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Australian Open tennis: India’s Yuki Bhambri loses to Marcos Baghdatis in first round

Yuki Bhambri struggled to rein in his unforced errors and played well only in patches as his third Australian Open tennis appearance ended with a straight-set first-round defeat at the hands of a seasoned Marcos Baghdatis, on Monday.

The 25-year-old Indian qualifier, ranked 122, had his chances against world number 103 Cypriot, but unforced errors cost him the match 6-7(4) 4-6 3-6 after two hours and nine minutes on court number eight.


Australian Open: Yuki Bhambri India’s solitary singles representative in Melbourne

The mercury hasn’t risen as much as expected at the Australian Open so far. For a Major known for its sweltering heat, that had once melted Jo-Wilfred Tsonga’s shoes on court, this time the harsh rays of sunshine have been replaced by heavy rain that delayed qualifying round matches.

One such tie was between India’s Yuki Bhambri and Canadian youngster Peter Polansky – a third round affair to decide who would make it to the main draw. And as the anxiety crept in courtesy of the match being postponed by a day, Bhambri dropped the first set 1-6.

“I was nervous in the first set. I didn’t move well or hit as freely as I could have,” he says. “In the second I had to make sure I didn’t give him a lead, so I thought I’d start hitting and see where it goes. I managed to find my rhythm and started striking the ball and moving freely.”

The 25-year-old started to claw his way back, and after an hour and 55 minutes, he registered a 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 win to become the only Indian singles player at the tournament to qualify for the main draw.

The World No.121 had earlier gotten the better of Brayden Schnur and Spaniard Carlos Taberner in the first and second qualifying rounds, before becoming the first

Indian since Saketh Myneni at the US Open 2016, to make it to the main draw of a Grand Slam.

For Bhambri though, this was the least that he had expected of himself. “Since the 2018 season started, I’ve had high expectations from myself and I did have the belief that I would qualify,” he says. “I felt I’ve had good preparation with a lot of matches under the belt. But this was the next target, now I just hope I can get a few wins.”

The major in Melbourne has “always been (his) favourite.” He’s qualified for the main draw of a Grand Slam only twice before, both at Melbourne when he played at the 2015 and 2016 editions. Incidentally, the former junior World No.1 had also won the junior Australian Open title in 2009.

Conditions have been pleasant so far. “The last few years have been hot, but it’s quite cool here right now,” Bhambri says. “It’s more draining in the heat but easier when it’s cooler. But the players are used to adjusting to the temperature. The courts too have been on the faster side.”

It’s under these conditions that Bhambri, Ramkumar Ramanthan, Sumit Nagal and Prajnesh Gunneswaran competed in the qualifiers. This was the first time four Indian players were featuring in the singles qualifiers of a major. But only Bhambri and Ramkumar reached the third round.

The second highest Indian player, ranked 20 places behind Bhambri, came up against Canadian Vasek Pospisil. The 23-year-old was vying for his first appearance in a main draw, and did well to overcome his first set loss, only to be broken at a crucial moment when serving at 4-5 in the final set. Ramkumar eventually lost 4-6, 6-4, 4-6.

Bhambri, the only one to make it into the final 128, now plays Marcos Baghdatis in the first round.

In his previous first round appearances, the Delhi-lad had come up against Andy Murray (2015) and then World No.6 Tomas Berdych (2016). Baghdatis, himself is a former World No.8, had reached the final of the 2006 Australian Open.

But the veteran Cypriot had a torrid 2017 season, starting the year at 36 but falling down to his current 101 standing.
Against the erratic 32-year-old, Bhambri senses a chance. “I’ve hit with him at the Bollettieri Academy, so he’s not unfamiliar,” he asserts. “It’s an opportunity for me. He (Baghdatis) is coming fresh into this season, but I’ve had a few matches to find my rhythm. So I definitely have a shot.”

He has done his bit to give himself the best chance as well. He’s travelling now with both a coach, Steven Koon (who trains veteran Taiwanese player Yen-Hsun Lu) and trainer Abhimanyu Singh. The only thing, oddly, India’s highest ranked singles player is missing is an apparel sponsor.


