Bengaluru Open: Paes-Ebden march ahead, India's singles campaign ends

All of India singles hopefuls, including Prajnesh Gunneswaran, were ousted, while the duo of Leander Paes and Mathew Ebden advanced at the Bengaluru Open.

Mathew Ebden, Leander Paes

Leander Paes and Mathew Ebden celebrate their victory over Christopher Rungkat and Andre Goransson at the Bengaluru Open on Thursday.   -  V. Sreenivasa Murthy

Leander Paes’ fireworks lit up an otherwise dark day for Indians at the $1,62,000 Bengaluru Open ATP Challenger here on Thursday.

The Indian singles players - Prajnesh Gunneswaran, Sumit Nagal, Saketh Myneni, Sidharth Rawat, Ramkumar Ramanathan and Niki Poonacha - all faltered in their third round matches. It was left to Paes to lend some cheer to the goodly KSLTA crowd, and he did not disappoint.

It would not be an easy quarterfinal outing for Paes and his Australian partner Matthew Ebden, however, as they took on Tata Open Maharashtra champions Christopher Rungkat and Andre Goransson. With Leander Paes off-colour early in the encounter, Ebden carried the burden to help the pair claim the first set 7-5. Rungkat-Goransson fought back to take the second set without losing a game.

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The stage was set for a dramatic super tiebreaker finish. Paes-Ebden did not start well, with Ebden making two unforced errors. A timely volley winner from Paes evoked a rallying cry from the veteran, who was keen to get the crowd involved.

The move worked, as a pumped-up Paes then took control, putting away two crisp volleys and an overhead smash. His serves - right down the ’T’ - proved to be too hot to handle as well. Rungkat and Goransson, now reeling under pressure, threw in the towel a short while later.

Prajnesh Gunneswaran

Prajnesh Gunneswaran, the top ranked Indian, suffered a third round loss to unseeded Frenchman Benjamin Bonzi.   -  V. Sreenivasa Murthy

Paes, who entered his first semifinal since the 2019 Hall of Fame Open in Newport (USA), said, “We just beat a pair which won a ATP Tour 250 series event (Maharashtra Open) a few days ago. That’s pretty cool. You have to create your own momentum. There will be doubters through life, but you have to shut the noise out and keep going.”

In the singles section, the Indian hopefuls - watched by Davis Cup coach Zeeshan Ali - drew a blank. The tournament is now set for a foreign champion for the first time in three editions.

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Defending champion Gunneswaran went down 6-7 (5), 0-6 to unseeded Benjamin Bonzi. Nagal, Myneni and Ramkumar were similarly outclassed, going down without much of a fight.

Impressive wildcard Poonacha - equipped with a strong serve and powerful groundstrokes - did well to record his best performance in a Challenger event. Poonacha’s fine run came to an end at the hands of third-seed and World No. 82 Yuichi Sugita.

The results (Indians unless mentioned):

Singles (third round): Thomas Fabbiano (ITA) bt Saketh Myneni 6-4, 5-7, 6-2; Ilya Ivashka (BLR) bt Ramkumar Ramanathan (IND) 7-6(2), 6-1; Blaz Rola (SLO) bt Sumit Nagal 6-3, 6-3; Benjamin Bonzi (FRA) bt Prajnesh Gunneswaran (IND) 7-6(5), 6-0; Yuichi Sugita (JPN) bt Niki Poonacha (IND) 7-5, 6-3; Julian Ocleppo (ITA) bt Sidharth Rawat (IND) 7-5, 6-4.

Doubles (Quarterfinals): Saketh Myneni/Matt Reid (AUS) bt Cheng-Peng Hsieh (TPE) / Denys Molchanov (UKR) 3-6, 6-4, 10-8; Matthew Ebden(AUS)/Leander Paes bt Andre Goransson (SWE)/Christopher Rungkat (INA) 7-5, 0-6, 10-7; Purav Raja/Ramkumar Ramanathan bt Frederico Ferreira Silva (POR)/Nikola Milojevic (SRB) 6-4, 6-4.


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