It was like a pickaxe running into a bulldozer! Saketh Myneni ran into Stephane Robert and lost steam as the Frenchman raced to a 6-3, 6-0 victory in the final of the $50,000 men’s Challenger tennis tournament at the DLTA Complex here on Sunday.
A number of spectators had assembled on a warm and windy afternoon, including the president of the Asian and national tennis federation, Anil Khanna, expecting some fireworks from the 166th ranked Saketh. However, it was an anticlimax as it was Robert, with his quicksilver movements and exceptional strokeplay, who made it a quickfire affair, as he reeled off ten games on the trot from 2-3 in the first set.
The 28-year-old Saketh, ranked 166 in the world, was not at his serving best, because his opponent could not only get his racquet at anything, but also take the tall Indian out of his comfort zone. The 35-year-old Robert was not exactly a journeyman, fighting for survival in the lower echelons of the game. He had a reputation and a career-best rank of 61 in 2010. At the start of the season, he had qualified and played the third round of the Australian Open against Gael Monfils, after beating Rajeev Ram in five sets. He had won at least a round in all the four Grand Slams and had made it to the pre-quarterfinals of the Australian Open in 2014.
In short, Robert was supremely fit and had more than adequate answers for anything that Saketh could throw at him. It was unfortunate that Saketh could not throw more questions at his opponent, particularly in the second set, as he did have his chances.
Five service games lost on the trot
It has been non-stop action for Saketh, who had lost in the final round of the qualifying event at the Australian Open. He played a Challenger in Launceston and then played the SAF Games in Guwahati last week.
During the loss of the doubles final with Sanam Singh, against Mahesh Bhupathi and Yuki Bhambri, Saketh had dropped serve thrice. He dropped his serve five times on the trot against Robert, who was unwilling to concede even an inch. Saketh perhaps lacked the energy, both physical and mental, to tackle a player of such calibre in tough conditions, and at least make a fight of it.
Yet, for someone who is generally viewed as a doubles specialist thanks to his Davis Cup ventures as well as the Asian Games mixed doubles gold with Sania Mirza and men’s doubles silver with Sanam Singh, Saketh has done exceptionally well to strengthen his claim as a quality singles player.
He is not a single trick pony, and has many aces up his sleeve. He has the power, maturity and craft, and needs more energy in the legs against high quality players like Robert, who have weathered many a storm in their professional career. It was the seventh Challenger singles title for Robert, who has 21 singles titles and 15 doubles titles in the professional circuit.
The champion collected 80 ATP points and $7200, and the runner-up got 48 ATP points and $4240. The president of the Afghanistan Tennis Federation, Abdul Azim Niazi, presented the trophies.
The results (final): Stephane Robert (Fra) bt Saketh Myneni 6-3, 6-0.