Young Manas Dhamne had an impressive ATP Tour main draw debut despite a 2-6, 4-6 loss to USA’s Michael Mmoh in the opening round of the Tata Open Maharashtra at the Balewadi Stadium on Monday.
Awarding Manas, who turned 15 last week, a wildcard entry into the main draw did raise a few eyebrows, but the local boy stood up to the challenge against an opponent who was nine years older and physically stronger than him.
A 15-shot opening rally, which ended with Manas hitting a forehand down the line and finding the corner at the baseline, set the tone for the entertaining fixture, which went on for an hour and 28 minutes.
“The first point was really important. I wanted to play the first point in the first game very solidly and not miss, and I played the game that way. The first point calmed me down a little bit and the nervousness went away,” said Manas in the post-match press conference.
While Mmoh had the advantage of a bigger serve (Mmoh’s first serve speeds were close to 200 km/h as compared to Manas’ 175 km/h) and duly earned a lot of free points, Manas did manage to show flashes of brilliance in between. Two of those came in the fourth game itself.
First, he executed the combination of a drop shot drawing Mmoh towards the net followed by a crunch crosscourt backhand pass to make it 15-all. Then, at 40-Ad, he hit a crosscourt backhand drop shot winner, which had the 6’2” American smiling.
In the second set, Manas was down 1-5 before launching a stunning counter-attack to win 12 of the next 15 points and make it 4-5.
However, Mmoh managed to pull things back just in time and, despite being 0-30 down, served it out successfully for a place in the second round.
Manas played clean tennis, not committing even a single double fault. However, the lack of experience was visible when he could not convert two breakpoint opportunities in the first set and allowed Mmoh to almost run away with the second.
Manas, who trains at Piatti Tennis Center in Bordighera, Italy, and played his first senior level match at a Challenger event in the same country, said he did not feel any pressure going into the match.
“I had no expectations because I did not know what the match would be like. I have never played with any of these guys before. I just wanted to go on the court and play as I play and that was the only thing in my mind,” said Manas, ranked 80 in ITF Junior World Rankings.
The boy from Satara even felt that he had enough energy left had the match gone to a third set.
While Argentina’s Franco Davin 38-year-old record of being the youngest player ever to win an ATP Tour main draw match lives another day, Manas did show some promise to cherish.