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Tennis: Bhambri keeps Indian hopes alive in Aircel Chennai Open

Chennai, Jan 2 : The 2014 Aircel Chennai Open continued to be hit by a spate of retirements with two more players - third seed Fabio Fognini and Yen-Hsun Lu - conceding their respective singles matches and India's Yuki Bhambri was the biggest beneficiary as he made it to the quarter-finals here Thursday.


Bhambri, a Wild Card entry, was fortunate that World No.16 Fognini, nursing a thigh injury, conceded at 5-5 in the second set after losing the first 1-6 as the 21-year old Indian set up a clash with fifth seeded Canadian Vasek Pospisil who received a walk-over from an injured Yen-Hsun Lu of Chinese Taipei.

However, qualifier Ramkumar Ramanathan's dream run ended on the Centre Court as sixth seeded Spaniard Marcel Granollers coasted to a 6-2, 6-4, victory to also book his spot in the quarter-final where he meets No.4 seed Benoit Paire of France who later beat Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-1, 6-4.

In his 76-minute stay on the Centre Court, the 28-year old Fognini gave glimpses of his class against Bhambri, ranked 194 and it was just as well for the Indian that the match ended where it did. In fact, Fognini blasted 13 winners to Bhambri's seven, but committed 28 unforced errors to 11 by his opponent.

Fognini, virtually playing on one leg, still had enough firepower to break Bhambri once in the second set that he dominated before throwing in the towel at 5-5.

Thus, the number of retirements in this tournament, including that of second seed Mikhail Youzhny, rose to four after defending champion Janko Tipsarevic and Jurgen Zopp pulled out in the lead up to the event.

Bhambri, despite the default win, was unfazed and pointed out that he would take any opportunity to progress.

"I will take that win. We worked pretty hard to get there. You want him to play a full match and be fit for Australia, but any time one gets these opportunities, one takes them.

"It was important to stay focused. He came up with a couple of good shots. I tried to play a lot more rallies. I lost concentration in the second set, tried to play safe, but got back into the match to play the way I wanted to," summed up Bhambri.

Ramanathan, only 19 and playing in his first Tour event after coming through the qualifying rounds and beat India's top player Somdev Devvarman in the first round, gave another good account of himself, but on the day, the more experienced Granollers was just too good for the young Indian.

Granollers, ranked 38, raced away with the first set, with breaks in the first and fifth games and led 4-1 in the second, but faltered as he turned complacent.

Needing no second invitation, Ramanathan, swinging as freely as ever, came up with some delightful shots for back-to-back breaks in the sixth and eighth games to tie 4-4. The Spaniard quickly regrouped to break Ramanathan in the ninth and hold serve to pocket the match.

"When I was down 4-1 in the second set, I still thought he was just making me play every ball. So I was hanging in there. He gave me two breaks which were important for me.

"But I was disappointed with myself that at 4-4, I couldn't hold serve. That was a really big game for me. But it was a good experience for me.

"I was lacking in first serve percentages and the returns were not good. But everything came together, but I couldn't hold serve in the ninth," said Ramkumar.

The results:

Singles (Second round): WC-Yuki Bhambri (IND) bt 3-Fabio Fognini (ITA) 6-1, 5-5 (retd); 5-Vasek Pospisil (CAN) w/o Yen-Hsun Lu (TPE); 6-Marcel Granollers (ESP) bt Q-Ramkumar Ramanathan (IND) 6-2, 6-4; 4-Benoit Paire (FRA) bt Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (ESP) 6-1, 6-4.

Doubles (Quarter-finals): 4-Johan Brunstrom (SWE)/Frederik Nielsen (DEN) bt Purav Raja (IND) /Dudi Sela (ISR)6-4, 6-4.

First round: Purav Raja (IND)/Dudi Sela (ISR) bt Nicholas Monroe (US)/Frank Moser (GER) 7-6(4), 6-1; Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (ESP)/Philipp Oswald (AUT) bt Yen-Hsun Lu (TPE)/Divij Sharan (IND) 1-2 (Retd); WC-N Sriram Balaji (IND)/Ramkumar Ramanathan (IND) bt Scott Lipsky (US)/Rajeev Ram (US) 7-5 6-3.

--IANS (Posted on 02-01-2014)

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