Myneni enters semis of AirAsia Open

Third seed Saketh Myneni is now the only Indian remaining in the fray after Sanam Singh was ousted in an earlier match.

Saketh Myneni will face top seed Adrian Menendez-Maceiras in the semi-finals of the AirAsia Open.   -  K MURALI KUMAR

Saketh Myneni has a languid style about him; his movements precise and economical, not too fussy, but still getting the job done. But make no mistake; he packs a mean serve and his change of direction while retrieving is fluid and smooth, considering his 6’4” frame.

All of this was on display as the tournament third seed and only Indian remaining in the fray, Sanam Singh was ousted in an earlier match, made light of his quarterfinal encounter against fifth seed Yannick Mertens of Belgium in the $50,000 AirAsia Open ATP Challenger at the KSLTA stadium here on Friday afternoon.

A change of direction it was that got Myneni his first break-point in the first set in game four. Mertens, sensing that Myneni was expecting the return to go to his backhand, decided instead to target the forehand only to see Myneni screech to a stop, turn around and whip out a winner. Mertens did manage to save that and the next break-point before Myneni went up in the set.

A similar turn of events was instrumental in bringing Myneni up to 30-all from love-30 in game 11 of the second set after the two had managed to hold serve till then; Myneni even called for a medical time out at 4-all where he was administered magic spray and had his left thigh strapped.

Mertens managed to take it to deuce and even held advantage but a forehand error and a winner later Myneni had break-point.

Up a break and serving for the match, the Indian, to the disappointment of the crowd, handed it back on a platter to Mertens in the next game when he missed an easy overhead forehand put away.

The Belgian then was quickly away to a 3-1 lead in the tie-breaker before Myneni unleashed a monster serve, his favourite is the one which is targeted to the left corner of the ‘T’ and climbing up when serving from the deuce court and reverse when on the ad court, to bring things back to level terms at 5-5.

Mertens had his chance at set-point on 6-5 but walked away with only a wry smile after Myneni’s smash at his foot left him with no room to manoeuvre.

Match-point was soon reached and Myneni used his height to put in a couple of balls with heavy top-spin which Mertens managed to keep in before back-hand down-the-line winner just caught the edge of box to ensure Myneni’s passage to the semi-finals.

Waiting for him there is the tournament No. 1, Adrian Menendez-Maceiras who saw off another Belgian – Arthur de Greef – in a match characterized by ‘heavy vocalization’ from both players.

Livid at what they perceived were wrong line calls, the two made their feelings known clearly, with de Greef even screaming at one line official in the first set, “Open your eyes. Stop sleeping,” while Menendez-Maceiras could be seen arguing with the chair towards the fag end of the match.

Earlier in the day, the No. 2 seed James Ward was hardly troubled by Sanam as he ran out an easy 6-3, 6-2 winner. Not that Sanam did not try, but the chasm between the two was too great for the Indian to surmount.

Results

Singles: Quarterfinals - James Ward (GBR) bt Sanam Singh 6-3, 6-3; Saketh Myneni bt Yannick Mertens (Bel) 6-3, 7-6; Adrian Menendez-Maceiras (Esp) bt Arthur de Greef 6-3, 6-4; Daniel Nguyen (USA) bt Alessandro Bega (Ita) 7-5, 6-4.