxillian Neuchrist and Divij Sharan blew away a one-set advantage to return home second best to Petros Chrysochos and Temur Ismailov.

The results: Singles: First round: Adrian Menendez-Maceiras (Esp) bt Petros Chrysochos (Cyp) 6-4, 6-4; Yannick Mertens (Bel) bt N. Vijay Sundar Prasanth 6-2, 6-2; Arthur de Greef (Bel) bt Suraj R. Prabodh 6-3, 6-4; G. Prajnesh bt J. Mohit Mayur 6-4, 6-3; Ti Chen (Tpe) bt Temur Ismailov 6-2, 6-4; Dane Propoggia (Aus) bt Gerard Granollers (Esp) 6-4, 6-3.

Doubles: Pre-quarterfinals: Sumit Nagal & Vishnu Vardhan bt Michal Konecny (Cze) & Alexander Kudryavtsev (Rus) 4-6, 7-6(5), [10-6]; Chandril and Lakshit Sood bt Somdev Devvarman & Christopher Marquis 7-6(3), 7-6(5); Chrysochos & Ismailov bt Maxillian Neuchrist & Divij Sharan 6-7(3), 7-6(3), [10-7].

Menendez-Maceiras vs Chrysochos

7 Aces 1

3 Double faults 3

65 1st serve percentage 60

82 %1st serve points won 67 %

2/3 Break points saved 7/10

Mertens vs Vijay Sundar

6 Aces 2

1 Double faults 2

69 1st serve percentage 48

86 %1st serve points won 63

0/0 Break points saved 6/10