Defending champion Sumit Nagal had the measure of Brit Jay Clarke for the second time in a year, beating him 6-4, 7-5 in the opening round of the $150,000 Bengaluru Open on Monday.
The two had last met on these very courts, but in a high-stakes final
which went the distance. If the tennis had matched the occasion then, Monday’s match came nowhere close. Clarke, the seventh seed, was far from the player that his ranking of 174 suggested. Nagal, though ranked 309, showed enough signs of life after what has until now been a washout year for him.
The Indian broke early in the match to go 2-1 up. He faced the first
threat to his serve in the very next game, but was brave enough to
serve and volley on his second serve to deny his opponent. Clarke did get back to 3-3, but Nagal had the upper-hand as he broke in the ninth game and closed out the set 6-4.
Both players struggled with their serves in the second set but the
difference was Nagal’s forehand, which didn’t let him down whenever
summoned. Clarke’s, on the other hand, broke down. Nagal kept the
20-year-old guessing, executing the cross-court and down-the-line
versions with deceptive ease.
After they traded breaks early on, Nagal had a look at the Clarke
serve at 3-3, 30-30, but a bad backhand volley ended his hopes of a break.
Minutes later, Nagal was down 15-30 serving at 3-4 and then a
set-point down at 4-5. Clarke fluffed both and it wasn’t long before
Nagal took the match.
“I am happy about the result,” said the 21-year-old after the win. “In
a lot of matches this year, I’ve been a set and a break up but somehow lost from there. But today I kept my focus.”
Clarke was not the only casualty among the seeds, with second seed Marco Trungelliti beaten by Turkey’s Ilkel Cem 6-2, 3-6, 7-6(3). Earlier in the day, Sasi Kumar Mukund became the lone Indian to qualify for the main draw with a clinical 6-1, 6-1 win over Frenchman Mick Lescure.