In many ways, tennis is like a jigsaw puzzle. It is as much a test of intelligence as anything else. Yuki Bhambri was always known to possess court craft. On Saturday, he took it to the next level as he beat Russian Evgeny Donskoy 6-2, 7-6 (4) to win the $50,000 KPIT ATP Challenger.
The win was the World No. 105’s fifth Challenger title (second this year) and come Monday, when the ATP rankings are released, he will reach a second career-high position in three weeks.
“I have had a great second half after the US Open,” said Bhambri. “Four or five tournaments I have played, I have challenged for the title. It’s been in different countries and at bigger events.”
“This year has by far been the best year. I broke into the top 100 and should remain there for a couple of months at least.”
The match too was Bhambri’s best in this tournament. At the start of 2015, he had particularly stressed on the importance of having a good serve. On the final day, his service game was immaculate. He hit eight aces, won 30 of 35 first serve points and conceded only one break point.
“It was high percentage,” he said. “It means a lot of free points. Anytime I am able to do that, I am in control. I have a good return game. The days I serve well are the days when I feel I have a good chance no matter who I play.”
Like most players this week, including Bhambri, Donskoy struggled to control his shots. His is an inherently aggressive game but the high bounce and faster courts ensured that the errors were accentuated. Bhambri too did his bit by denying him time on the ball.
After having been broken in the very first game, he slipped further to 4-1 when three of his shots sailed long. He never recovered from there and his frustration was evident when down a set point, he squatted away a body serve to hasten the end of the set.
It seemed curtains for the 25-year-old when he presented Bhambri with two break points at 2-2 in the second set. But the Indian’s inability to convert led to the Russian getting his nose slightly in front, going ahead 5-2.
Barely had Donskoy sniffed an opportunity, Bhambri came right back. He served two aces to hold to 3-5. Three unforced errors and a double fault by his opponent made it 4-5. His hold to 5-5 – the best of the evening – had two aces and two pin-point body serves each.
Five unforced errors, a double-fault and an inch-perfect forehand winner near the right tramline gave Bhambri the seven tie-break points.
Result: Yuki Bhambri bt Evgeny Donskoy (Rus) 6-2, 7-6 (4).
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