India’s top two professionals, Yuki Bhambri and Ramanathan Ramkumar, will clash in the title match of the KPIT-MSLTA $50,000 Challenger at Mhalunge-Balewadi sports complex on Saturday. The winner will 80 ATP points and the runner-up, 48.

While Bhambri got the better of the No.2 seed from Spain, Adrian Menendez-Maceiras 6-2, 6-4 in a one hour 39 minute tussle in his semifinal bout, Ramkumar scored his maiden win against Saketh Myneni as a professional on the ATP Tour. Myneni had previously beaten Ramkumar in the Indore Challenger in 2014, Hong Kong Challenger in 2015 and in the Australian Open qualifying in 2016; all in straight sets. In the semifinal, Ramkumar won 6-2, 6-3 against a not so fully fit Myneni in 47 minutes.

Bhambri had come into the semifinals with his confidence at a high, following straight sets win against Kaichi Uchida, Ante Pavic and Jay Clarke. He had also beaten the Spanish opponent on clay in the 2015 in the Samarkand Challenger in Uzbekistan.

In the circumstances, the odds were stacked against the highly temperamental Maceiras. He held his first two service games on extra points, but double faulted at the start of his third service game and lost three more points on the trot for Bhambri to break and take the lead. Thereafter the Indian proceeded to win the first set, taking another game of his opponent.

Bhambri was in control of the opening set because of his ability to hold a high percentage of his first and second serves.

The two served well in the first two service games, but long rallies marked thereafter with Bhambri having a tough time winning two games of his serve. His opponent too was in a plight conceding five match points in the ninth game, but after frittering away those chances, Bhambri held the tenth comfortably to win his fourth match without dropping a set.

After entering the third Challenger final of the year, Ramkumar said: “It’s always difficult to play Saketh. He’s fighting and yet not fighting. No matter where you play, it’s tough to play him. He has the skills, volleys and touch. So if he had got a break, he would have pushed himself a bit more. Every point matters when you play him.”

Ramkumar felt getting an early break in the first set mattered a lot. “It kept the momentum going. To play someone really slow, let it be anyone, it’s really tough. I am happy to win the match. Saketh is a smart player; all players know this and he is a very respected player. He had a good week, and I am very happy he’s coming back from injury. I wish him well. “

Results: Singles (Semifinals): (3) Yuki Bhambri (Ind) bt (2) Adrian Menendez-Maceiras (Spain) 6-2, 6-4; (4) Ramanathan Ramkumar (Ind) bt Saketh Myneni (Ind) 6-3, 6-2.

Doubles (semifinals): Tomislav Brkic (B & H) and Ante Pavic (Croatia) bt Scott Clayton and Jonny O’ Mara (Great Britain) 7-5,6-4. 

Pedro Martinez and Adrian Menendez-Maceiras (Spain) bt Saketh Myneni and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan (Ind) 6-4, 6-4.