Defending champion Sumit Nagal went down in an error-prone quarter-final contest against Saketh Myneni 4-6, 4-6 at the Bengaluru Open on Thursday.
Nagal, who hadn’t lost a set so faring the tournament, played an erratic match and paid the price against his senior countryman, Myneni, who’s qualified for his second ATP Challenger semi-final this year.
Unlike his last-16 match against James Ward on Wednesday, Nagal made an awful start with three unforced errors to concede a break in the first game.
This was enough for Myneni, who was solid on his own serve in the first set. He tried changing his shots cleverly to catch his younger compatriot unawares – and succeeded on most occasions. He played drops during baseline rallies and sudden short hops to unsettle Nagal.
“Sumit has had success here and he is a tough opponent to play,” he said after the match. “And I know him off the court too. It’s like good friends playing each other and it is never easy. Overall, we didn’t play a great game, to the level where our capabilities are.”
Myneni was referring to the service games in the second set. From the fifth game to the ninth, both failed to hold serve. Twice, Nagal double-faulted while facing a break point.
His nerves were evident, even as Myneni remained cool-headed when he won a great point or lost a tough one. Nagal, meanwhile, twice hit the ball out of the stadium to vent his frustration and received a warning for doing so.
Thursday’s conditions – windier and colder compared to other days – hampered the serves, said Myneni.
“The ball was not flying like when the sun is out. Today it was a different game altogether. Whoever uses the wind… that’s what caused us a little bit to miss first serves. It then put pressure on the second serve.”
At 5-4, however, Myneni served better to finish off the match.
This seesawing contest, which saw six breaks of serve, happened after the day’s first quarter-final ended after three points. Sasi Kumar Mukund, after painfully serving and losing the first three points of the match, retired hurt, enabling Prajnesh Gunneswaran to enter his fourth Challenger semi-final in 2018.
Mukund, ranked 416th in the world, told the media that a back spasm he got whilst warming up for the match forced his withdrawal. He’d been progressing quite well in the tournament, having beaten two higher-ranked players – Collin Altamirano (rank: 286) and Blaz Kavcic (196).
Gunneswaran, in Friday’s semi-final, will take on Canada’s Brayden Schnur, who downed Turkey’s Cem Ilkel 6-3, 6-4.
Myneni, meanwhile, will face Kazakhstan’s Aleksandr Nedovyesov, who beat Portugal’s Frederico Ferreira Silva 6-4, 6-2.
Singles, quarterfinals: 4-Prajnesh Gunneswaran beat Sasi Kumar Mukund (retired hurt); Saketh Myneni beat Sumit Nagal 6-4, 6-4; Aleksandr Nedovyesov (Kaz) bt Frederico Ferreira Silva (Por) 6-4, 6-2; Brayden Schnur (Can) beat Cem Ilkel (Tur) 6-3, 6-4.