Maharashtra Open: Error-stricken Mukund goes down fighting, Bopanna-Kadhe ousted

Sasikumar Mukund hit 28 winners, but committed 49 unforced errors, twice more than his opponent Taro Daniel, during his Maharashtra Open first-round defeat. 

Sasikumar Mukund

Sasikumar Mukund attempts a forehand during his first round loss to Taro Daniel at the Maharashtra Open on Wednesday.   -  R. Ragu

Sasikumar Mukund, playing in his career's first ATP Tour match, put up a spirited challenge but went down 6-2, 7-6 (7) to Japan's Taro Daniel in the first round of the $610,000 Tata Maharashtra Open at the Balewadi Stadium on Wednesday. 

Daniel, who came into the tournament after winning a Challenger title in Burnie, Australia last week, began pushing Mukund from the beginning of the first set. Mukund held to love in his first service game, but had to save four breakpoints before surviving the next. 

Mukund couldn’t hold his serve a third time as the Japanese took 10 consecutive points to race to a 5-2 lead. In the nervousness to close out the set, Daniel committed back-to-back forehand errors to give the Indian a double breakpoint opportunity, but he followed it up with a backhand winner and an ace to level the score. He converted the third set point opportunity to go one set up.

RELATED| Maharashtra Open: Prajnesh scales first hurdle, Paes advances in doubles

The Indian showed great fighting spirit in the second despite being down on most of his service games. He attempted to be aggressive and was successful whenever he targeted his opponent’s backhand, but he couldn’t keep his forehands in and wasted multiple opportunities to hit winners. He was particularly guilty of missing four easy overhead smashes after pushing the Japanese to the edge with aggressive returns of serve. 

In desperation to keep the ball in play, the 27-year-old Daniel deployed defensive lobs that sailed over the net. The Indian had ample time to decide on the placement of the shot, but kept leaving it a little too late to send out long or wide forehands.

Mukund’s backhand game was strong, the forehands, when it clicked, were decent, but he just couldn’t contain the errors. For the record, he hit 28 winners against Taro’s 17, but committed 49 unforced errors, twice more than the Japanese (23). 

At 5-5, Daniel broke Mukund at 15 to serve for the match, but the Indian showed tremendous willpower to break back to take it to the tiebreaker. Egged on by the crowd, he kept himself in the loop with aggressive tennis and hit back-to-back forehand winners for a 5-3 lead in the tiebreaker.

Another lob from Daniel and another miss later, Mukund managed to save a match point. At 6-6, the Japanese went for another lob, but it went landed wide, Mukund looked up at the sky in gratitude with folded arms. Ironically, Daniel finished the match with yet another defensive lob as Mukund hit the forehand wide again to end his misery.

RELATED| Maharashtra Open: First-round exits for Nagal, Ramkumar

Talking to the media after the match, Mukund said: “The attitude was great, I hung in there. Considering everything, it’s my first time here, all those nerves, I did a good job. But the tennis itself was not great. I don’t think I was nervous, I had a good start but then small mistakes started creeping in. It could have gone either way.” 

He was quite critical of his performance: “When you mess up so many things, it’s not that one breakpoint that decides the match. If I did everything right, we could talk about that one missed smash or a missed break, but I have to be more consistent and play a lot better.”

Earlier in the day, second seed Ricardas Berankis was stretched by Cedrik-Marcel Stebe in the first set, but once he won the tiebreaker, it was smooth sailing for the Lithuanian as he claimed a 7-6 (2), 6-1 triumph. 

Serbian Viktor Troicki, who registered a three-set victory over Sumit Nagal in the first round, gave Japan’s Yuichi Sugita a walkover into the third after complaining of fever. 

The all-Indian pair of Ramkumar Ramanathan and Purav Raja entered the quarterfinals of the men's doubles with a 7-6 (6), 6-3 victory over Sumit Nagal and Egor Gerasimov in their first-round clash on Court 1.

In the last doubles encounter of the day, Rohan Bopanna and Arjun Kadhe lost to the French pair of Benoit Paire and Antoine Hoang 6-3, 5-7, 10-7 in their first-round clash. Notably, Rohan Bopanna won the 2019 title alongside Divij Sharan. Sharan partnered Artem Sitak this time around and lost in the first round to Leander Paes and Mathew Ebden on Tuesday night. 

For more updates, follow Sportstar on :