With Rohan Bopanna too losing to Stanislas Wawrinka, Somdev is the lone Indian hope in the tournament. Switzerland’s Wawrinka scored a facile 6-1, 6-4 to shut the Bangalorean out.
It was like Somdev was completing some unfinished business. The Indian, the losing finalist here last year, had received a walkover from Schuettler in the semifinals when the veteran pulled out of the contest minutes before the start owing to a wrist injury. Having drawn the 33-year-old in the first round itself, it was an opportunity for the youngster to prove that his entry into the final wasn’t just merely by luck. And the victory – a 7-5, 6-3 verdict -- couldn’t have come in a more emphatic manner.
Somdev, however, felt he wasn’t out there to prove anything. “It was not like I wouldn’t have made it to the final if I had played him last year or it’s not like he would have lost today even if I had beaten him last time. Last year was last year, there is nothing to prove,” he remarked.
The start though gave little inkling of what was to follow. Schuettler, after holding serve in the first game, broke the home favourite in the next to gain a 2-0 lead. Somdev managed to regroup quickly to break his rival back before holding his own to level the scores.
The parity didn’t last long as Schuettler earned one more break in the seventh game after a long-drawn battle. It was a game Somdev should have won. The wild card was either too late or too early on the ball, but he was just beginning to gain his rhythm. His young legs and staying power was clearly impacting Schuettler’s game. Serving for the set at 5-3, the German lost the game rather tamely and Somdev made it 5-5 by holding serve in the next.
“I definitely missed a few balls which I shouldn’t have. I played poor tennis at 2-3, I was up 40-15 and just couldn’t finish it off. It’s not that he did anything special, it’s just that I didn’t play up to the mark. I always knew that I was just one break away from turning it around,” he pointed out.
By this time unforced errors were reeling out of Schuettler’s racquet even as Somdev, egged on by a partisan crowd, grew in confidence. He then pocketed the next two games, including a break in the 11th, to clinch the set.
Somdev began with a break in the second and the momentum by and large remained with him throughout the match. Schuettler was broken in the fifth game and though he managed to stretch Somdev to deuce after lagging 15-40 in the last game, the Indian closed out the match with an overhead smash.
Amritraj’s campaign here came to an early end when American journeyman Michael Russel tamed the Indian in straight sets. Having made it to the main draw through qualifiers, Amritraj was expected to get past his first hurdle, but the 26-year-old looked off-colour throughout his 3-6, 1-6 defeat.
After holding on to their respective serves, Russel went ahead with a break in the sixth game. Amritraj held advantage in the next game, but he netted a forehand after a long rally to let his opponent off the hook. The second set was a cake walk for Russel, who broke Amritraj thrice to wrap up the set and the match.
Results (Prefix denotes seedings) Singles, first round: Michael Russel (US) bt Prakash Amritraj (Ind) 6-3, 6-1; Marcel Granollers (ESP) bt James Ward (Bri) 5-7, 6-2, 6-2; Robby Ginepri (USA) bt 1-Robin Soderling (Swe) 6-4, 7-5; 3-Stanislas Wawrinka (Sui) bt Rohan Bopanna 6-1, 6-4.