Balaji seals final spot with gritty victory

Top seed Sriram Balaji had to sweat it out before sealing his place in the semifinals of the ITF Belgaum Open at the VTU Tennis complex here on Thursday.

Joining Balaji in the last-four stage are Portuguese giant-killer Andre Gasper Murta, who had knocked out second seed Sanam Singh on Wednesday, sixth seed Michael Shabaz of USA and Torsten Wietoska of Germany. Shabaz will face Balaji while Wietoska meets a determined teenager Murta in the semifinals on Friday.

Balaji played nearly flawless tennis to beat the Dutch player Colin Van Been 6-4, 5-7, 6-3.
Balaji broke Van Beem in the fourth game of the match to go 4-1 ahead but the Dutch broke back in the seventh game and then held his serve to level the scores 4-all. Another break in the 10th game gave Balaji the first set 6-4. It took Van Beem just one break in the 11th game to pocket the second set 7-5.

In the third set Balaji broke Van Beem in the second and fourth games to go up 4-0 before the Indian dropped his serve in the fifth game. But Balaji held on to the one break to clinch the decider 6-3.

Shabaz beat third seed Theodoros Angelinos of Gre-ece 6-4, 6-4 while Wietoska edged out seventh seed Ashwin Vijaraghavan 6-4, 3-6, 7-5. Murta took out eighth seed Jeroen Benard 7-5, 6-3.

Results: (prefix denotes seeding, Indians unless specified): Singles (quarterfinals): Andre Gasper Murta (Por) bt 8-Jeroen Benard (Ned) 7-5, 6-3; 6-Michael Shabaz (USA) bt 3-Theodoros Angelinos (Gre) 6-4, 6-4; 1-Sriram Balaji bt Colin Van Been (Ned) 6-4, 5-7, 6-3; Torsten Wietoska (Ger) bt 7-Ashwin Vijayraghavan 6-4, 3-6, 7-5.

Doubles (semifinals): 1-Vijaysundar Prashanth/ Arun Prakash Rajagopalan bt Rupesh Roy/ Vivek Shokeen 6-4, 3-6, 10-6; Amrit Narasimhan (USA)/ Michael Shabaz (USA) bt 2-Sergei Krotiouk (Rus)/ Luca Margaroli (Sui) 6-3, 7-6 (7-4).

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