“Playing a top-300 or 400 player is no longer easy. They are becoming better and better,” Saketh Myneni had said on day one of the USD50,000 KPIT ATP Challenger tournament here. “It used to be a cakewalk. But now, you may get such matches in the first round of the Futures. No where else!”
On Tuesday, the fifth seed found that out first-hand when he lost 7-5, 6-4, 6-2 to Belarusian IIya Ivashka, who at 389 is ranked more than two hundred places below the Indian.
It was a match in which neither player grabbed a good enough foothold. But at the same time none of their game was flimsy enough to force the other to plummet. Ivashka broke Saketh as early as the third game. But having done it, he laboured through each of his subsequent service holds before finally handing it back for the score to read 4-4.
The 28-year-old Indian is someone who likes to cut the points short by advancing to the net more often. Yet, when forced into rallies he hung in, like he did on set point on Ivashka’s serve at 15-40 in the 12th game. The extra ball he forced Ivashka to hit led to an easy overhead being planted into the net.
But playing his third tournament in as many weeks, Saketh tired in the second set. It led to him taking more risks. He served and volleyed – at 30-30 in the first game and on break points – and tried to work the angles with short cross-court shots.
Though the tactic worked on occasions, the diminishing penetrative power in the shots meant Ivashka could almost always get to the ball. The 21-year-old broke in the seventh game and later took the set 6-4.
Saketh kept up the fight in the initial parts of the third set in spite of being broken in the very first game after being 40-0 up. The third game saw seven deuces and him saving five break points. Still, it came to nothing as Ivashka won the set 6-2 and with that the match.
“Conditions were tough,” Saketh said later. “My mobility was slow. Then it was tiredness. I had some groin and shoulder issues to be careful about. But with those limitations I still played well.”
Later on Centre Court, Somdev Devvarman was at his grinding best against Maxime Janvier as he wore the Frenchman down 6-4, 7-5. He was largely untroubled in the first set, but in the second, his 19-year-old opponent upped the game.
Games two, three, four and five all went to deuce before Janvier broke in the sixth to take a 4-2 lead. But the duo traded four breaks of serve before a hold to love by Devvarman let him level at 5-5. With another break and another love hold, the 30-year-old sealed the match.
The results (Indians unless specified):Singles – Round one: Ilya Ivashka (Blr) bt Saketh Myneni 5-7, 6-4, 6-2; Vijay Sundar Prashanth bt Arthur de Greef (Bel) 6-4, 6-4; James Ward (GBR) bt V.M. Ranjeet 6-2, 4-6, 6-0; Sanam Singh bt Alessandro Bega (Ita) 6-4, 6-1; Somdev Devvarman bt Maxime Janvier (Fra) 6-4, 7-5; Adrian Menendez-Maceiras (Esp) bt Maximilian Neuchrist (Aut) 6-4, 6-1; Germain Gigounon (Bel) bt Aryan Goveas 6-7 (1), 6-2, 6-3; Evgeny Donskoy (Rus) bt Daniel Nguyen (USA) 7-6 (2), 6-4.
Doubles: Alexander Kudryavtsev (Rus) & Purav Raja bt John Paul Fruttero (USA) & Vijay Sundar 6-3, 6-4; Nikola Milojevic (Srb) & Ramkumar Ramanathan bt Niki Poonacha & Ranjeet 6-4, 7-6 (4); Saketh & Sanam bt Temur Ismailov (Uzb) & Arpit Sharma 6-1, 6-1. Neuchrist & Divij Sharan bt Devvarman & Christopher Marquis 7-6 (3), 6-4