Vijay Sundar goes down fighting

What was impressive was the way in which Vijay Sundar Prashanth kept coming back every time Donskoy threatened to surge ahead. He was broken to love in the very first game, but he levelled at 2-2 and then stretched the set to a tie-breaker. He then saved three set points, two of them with some excellent clutch-serving.

India's N. Vijay Sundar Prashanth put up a good fight against Russian Evgeny Donskoy.   -  K. BHAGYA PRAKASH

Tennis careers of the not so blessed ones — of those outside the top 100 — are often tenuous. They are perennially in danger of coming down like a house of cards.

Perhaps nobody knows it better than Vijay Sundar Prashanth. After tasting reasonable success as a junior, his life on the men’s professional circuit has been nothing short of intense struggle.

It seems that only in 2015 has Vijay Sundar, aged 29, seen a year at which he can look back with a fair amount of pride. The quarter-final finish, including a win over Somdev Devvarman, at the $50,000 ATP KPIT Challenger here will no doubt form a part of it.

It was the Indian’s first-ever Challenger quarter-final on Thursday and he departed only after giving a good account of himself — a tough 7-6 (8), 7-6 (5) defeat to Evgeny Donskoy.

In the Russian, he probably had one of his toughest opponents; an in-form player who reached the Kremlin Cup ATP 250 semi-final including two wins over other top 100 players last week.

What was impressive was the way in which he kept coming back every time Donskoy threatened to surge ahead. He was broken to love in the very first game, but he levelled at 2-2 and then stretched the set to a tie-breaker. He then saved three set points, two of them with some excellent clutch-serving.

“For me it was important to hold my service,” he said later. “Coming from the Futures level, I know how difficult it is to come back from a break down against higher-ranked players.”

After having stayed with his opponent throughout the first set, Vijay Sundar, at 3-3 in the second, even earned two break points. But his squandering both seemed like a mini jail-break for Donskoy. The World No. 100 would have expected to sprint towards the finish line.

Yet again, it didn’t happen. Vijay Sundar would go on to save a match-point while serving at 4-5 and another at 5-6.

“Three points made the difference,” Vijay Sundar said reflecting on the fine margins involved. “In the first set tie-breaker at 5-5 and 7-7 and in the second set tie-breaker again at 5-5. I wouldn’t say I would have won. But I could have given myself a great chance.”

“He won against Somdev [Devvarman],” said Donskoy. “So I was prepared. I won’t say I played my best. But I had to play very, very well.”

Vijay Sundar is now ranked a career-high 373. He qualified for the Aircel Chennai Open early this year and also bagged his first three Futures titles.

“I started off by beating Yuki [Bhambri] (Chennai Open qualifying) and finished by beating Somdev,” he said with a smile. “I have finished strongly. So, looking forward.”

The results (Indians unless specified):

Quarter-finals: James Ward (GBR) bt Ilya Ivashka (Blr) 6-3, 6-3; Alexander Kudryavtsev (Rus) bt Adrian Menendez-MacEiras (Esp) 6-2, 6-1; Evgeny Donskoy (Rus) bt Vijay Sundar Prashanth 7-6 (8), 7-6 (5); Yuki Bhambri bt Ti Chen (Tpe) 6-4, 7-6 (4).

Doubles: Semi-finals: Maximilian Neuchrist (Aut) & Divij Sharan bt Saketh Myneni & Sanam Singh 4-6, 7-5, [12-10]; Gerard Granollers (Esp) & Menendez-MacEiras bt Kudryavtsev & Purav Raja 3-6, 6-4, 12-10.

Semifinal line-up: Kudryavtsev vs. Donskoy; Bhambri vs. Ward

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