PUNE: Wildcard-turned-direct entrant Yuki Bhambri needed little extra time than he should have taken to get into his usual rhythm on his favourite court before beating the local favourite Arjun Kadhe 6-3, 6-4 and cruised into the second round in the ATP 250 Series Tata Open Maharashtra, on Tuesday evening.
The 118th ranked Indian will now take on the eighth-seeded Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France in the second round clash, in the top half of the draw.
Bhambri, who is looking to make most of the opportunity handed out by the season-opening ATP Tour event at home before the year’s first Grand Slam tournament in Melbourne, seemed little rusty in patches, but he made sure there were no hiccups at the end of the match.
“It is always tough to find the rhythm at the start of the year so there is always bit nervousness and you just want a day to pass through,” said Bhambri.
The two were facing each other for the first time in an ATP Tour event, and naturally, it was a high point for Kadhe, who has learnt his art in this very city.
A motley crowd supported Kadhe whenever he raised the bar in this all-India first round match, which, however, failed to rise above the quality at least expected from Yuki.
The 25-year-old Bhambri’s best showing last season on the ATP Tour was quarterfinal showing in Washington, something that the Indian will have to work on hard if he dreams to get into top 100 before the year’s second Grand Slam at Roland Garros comes along.
After a wobbly start to the first set, Bhambri broke Kadhe in the third game to go 2-1 up, but the Pune player shot back immediately when Bhambri found his returns land into the net.
Bhambri, who won $50,000 ATP Challenger in November last at this very court, caught up with Kadhe soon after and broke him in the fifth game.
Bhambri then opened up 40-15 lead in the sixth game before a strong forehand return stumped Kadhe, whose approach shot landed wide.
Bhambri served powerfully in the eighth game leading 4-3 before yet again opening up a 40-15 lead when Kadhe netted his half-volley.
Serving to save the set, Kadhe sent down a weak serve and Bhambri answered with a forehand crosscourt winner and a double fault from Kadhe handed him his first set point.
Egged on by the crowd Kadhe stretched the game into deuce, but Bhambri’s down the line winner handed him the advantage again. Kadhe then returned long to hand the first set to Bhambri.
“I did not find my rhythm today and yes it was a tough playing in such a big tournament. I will not say I was nervy completely but I was coming from playing just two challengers and walking into such big tournaments is tough,” said Kadhe of his ATP singles debut.
The script was no different in the second set, though Bhambri found his rhythm midway through the set after Kadhe gave him a wake-up call in the opening game.
“I did not feel the all as great what I felt while playing in doubles yesterday. I moved well but did not serve well. Still, I tried to hang on but Yuki is a great player and I hope he continues for long in the tournament,” Kadhe said.
Both traded break of serves later on but at 5-4 serving to save the match, Kadhe found his resources well short to tackle neat crosscourt winners from Bhambri.
The key member of Indian Davis Cup team then unleashed a double handed crosscourt winner to go 0-15 up and then 0-30 before Kadhe volley landed long to hand Bhambri three match points.
Kadhe saved one, but on the second try, net chord spoiled his chance as Kadhe’s return strayed wide of the court.
“I would rate my doubles performance more satisfying as compared to singles. Playing with Benoit Paire, who is such a big player, was a learning experience,” Kadhe signed off.
YUKI BHAMBRI FACTFILE
- 2017 W-L: 8-4
- 2017 Titles: 0, Career Titles: 0
- Date of Birth: July 4, 1992
- ATP Ranking: 118
- Tournament History (Best Result): 4-5 (2014 Quarter-finalist)
- No. 1 Indian last season finished at a year-end best No. 116 in ATP Rankings
- Advanced to 2nd ATP World Tour QF at Washington as Q (d. Monfils in 2R, l. to Anderson)
- Also qualified at Chennai (lost to Paire in 2R)
- Challenger semi-finalist at Zhuhai, CHN (l. to Donskoy); Shenzhen, CHN (l. to Sugita); Karshi, UZB (l. to Gerasimov)
- Beat 5 countrymen and did not drop a set en route to Chandigarh Futures title beating Balaji.