THE TIMES OF INDIA : Myneni sets up Ramkumar clash; Bhambri cruises

PUNE: Saketh Mynenishrugged off a shoulder spasm to set up an interesting semifinal clash with Ramkumar Ramanathan while Yuki Bhambri maintained his brilliant form to cruise into the last-four stage of the $50,000 KPIT ATP Challenger men’s tennis event here on Thursday.

Myneni, on the comeback trail after being out of action for nearly seven months this year to treat a foot injury, needed a medical time-out after the first set to ‘relieve’ his serving shoulder but still managed to knock-out top seed Blaz Kavcic, World No. 102 from Slovenia, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5) in exactly two hours on the centre court at the MSLTA Complex in Mhalunge-Balewadi.

“When you haven’t played that long, there’s bound to be some niggle when you come back to action. It was a spasm and I got my shoulder treated to relieve it,” said Myneni, whose ranking has slipped to 907 and is playing in the tournament as a wildcard.

Bhambri was in rousing form as he dispatched 19-year-old Briton Jay Clarke 6-4, 6-0 in an hour and nine minutes. He had beaten Clarke, who has risen from 734 at the start of 2017 to the current 288, in straight sets in the Nottingham Challenger on grass in the lead-up to Wimbledon.

The 24-year-old Delhi lad is yet to drop a set this week. If anything, Thursday’s was flawless technique on show compared to the previous rounds when he was broken in the second sets.

“Probably it was lack of focus; sometimes the opponent also raises the game. Today I tried to keep the focus and keep playing aggressive,” said Bhambri, the third seed.

He will be up against second seed Spaniard Adrian Menendez-Maceiras who advanced after Aleksandr Nedovyesov of Kazakhstan retired while trailing 5-7, 1-4.

Ramkumar was at his aggressive best as he pounded his friend and rival, Serbian fifth seed Nikola Milojevic 6-1, 7-6 in an hour and 10 minutes.

The 23-year-old Chennai lad was off to a 5-0 lead before Milojevic could even blink, the first set over in 22 minutes.

But the 22-year-old Serb began to find his range in the second and confidently saved two breakpoints in the first and seventh games.

But in the 11th, the fourth seed won a long rally with a forehand pass that hit the paint on the way to a triple breakpoint. Milojevic succumbed on the second with a forehand error.

Despite the shoulder problem, Myneni, who had a career-high ranking of 137 last September, blasted 12 aces compared to Kavcic’s six, and just one double-fault against his rival’s five.

Those powerful serves helped him save 11 of the 16 breakpoints he faced.

The 30-year-old has been moving gingerly on court this week but said mobility was not an issue on Thursday.

“Today I was moving well than I did in the last two games. I served and volleyed a lot, I have never done that before but I had to do it today because I wasn’t able to get any power off the ground,” said the 6’4″ gangling lad from Visakhapatnam.

“All three matches that I played had different styles. The first one (against Bosnian Tomislav Brkic) he was hitting flat, and the second one (Serbian Pedja Krstin) had a lot of top spin. And today he (Kavcic) was trying to control the court.”

It was a game of brawn, and the Indian displayed plenty of it to dictate the points. After the players broke each other twice to push the first set into the tiebreaker, a backhand error by Kavcic handed Myneni a 4-6 lead. The Slovenian saved the first one on his serve, but the home favourite converted the second comfortably.

The second set was a pot-boiler with both players earning a peak into each other’s game at 30-40 and 40-A several times. In the sixth, Myneni dropped serve after nine deuces, but levelled it in the very next game.
The second shoot-out was a bit one-sided as Myneni took a 4-0 lead and wrapped it up with a simple backhand into the open court after Kavcic fell trying to retrieve a drop shot.
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