Sanam goes down fighting

The way Sanam Singh fought back after tamely losing the opening set and stretching the match into the decider, he soared the expectations against the eighth-seeded Illya Marchenko of Ukraine in the opening match of ONGC –GAIL Delhi Open.

But the diminutive Indian fumbled on crucial points against the Ukrainian to go down 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 on the centre court of the RK Khanna Tennis stadium on Monday.

The slow court and windy conditions added to the challenge and Sanam, ranked 352, flickered like a flame in the face of wind in the opening set. He misfired the easiest of returns to swiftly go down a set. But the Indian, known for his splendid court-craft, returned with purpose in the second.

 He pushed the tall and well-built Ukranian for every point and chased nearly every ball. Despite that he conceded break in the fifth game, a double fault on two break points, but shot back to return the favour immediately.

 Marchenko, too, helped his cause by slumping to a raft of errors and the Indian pulled off the decisive break in the eighth game before serving out the set.

 Marchenko, placed 67 in 2010 and currently ranked 161, cut a sorry figure ahead of the decider. However, he soon shrugged off his disappointment by breaking Sanam straightaway and jumping to a 3-0 lead.

The Indian, cheered by his Davis Cup teammates at the stands, slowly worked his way back. He held his next service game and broke back Mar­chenko in the long fifth game.

 At 4-4, the Indian had the opportunity to take control of the match when he earned two break points, the second one squandered when he hit a forehand down the line long. Marchenko was quick to seize the lifeline this time to hold and then broke Sanam in the next game, when the Indian muffed up a volley, to wrap up the set and the match after a two hours and 10 minutes battle.

 In the two big upsets, third seed Peter Gojowczwk of Germany and fifth seeded Go Soeda lost to Mohamed Safawat (7-5, 7-5) and Swiss Marco Chiudinelli (6-1, 6-3) respectively.

 In the four women’s singles matches featuring Indians, none of the home player returned with a win.

 Prerna Bhambri lost to top seed Erika Sema of Japan 1-6, 3-6 and Prarthana Thombare went down to Ukraine’s Veronika Kapshay 4-6,  5-7.

Results (Indians unless mentioned):

Men’s singles: First round: Mohamed Safwat (Egy) bt 3-Peter Gojowczyk (Ger) 7-5, 7-5; 8-Illya Marchenko (Ukr) bt Sanam Singh 6-2, 3-6, 6-4; Marco Chiudinelli (Sui) bt 5-Go Soeda (Jpn) 6-2, 6-1.

Women’s singles: 1-Erika Sema of Japan bt Prerna Bhambri 1-6, 3-6, Veronika Kapshay (Ukr) bt Prarthana Thombare 6-4, 7-5, 8-Qiang Wang (Chn) bt Shweta Rana 6-2, 6-0, Peangtarn Plipuech (Thai) bt Nidhi Chilumula 6-3, 6-2.

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