Dmitry Popko wins a thriller against Sanam Singh

Popko saved four match points in the second set tie-breaker before upstaging the Indian in a skirmish that lasted two hours and 29 minutes.

Popko was erratic right through the fiercely fought encounter, he also fired aces and hard-hit winners when it mattered most.   -  G.Viswanath

Kazakhstan’s Dmitry Popko and India’s Sanam Singh put up a gladiator-like show at the Balewadi Sports Complex’s centre court here on Monday.

Clashing in the first round of the $ 50,000 KPIT-MSLTA Challenger here on Monday, the 20-year-old with a superior ATP ranking, Popko saved four match points in the second set tie-breaker before upstaging the Indian in a skirmish that lasted two hours and 29 minutes.

Kazakhstan’s No. 3 player after Aleksandr Nedovyesov and Andrey Golubev, the 6.3ft tall Popko was erratic right through the fiercely fought encounter; he double faulted seven times, but he also fired aces and hard-hit winners when it mattered most.

Sanam Singh resembled a brave heart, not showing the slightest impression that his enthusiasm and energy had diminished even after missing a chance to clinch the match and cause the biggest upset on day one of the tournament.

He served and returned well and was ready to slug it out from the baseline on the hard court. After the long drawn 12th game of the third set, the 28-year-old Sanam, ranked as low as 608 in the men’s singles ATP list sustained his aggressive approach in the tie-breaker. Popko held his nerves and won the contest. Disgusted, Sanam flung his racket losing the last point of the match.

The opening day of the Challenger --- which will be by an ATP mandate a prize-money-hospitality event from next year --- also saw the home country’s two of the three wild card entry recipients, Vishnu Vardhan and the 16-year-old Dhruv Sunish advance to the second round.

Awarded the wild card for becoming the No.1 ranked player in the under-18 age group category, Sunish prevailed over Siddharth Vishwakarma in three sets. This victory has ensured Sunish seven ATP points. He will run into the tournament favourite and top seed, Russia’s Evgeny Donskoy who is expected to win against India’ Mohit Mayur Jayaprakash in a first round match on Tuesday.

Vishnu Vardhan shrugged off a stiff challenge posed by Visakhapatnam-based Kaza Vinayak Sharma to earn a meeting with Popko in the second round. Sidharth Rawat who defeated Ranjeet Virali-Murugesan is also assured of seven ATP points, a point less than than what a semi-finalist in a $ 25,000 ITF Futures event gets. At least five Indians are certain of getting seven ATP points.

Results: Men’s singles (1st round) Dmitry Popko (Kazakhstan) bt Sanam Singh (India) 3-6, 76 (7-6), 7-6 (7-5), Sidharth Rawat (India) bt Ranjeet Virali-Murugesan (India) 7-5, 6-7 (3-7), 6-2, Vishnu Vardhan (India, wc) bt Kaza Vinayak Sharma (India) 7-6 (7-2), 6-4, Dhruv Sunish (India,wc) bt Siddharth Vishwakarma (India) 6-4, 2-6, 6-3, Sadio Doumbia (France) bt Sasi Kumar Mukund (India) 4-6,6-4,6-4, Prajnesh Gunneswaran (India) bt Haadin Salim Bawa (India) 7-5,2-6,6-4, Luca Margaroli (Switzerland, qualifier) bt Anvit Bendre (India) 6-3,6-3.

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