Yuki Bhambri in Challenger final

The 23-year-old recorded his biggest singles win of his career, by knocking out top seed and World No. 40 Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic 7-6(2), 6-0 in the semifinals of the $125,000 Challenger tennis tournament in Kaohsiung, Chinese Taipei. It was a much-awaited victory for the 23-year-old Yuki who was beaten in the fourth rubber by the Czech in the Davis Cup World Group play-off at the RK Khanna Stadium in Delhi last Sunday.

Yuki Bhambri reached the final of a Challenger event for the fourth time this season, with the biggest singles win of his career.   -  R. Ragu

Fourth seed and wild card entrant Yuki Bhambri knocked out the 40th ranked top seed Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic 7-6(2), 6-0 in the semifinals of the $125,000 Challenger tennis tournament in Kaohsiung, Chinese Taipei, on Saturday. It was a much-awaited victory for the 23-year-old Yuki who was beaten in the fourth rubber by the Czech in the Davis Cup World Group play-off at the RK Khanna Stadium in Delhi last Sunday.

The 125th ranked Yuki, ready to jump into the top-100 soon as he has already assured himself of 75 ATP points, served strong and saved four breakpoints in the first set to tilt the balance in his favour, in a battle of wits that lasted an hour and 24 minutes. "I served well which was important, as I barely had a look in his service games. I played a very good tie break. Once I got the first break in the second set, I think he started to tire out," said Yuki, who was accompanied by coach Aditya Sachdeva for the tournament.

The big-built Czech managed to win only 10 points in the second set as Yuki converted the three breakpoints that he got, to hasten the defeat. Yuki acknowledged that saving the four breakpoints in the first set at 2-2 was the key to controlling the flow of the match. "It was crucial. It could have been a different story, had I got broken. It was an important hold," said Yuki, who lost three sets on the trot in the Davis Cup tie against the Czech, even though he had chances to win the second set then.

"Serve was the key, and I had planned to be aggressive. It is a great confidence booster, beating a top-40 player. I am heading towards the top 100, and hopefully, I will get there soon. It was a good test for me’’, said Yuki, who fired nine aces, to two by his opponent. Quite interestingly, Yuki was not scheduled to play the tournament. He was planning to take a break after Davis Cup and then play a tournament in Egypt, which got cancelled.

"It was by chance that I happened to play here. My doubles partner for this week asked me to play with him, when I was in Shanghai. I jokingly told him that if I get a singles wildcard, I will play doubles with him. He spoke to the tournament director and the wild card came through. It was pure luck," explained Yuki, who had won the Shanghai Challenger, the week before Davis Cup.

Incidentally, Yuki in partnership with Chu-Huan YI of Chinese was beaten in the doubles semifinals by Mao-Xin Gong of China and Hsien-Yin Peng of Chiense Taipei. The doubles semifinal entry was worth 45 ATP points and $2700 for the pair. Another Taipei pair beat the other Indian pair Somdev Devvarman and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan, in the other semifinal.

Yuki will play second seed Hyeon Chung of Korea in the final on the morrow. The 19-year-old Korean, ranked 73 in the world, has already won three Challenger singles titles this year. He was ahead 6-0, 2-0 when the fifth seed Tatsuma Ito of Japan retired in the semifinals Meanwhile, Divijj Sharan and Saketh Myneni made the doubles final of the €64,000 Challenger in Turkey, as they beat top seeds Gero Kretschmer and Alexander Satschko of Germany 11-9 in the super tie-break.

The other Indian Davis Cupper, Sanam Singh made the semifinals of the $15,000 ITF men’s Futures event in Canada.

The results:

$125,000 Challenger men, Kaohsiung, Chinese Taipei

Singles (semifinals): Yuki Bhambri bt Jiri Vesely (Cze) 7-6(2), 6-0.

Doubles (semifinals): Cheng-Peng Hsieh & Tsung-Hua Yang (Tpe) bt Somdev Devvarman & Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan 6-2, 6-3; Mao-Xin Gong (Chn) & Hsien-Yiin Peng (Tpe) bt Chu-Huan Yi (Tpe) & Yuki Bhambri 6-4, 6-4.

€64,000 Challenger men, Izmir, Turkey

Doubles (semifinals): Divij Sharan & Saketh Myneni bt Gero Kretschmer & Alexander Satschko (Ger) 6-3, 3-6, 11-9.

$15,000 ITF men, Markham, Canada

Singles (quarterfinals): Sanam Singh bt Alejandro Tabilo (Can) 6-4, 6-3.