Yuki Bhambri races to final qualifying round in Australian Open

Davis Cupper Yuki Bhambri raced into the third and final qualifying round with a 6-0, 6-2 victory over Carlos Taberner of Spain in the Australian Open on Friday.

The 25-year-old Yuki, ranked 121 in the world, will play Peter Polansky of Canada in the final round.

Ramkumar Ramanathan was waiting for his second round against Gleb Sakharov of France as rain had intervened to slow down the proceedings. He will play his second round on Saturday.

Prajnesh Gunneswaran and Sumit Nagal also fought well in their first round, before bowing out in three sets each against Tobias Kamke of Germany and Alessandro Ganessi of Italy respectively.

The results:

Men’s qualifying singles (first round): Ramkumar Ramanathan bt Bradley Klahn (US) 6-7(8), 7-6(3), 6-2;Tobias Kamke (Ger) bt Prajnesh Gunneswaran 4-6, 6-1, 6-2; Alessandro Ganessi (Ita) bt Sumit Nagal 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-3; Yuki Bhambri bt Brayden Schnur (Can) 1-6, 6-3, 6-4.


Akanksha Bhan tumbles in semifinals


Selin Ovunc of Turkey pipped top seed Akanksha Bhan 6-1, 2-6, 7-6(3) in the girls semifinals of the ITF grade-2 junior tennis tournament at the DLTA Complex here on Friday.

In the final, Selin will play the champion of the last event in Chandigarh Emma Raducanu of Britain, who outplayed second seed Mai Napatt Nirundorn of Thailand in the other semifinal for the loss of three games.

The boys final will be between Mathys Erhard of france and Gauthier onclin of Belgium who beat the champion last week, Park Minjong of Korea.

The results:

Boys (semifinals): Mathys Erhard (Fra) bt Zhao Zhao (Chn) 6-3, 7-5; Gauthier Onclin (Bel) bt Park Minjong (Kor) 6-3, 6-4.

Doubles (final): Louis Herman & Gauthier Onclin (Bel) bt Yassir Kilani (Mar) & Brandon Perez (Ven) 3-6, 6-3, 11-9.

Girls (semifinals): Selin Ovunc (Tur) bt Akanksha Bhan 6-1, 2-6, 7-6(3); Emma Raducanu (GBR) bt Mai Napatt Nirundorn (Tha) 6-2, 6-1.

Doubles (final): Sophia Biolay & Margaux Rouvroy (Fra) bt Ziva Falkner (Slo) & Selin Ovunc (Tur) 4-6, 6-0, 10-7.


Divij Sharan wins Challenger with Jonathan Erlich in Ausie Capital


Divij Sharan in partnership with Jonathan Erlich of Israel beat the top seeds Hans Podlipnik-Castillo of Chile and Andrei Vasilevski of Belarus 7-6(1), 6-2 in the doubles final of the $75,000 Challenger tennis tournament in Canberra on Friday.

It was the first title of the season for the 31-year-old Divij, and the first with Erlich. The 50th ranked Divij has 15 Challenger doubles titles apart from three Tour events.

‘’I missed the on-site cut for the ATP tour event in Sydney this week. So, it was a last minute decision to play the ATP challenger in Canberra. Jonathan Erlich has been on the tour for many years and it was fun playing with him for the first time’’, said Divij.

Divij in partnership with Yuki Bhambri had lost in the semifinals of the ATP Tour event last week back home in Pune.

‘’We had quite a few break points in the second set and things could have turned in our favour had we converted some of those chances’’, observed Divij, who had beaten the top seeds in partnership with Yuki in Pune.

He recalled another final last year, featuring the same opponents whom he met in Canberra.

‘’Yuki and I lost to Podlipnik and Vasilevski the last time I played them in the finals of the Tashkent Challenger in 2017. Got the win this time’’, said Divij, quite pleased to get a bunch of matches going into the Australian Open in which he will compete with Rajeev Ram of the US.

The title was worth 80 ATP points and $4,650 for the second seeded Indo-Israeli pair.

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