Bengaluru Open: Leander though to the quarters in his final tourney in India

Legend, entertainer and crowd-puller. Three, out of several terms, that can be used to describe Leander Paes. But perhaps the three most appropriate terms that could be used to describe Leander Paes on a day where he combined with his Australian Partner Mathew Ebden, to defeat the Slovenian-Chinese pairing of Blaz Rola and Zhizhen Zhang 7-6 (2) 6-4. In what his slated to be his last tournament at home, Leander turned the clock back and displayed magnificent skills in front of an enthralled crowd, many of whom had turned up just to watch Leander play. 

The first set saw no breaks as both the teams displayed excellent serving and volleying, with Leander especially demonstrating some ruthlessness in front of the net. The ruthlessness became evident in the tie-breaker, where Leander-Ebden won 7-2 to take the first set home. The second set saw a shift in fortunes as Leander-Ebden were broken early. Rola-Zhang took an early 3-1 lead in the second set and it seemed like there was a shift in the momentum. However, combined with some excellent serving by Ebden and some crisp volleying and returns by Leander, Leander and Ebden broke back to bring the match to parity. Zhang-Rola served at 4-5 to save the match, but were broken easily, much to the excitement of a jubilant crowd. Leander-Ebden now face the third seeded pair of Andre Goransson and Christopher Rungkat on Thursday evening in the quarterfinals. The pair of Goransson-Rungkat defeated the Indian pairing of Gunneswaran and Naval earlier in the day.

In singles, Prajnesh Gunneswaran, Ramkumar Ramanathan and Sidharth Rawat won their respective matches to progress to the third round. Out of the 16 singles players competing in the third round, 6 are Indians. Prajnesh defeated German Sebastian Fanselow in a closely fought three setter, 6-2 4-6 6-4. Incidentally, in the 2018 edition of the Bengaluru Open as well Prajnesh had defeated Fanselow in a three setter. The match began with a couple of shaky service games and was broken early in the first set. But Prajnesh fought back hard and after breaking Fanselow serves thrice, won the first set 6-2. The second set saw a swing in fortunes, as Fanselow took advantage of an error ridden Prajnesh to win the second set 6-4. In the third set however, Prajnesh managed to up his game, and played his trademark aggressive tennis to win the set and match. Prajnesh next faces Benjamin Bonzi in the third round.

In the other singles matches, Ramkumar Ramanathan defeated campatriot Abhinav Sanjeev Shanmugam 6-1 6-3. Shanmugam failed to replicate his performance from Tuesday, where he had defeated Daniel Masur, and Ramkumar played some clean and sublime tennis giving Abhinav no opportunity to get a look in. Ramkumar now faces Illya Ivashka in the third round of Thursday. Ivashka had earlier defeated Sasi Kumar Mukund in the tournament.

Sidharth Rawat also progressed to the third round after defeating fellow Indian Rishi Reddy 6-2 6-2. Rawat was consistent with his groundstrokes, and held off Rishi, who played some aggressive tennis. The scoreline did no justice to the manner in which Rishi played the match. Sidharth, reflecting on his match said “Today I would say was mixed. Starting I was not serving that well. I think I got just one first serve in, in the first two games. Then I changed up a little bit. I went for the second serve on the first serve so that I can reduce the pressure, and after I got a break I was able to serve better”. Sidharth next faces Julian Ocleppo in the third round.

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