N. Sriram Balaji and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan got into the doubles draw of the Tata Open Maharashtra as alternates. However, at the end of play at the Balewadi Stadium on Thursday, the pair stood as India’s last hope for the title after a thrilling 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5) win over second-seeded Americans Nathaniel Lammons and Jackson Withrow to reach the semifinals.
Both pairs put on a serving masterclass, facing only one breakpoint each while hitting a combined total of 21 aces in the last-eight fixture that was originally scheduled to be played on Court 1 before being moved to Center Court after top seed Marin Cilic pulled out of his singles quarterfinal.
Therefore, it eventually boiled down to who held nerves in the tiebreaks. Lammons had the opportunity to seal the first set at 6-5 in the tiebreak but the World No. 46 hit the backhand return into the net on Jeevan’s second serve. An ace from Jeevan then earned a set point for the Indians and the duo did not have to do anything to convert it as Lammons ended up committing a double fault.
The second set tiebreak had the two pairs exchange minibreaks twice, before Balaji and Jeevan had a match point at 6-5. Lammons did not err on the serve this time around but hit a forehand into the net after a short rally, much to the local spectators’ delight, which had plenty of school kids.
Balaji and Jeevan will be up against the British pair of Julian Cash and Henry Patten, who knocked out third-seeded Frenchmen Fabien Reboul and Sadio Doumbia 6-2, 6-4.
WATCH : N. Sriram Balaji and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan address the press after their match
Top seeds Ram and Salisbury reach semis
Reigning US Open champions and top seeds Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury defeated the Indo-Mexican duo of Ramkumar Ramanathan and Miguel Angel Reyes-Varela 6-2, 6-1 in a quarterfinal clash which lasted just 56 minutes.
A poor service game from Miguel, in which he committed two double faults, allowed the American-British duo of Ram and Salisbury to go up by a break at 3-1. The pair broke Miguel again in the eighth game to clinch the opening set 6-2.
However, the spectators were truly left ooh-ing and aah-ing on Court one as the top seeds lost just one point in the entire second set. Ram’s outstanding backhand returns and Salisbury’s badminton-like jump smashes made it look like exhibition tennis at one stage.
The match also had Miguel asking for eye drops after the first set and Ramkumar receiving treatment on his ankle midway during the second. The 2022 ATP Tour Finals winners Ram and Salisbury will face fourth-seeded Belgians Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen in the final-four fixture.