Jiri Vesely aces through to Maharashtra Open final

Jiri Vesely served 28 aces in his semifinal match against Ricardas Berankis to win the semifinal 6-7(8), 7-6(3), 7-6(7) on Saturday.

Jiri Vesely exults after winning the semifinal against Ricardas Berankis.   -  r. ragu

How far can one survive with a great serve? Well, if you are Jiri Vesely, it is enough to propel you into an ATP 250 final. For most part of the three-hour long semifinal clash at the Tata Open Maharashtra in Pune on Saturday, it was the second seed Ricardas Berankis who showed the variety in shotmaking: he manned the net with aplomb - almost like a doubles specialist - and hit great backhand winners to go with his mean drop shots. The 29-year-old Lithuanian’s smashes were all on target with the Czech not even attempting to return it.

Vesely didn’t move much, but he served ace after ace - 28 in total - to give minimal chance for Berankis to take advantage of. 28 aces: that’s seven solid games without budging an inch. He added in a handful of service winners as well.

In the first set alone, the 26-year-old Czech hit 12 aces, before ironically conceded the set in the tiebreaker at 8-9 with a double fault.

Berankis did manage to break twice - in the first set before the barrage of aces began and early in the second set. Vesely found a route back as he capitalised on weak serves from the Lithuanian to break back immediately. In the third set, the Czech broke first, but Berankis returned the favour in the next.

All the three sets were decided on tiebreakers, giving the weekend crowd great many moments to cheer for. But for the contrasting style of play, there were similarities in the way the games panned out. If the first set ended with a double fault from Vesely, the second had Berankis double faulting at 3-6.

Vesley, who didn’t quite get his forehands right for the second match in succession, pulled out his best court skills when it mattered the most. Down 6-3 and staring at two match points for Berankis, he hung in there with tight serves and forced the Lithuanian to commit errors.

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First, it was a forehand that sailed long. Berankis, showing signs of nerve, hit a backhand too low to catch the net in the next and repeated the mistake to help Vesely go level at 7-7. Growing in confidence, Vesley thundered down another ace (his 28th) before a forced backhand error from Berankis sealed the deal for the World No. 107. The scoreline read 6-7(8), 7-6(3), 7-6(7).

This is Vesely's first ATP final since April 2015 when he finished runner-up in Bucharest to Guillermo García-López. He will face Belarusian Egor Gerasimov who defeated Australia’s James Duckworth 7-6(2), 6-4 to reach his maiden ATP Tour final.

“In the beginning, he didn’t read my serve at all. I hit the most number of aces and I could earn some free points. It’s hard to return when I serve well, that’s what I have to focus on (in the final).

“With my eye it’s hard to play long rallies against these guys. They are much better. Not so heavy maybe. We both had chances and both got the breaks,” he said. Vesely took a medical timeout to get rid of eye irritation because of dust particles, but didn’t have trouble sending down aces.

Talking about his plans for the final, Vesely said: “I need to improve my forehand. It is not still not how I wish it would be. In the final, I need to be more consistent. Neither of them have played a final yet ( the other semifinal matches). This could be advantageous for me.”

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