Yuki Bhambri, India’s sole entrant in the singles main draw at Roland Garros, went down in straight sets against Belgium’s Ruben Bemelmans 4-6, 4-6, 1-6 in the first round of the French Open on Tuesday.
Bhambri, who had qualified straight to the men’s singles draw by virtue of being ranked in the top 100, lost the match against the lucky loser Bemelmans, who replaced Chinese Taipei’s Lu Yen-Hsun in the main draw, in 2 hours and 10 minutes.
The Indian wasn’t off to the best of starts, trailing 1-4 in the first set before staging a mini-fightback, winning three games in a row at one point. Facing a break point on his serve, however, he drove a backhand into the net to go down 4-6 in just under an hour.
The second set saw the Indian, ranked 93 in the world currently, take an early lead but he threw that advantage away. Bhambri went ahead 2-0 but lost his serve, with Bemelmans making it 2-2. Bhambri broke serve again to take a 3-2 lead. With another service game going to deuce, he saved break points and held serve after a lengthy game to take what felt like a crucial 4-2 lead.
From there on, Bemelmans won nine games on the trot to take the second 6-4 and run into a 5-0 lead in the third. Bhambri held serve to stay in the match but was handed a breadstick in the third, with Bemelmans sealing his superiority.
Bhambri’s first serve percentages were better than Bemelmans in the first and second sets but his return game let him down, with the German winning 65% of points on his first serve compared to the Indian’s 49%. The first serve percentage dropped significantly in the third however (47% to the German’s 76%) as he struggled to stage a comeback against the world No 110. Bhambri made thrice the number of unforced errors as his opponent in the third set as well.
This defeat meant India’s singles campaign comes to an early end in Paris.
Earlier, Prajnesh Gunneswaran, who lost in the third round of qualifiers earlier, missed the opportunity to be one of the lucky losers in the main draw as he had left Paris early and registered in a challenger tournament in Italy.
Meanwhile, in doubles, India’s Rohan Bopanna and partner Edouard Roger-Vasselin started their campaign with a win beating Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe 6-3, 6-1.