Bhambri-Bhupathi breeze past Sood brothers

Mahesh Bhupathi lent a helping shoulder to lift the sagging spirit of Yuki Bhambri as the duo won the first round 4-6, 6-1, 10-2 against the Sood twins, Chandril and Lakshit, in the $50,000 men’s Challenger tennis tournament at the RK Khanna Stadium here on Tuesday.

Yuki Bhambri (right) and Mahesh Bhupathi in action against the Sood brothers.   -  Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Mahesh Bhupathi lent a helping shoulder to lift the sagging spirit of Yuki Bhambri as the duo won the first round 4-6, 6-1, 10-2 against the Sood twins, Chandril and Lakshit, in the $50,000 men’s Challenger tennis tournament at the RK Khanna Stadium here on Tuesday.

After having started the day losing the first round singles match to Joris De Loore of Belgium, the 23-year-old Yuki was happy to get his first win of the season. An elbow injury on way to the Challenger title in Pune last year had upset Yuki’s plans for the season, and he was rusty at the Australian Open, the Tour event in Bulgaria and the Challenger last week in Italy.

The rust was very much evident as Yuki missed numerous chances and tended to frequently mishit against the 312{+t}{+h} ranked Belgian, who prevailed 6-4, 7-6(4). The inconsistency continued to plague Yuki in the doubles, but with the 41-year-old Mahesh shrugging off a bit of indifferent form, the duo played a high quality game to overwhelm the Sood brothers. “Having fun”, said Mahesh, who has been unusually busy on the pro circuit this season, triggering talks of a possible eye on the Rio Olympics.

However, the multiple Grand Slam champion, who has competed in five Olympics, was stubborn in refusing to talk to the television networks that had assembled, saying that he had just won a Challenger first round and had nothing to say.

“I fell last week in Montpelier,” said Mahesh when queried about the long tape on his right forearm. He had made the semifinals of the Tour event in France with Jonathan Marray of Britain. Earlier, Mahesh had played the second round of Australian Open and semifinals of the Bangkok Challenger with Purav Raja after starting the season at the Chennai Open.

“I haven’t played with Yuki, and he doesn’t play the deuce court,” explained Mahesh, about the slow start.

Mahesh did appreciate the Sood brothers on their entertaining performance.

“Even the last time I played them in the Chennai Open with Saketh, they won the first set. But their game dips a bit after that, and at this level you cannot afford that,” observed Mahesh. There was not much to cheer for the Indian camp otherwise as only Vishnu Vardhan and Prajnesh Gunneswaran progressed to the second round, beating compatriots Adil Kalyanpur and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan respectively.

Sriram Balaji did play a vibrant first set against seventh seed Bai Yan of China.

The results:

Singles (first round): Joris De Loore (Bel) bt Yuki Bhambri 6-4, 7-6(4); Flavio Cipolla (Ita) bt Niels Desein (Bel) 6-4, 1-6, 6-1; Jimmy Wang (Tpe) bt Vijay Sundar Prashanth 6-2, 6-2; Ti Chen (Tpe) bt Scot Griekspoor (Ned) 7-6(5), 6-3; Benjamin Mitchell (Aus) bt Kento Takeuchi (Jpn) 4-1 (retired): Dmitry Popko (Kaz) bt Takuto Niki (Jpn) 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-3; Zhang Ze (Chn) bt Roberto Marcora (Ita) 7-5, 6-7(3), 6-1; Vishnu Vardhan bt Adil Kalyanpur 6-1, 6-1; Matthew Barton (Aus) bt Sam Barry (Irl) 6-3, 6-2; Bai Yan (Chn) bt Sriram Balaji 7-6(4), 6-3; Prajnesh Gunnneswaran bt Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan 6-4, 6-4; Maxime Janvier (Fra) bt Francesco Vilardo (Ita) 6-1, 6-4; Kimmer Coppejans (Bel) bt Lee Duckhee (Kor) 2-6, 6-2, 6-3.

Doubles (pre-quarterfinals): Yuki Bhambri & Mahesh Bhupathi bt Chandril Sood & Lakshit Sood 4-6, 6-1, 10-2; Yannick Mertens (Bel) & Stephane Robert (Fra) bt Bai Yan & Li Zhe (Chn) 6-3, 5-7, 15-13.