Tata Maharashtra Open: Ramkumar crashes out, Gulbis sends Chung packing

Ramkumar Ramanathan lost his pre-quarterfinal match 7-6(6), 6-7 (5), 3-6 against Malek Jaziri while Ernests Gulbis registered a 7-6(2), 6-2 win against second seed Hyeon Chung.

Ramkumar's exit brought an end to the Indian challenge at the Maharashtra Open.   -  R. Ragu

Ramkumar Ramanathan crashed out of the Maharashtra Open after a hard-fought 7-6(6), 6-7 (5), 3-6 loss to Malek Jaziri in the wee hours of Thursday morning in Pune. 

The first game set the tone for the match, with both players fighting hard and taking it to deuce before an unforced error from the Tunisian gave Ramkumar the lead.

The duo then exchanged breaks over the next two games and Ramkumar continued to lead at 2-1. The following games saw both players go big on their serves and Ramkumar went ahead 4-3 when he staged a love hold in the seventh game.

He had a chance to capitalise when Jaziri double-faulted in the following game but the Indian made two unforced errors and Jaziri held on to make it 4-4.

Both players held serves over the next three games and the Indian led 6-5. Ramkumar had a fine opportunity to bag the first set when he earned a break point in the next game but he failed to grasp it and the set went to a tie-breaker.

He initially led 4-1 but Jaziri drew parity at 4-all and went on to claim a set point at 6-5. however, he failed to find the winning touch as Ramkumar won the next three points to win the tie-breaker at 8-6 and with it the first set.

The second set was a keen contest of serve with neither player able to break the other. Ramkumar had break point opportunities in the third and the ninth game but couldn't make the most of it. And the set looked like heading to another tie-breaker with scores reading 5 apiece.

Ramkumar had two more break point opportunities in the 11th game but squandered the chance once again as Jaziri went ahead 6-5.

On the serve and needing to force a tiebreaker, he fired three aces – averaging around 194 kmph – to make it 6-6.

Jaziri broke Ramkumar's serve thrice in the tie-breaker to grab the set and push the match into a deciding third set.

Having played for over two hours already, both players were understandably fatigued with errors creeping into both their games. The third set witnessed multiple miscued shots, unforced errors and Ramkumar's serve – which was his weapon all throughout – deserted him.

Jaziri broke Ramkumar in the fifth and the seventh game to race to a 4-3 lead. Things didn't go in Ramkumar's favour as he missed several returns at the net and Jaziri, playing the waiting game, broke the Indian once again in the ninth game to seal the win of his first match point.

He will next face Steve Darcis in the quarters.

Chung crashes out

With the win over Hyeon Chung, Ernests Gulbis will next face Ivo Karlovic in the quarterfinal of the Tata Maharashtra Open.   -  R. Ragu

 

After an injury-hit 2018 that saw him skip the French Open and Wimbledon, Hyeon Chung fell at the first hurdle of 2019, going down 6-7(2), 2-6 to Ernests Gulbis at the Maharashtra Open in Pune on Wednesday, in the first big upset of the tournament.

Chung, the world No. 25 who made a stellar run to the 2018 Australian Open semis after winning the 2017 Next Gen ATP Finals, started the match in commanding fashion. He broke Gulbis’s serve in the first and third games to take an early 4-0 lead.

But from there on, the match turned on its head for the 22-year-old Korean, who had a lot of ‘home’ support in the stadium, with several banners and Korean flags on full display in the stands.

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Gulbis rallied back and took the fifth game when Chung unluckily slipped at the baseline while reaching for a return – and that was perhaps the luck the Latvian needed to get back in the match.

With Chung taking the sixth game, the world No. 95 – serving to keep the set from Chung’s clutches – went big on his serve to win the next two points and then took the game with an ace.

Gulbis then broke Chung twice and took the set to a tiebreaker. His movement at the baseline looking off in the first four games, Gulbis was more settled in the tiebreaker.

He varied his shots and served at an average of 200km per hour while Chung, with his back covered in pink medical tape, averaged around 150. A cross-court winner and drop shot – plus a double fault from Chung – gave Gulbis the tiebreak 7-2.

The second set was more straightforward for the Latvian, who was ranked as high as No. 10 in the world in 2014. He pushed Chung around and broke him twice more, forcing the Korean to commit several unforced errors, as he took the second set 6-2.

Gulbis will face Ivo Karlovic in the second round on Thursday.

The Results: 

Singles: Malek Jaziri bt. Ramkumar Ramanathan 7-6(6), 6(5)-7, 3-6; Gilles Simon bt. Illya Ivashka 6(3)-7, 6-1, 6-1; Kevin Anderson bt. Laslo Dere 7-6(3), 7-6(6); Steve Darcis bt. Michael Mmoh 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-2; Jaume Munar bt. Simone Bolelli 7-5, 6-0; Benoit Paire bt. Jiri Vesely 6-4, 6-2; Ivo Karlovic bt. Evgeny Donskoy 6-4, 7-5; Ernests Gulbis bt. Hyeon Chung 7-6(2), 6-2.

Doubles: Luke Bambridge and Jonny O'Mara bt. Sriram Balaji and Arjun Kadhe 7-6(5), 6-1; Marcel Granollers and Gerard Granollers bt. Denys Molchanov and Igor Zelenay 6-4, 6(3)-7, 10-6.