Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan and Sriram Balaji pipped Sumit Nagal and Mukund Sasikumar 7-6(5), 6-0 in the all-India doubles quarterfinal at the Chennai Open Challenger on Thursday.
Nagal and Mukund drew first blood in the opening set, with a break in the sixth game.
The game started with Balaji letting an overhead volley go undisturbed, only to find it bouncing within limits. Another couple of unforced errors by Balaji allowed the wildcard pair to pull 4-2 ahead.
Three games later, Balaji made amends for the slip-up, as his intervening forehand volley, almost hugging the net, pulled the set back on serve at 4-5.
Both pairs held their serves and a tiebreak ensued.
Jeevan-Balaji went a mini-break ahead after Mukund’s decision to engage in a down-the-court rally saw him overhit and send the ball long. Nagal got the pair back immediately with a crosscourt forehand winner.
At two points apiece, Mukund mishit a volley from close-range which allowed Jeevan-Balaji to eke out a 3-2 lead. The top seeds extended it to 5-2.
A series of unforced errors which ended with Balaji’s double fault brought Nagal-Sasikumar on level terms at 5-5.
Just like their tournament opener, forays to the net sealed the game for Jeevan-Balaji. Two winners, one from each player, handed the next two points and the set to the duo.
With the momentum in their favour, Jeevan-Balaji seamlessly held serve and snatched breaks in the second, fourth and sixth games of the second iteration to complete the win.
Mistimed shots at straightforward instances by Nagal-Mukund aided the cause for the top-seeded pair.
India’s singles title hopes alive
All was not lost for Nagal, though. His defeat in the doubles was preceded by a 3-6, 6-2, 6-0 come-from-behind win against Chinese Taipei’s Jason Jung in singles.
In the first match on the centre court, where a sparse crowd had turned out to cheer for the local lad, it was Jung who started well with an easy hold in the opening game and stretched Nagal on his first service game.
In the fourth game, Jung got the break when he forced an error from Nagal’s backhand and got a lucky net cord to take a 3-1 lead.
Jung, who entered the main draw as a Lucky Loser, attacked Nagal’s backhand side with powerful, flat groundstrokes, not allowing the Indian to unleash his booming forehands.
In the second set, however, Nagal found his rhythm and was able to move Jung around the court and quickly broke him twice to race to a 5-1 lead. The Taiwanese player’s groundstrokes lacked depth and precision, allowing Nagal to dictate the play.
He got his first break in the fourth game when he forced Jung into two errors on his forehand before breaking him again in the sixth game with a lovely forehand pass. Though Nagal lost his serve once, he immediately broke back to take the set 6-2.
Nagal made it to the quarterfinals of the tournament where he will face Great Britain’s Jay Clarke.
Clarke, with his doubles partner Arjun Kadhe, also advanced to the semifinals with a 1-6, 7-6(8), [10-8] victory against third seeds Ji Sung Nam and Min Kyu Song from South Korea.
The Indo-Brit pair was cruising in the match tiebreak with a three-point lead at 7-4 before Nam and Song pulled level and took it back to serve.
Two bludgeoning serves from Kadhe followed by a backhand winner from Clarke put the pair in the last four.
In the other second-round match, Australian James Duckworth got the better of rising Serbian star Hamad Medjedovic 6-2, 7-6 (3).
(With inputs from S. Dipak Ragav)
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