Qualifying Day 1 Report – ATP 250 Tata Open Maharashtra

It was a day full of activities at the Balewadi Stadium in Pune. The excitement on everyone’s faces, be it the players, fans, organisers, or media people, was clearly visible. The Singles Draw ceremony was graced by stars of the yesteryears, Mr. Vijay Amritraj, and Mr. Nandan Bal. Not to forget the late cameo by the “young” Leander Paes.

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Talking about the Singles Main Draw, all the Indian players have been drawn in the 1st quarter, with the country’s numero uno player, Yuki Bhambri, drawn to face local wildcard Arjun Kadhe in the first round. The winner of that match will most likely take on 8th seeded Pierre-Hugues Herbert from France in the second round. Wildcard entrant Ramkumar Ramanathan has drawn an unseeded Spaniard by the name of Roberto Carballes Baena. If he manages to cross that hurdle, he will set up a mouth watering 2nd round clash against top seed Marin Cilic.

Coming to the qualifying matches for the day, the highlights were the fights put up in their singles matches by the doubles pair of “Rocket Vishnu” and “Bullet Bala”. While Vishnu lost in a gruelling 3 setter to a young Spaniard named Carlos Taberner, who’s ranked in the Top 200, Balaji lost to top seeded Brazilian Thiago Monteiro.

In his match under the hot Pune sun, Vishnu found himself down an early break in the first set, finding it tough to match the consistency of the Spaniard from the baseline. But he fought extremely well to eke out a break to level things up. While returning serve at 6-5 up, he put pressure on the Spaniard to bag the first set 7-5. The 2nd set was one-way traffic, but Vishnu managed to up his game in the deciding set. The third set was stretched to the tiebreak, and was anyone’s for the taking. It was just the question of who wanted it more, and who had the extra legs to race to the finish line. And that is where the young Spaniard pipped our lad to drive home the victory.

It was a similar story for Vishnu’s doubles partner and buddy, Sriram Balaji, as he started wonderfully, matching Brazilian top 125 player stroke for stroke. But the Brazilian lad proved to be just a tad too much for the Coimbatore based lad at the end. Nevertheless, the close matches would put Vishnu and Bala in good stead for the doubles draw, where they have received a main draw wildcard.

In other matches involving Indians, Sumit Nagal cruised past doubles specialist Divij Sharan 6-2 6-3. He will take on 2nd seeded and 127th ranked Spaniard Adrian Menendez Maceiras for a place in the main draw. It will be revenge match of sorts for Sumit, who had lost in straight sets to Maceiras a couple of months back at the same venue, in the $50K KPIT ATP Challenger. Prajnesh Gunneswaran was the other Indian to make it to the final qualifying round, beating fellow Indian and alternate Jayesh Pungliya. Prajnesh will  take on top seeded Thiago Monteiro for a place in the main draw.

TODAY’S RESULTS (Players still alive are in bold)
[Q1] N. Sriram Balaji (IND,374) lost to (1) Thiago Monterio (BRA,124) 6-3 3-6 5-7
[Q1] (8) Prajnesh Gunneswaran (IND,243) bt (ALT) Jayesh Pungliya (IND,1009) 6-4 6-1
[Q1] (WC) Shahbaz Khan (IND,1377) l (2) Adrian Menendez-Maceiras (ESP,127) 2-6 0-6
[Q1] (6) Sumit Nagal (IND,223) bt (WC) Divij Sharan (IND,UNR) 6-2 6-3
[Q1] Sasi Kumar Mukund (IND,426) l (5) Richardo Ojera Lara (ESP,198) 2-6 1-6
[Q1] Vishnu Vardhan (IND,511) l (4) Carlos Taberner (ESP,185) 7-5 2-6 6-7(3)

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