Marin Cilic pulling out with a knee injury ahead of his quarterfinal match on Thursday could have been the ‘knocking the air out of your lungs’ moment for Tata Open Maharashtra.
But second seed Botic van de Zandschulp ensured that there would be more than enough life left with a rousing performance to defeat German qualifier Maximilian Marterer 6-4, 6-2 and enter the semifinals.
The Dutchman may not be as expressive and charming as Cilic, and not quite the crowd favourite. His pursuit of on-court excellence is also stoic, with few overwhelming emotions on display. But he ruthlessly dismantled Marterer’s game to remain on course for his maiden tour-level title.
Marterer was the early aggressor, and unlike van de Zandschulp’s previous opponent Flavio Cobolli, played to keep points short. But the attempt to live a little braver than what was comfortable didn’t pay off as the World No.35 picked him apart.
Van de Zandschulp served immaculately well, not facing a single breakpoint. That placed immense pressure on Marterer and the latter cracked in the ninth game of the first set, fluffing a backhand overhead, a backhand sliced volley and two forehands in succession. Van de Zandschulp calmly pocketed the set 6-4.
Marterer lost his serve again in the third game of the second stanza when he sent another volley long and saw Van de Zandschulp nail a backhand pass on breakpoint. The 27-year-old’s shoulders dropped and the springy steps were soon replaced by weary trudges. Van de Zandschulp’s break to 5-2 and the subsequent hold hastened the end.
“It was a completely different match from yesterday (Wednesday),” Van de Zandschulp said later. “He (Marterer) was playing aggressive. I served really well today, made a lot of returns, played a lot more consistently. It is completely different playing under the lights and it was kind of slow. But I managed it.”
Earlier on the show court, the Indian pair of Sriram Balaji and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan, who had sneaked into the main draw as alternates, upset the tournament’s second-seeded Americans Nathaniel Lammons and Jackson Withrow 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5) to make the last four.
There was however no such cheer for Ramkumar Ramanathan and his Mexican partner Miguel Angel Reyes-Varela, beaten as they were 6-2, 6-1 by top seeds and three-time Major winners Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury.