Even if the quality of the tennis convinced you on occasion that the players belonged at a higher rung of the tennis circuit, there were remainders all around that top-seed Aleksandr Nedovyesov and Yuichi Sugita were indeed playing at the Challenger-level.
Unlike several matches so far, most points in the second round game were decided by winners than unforced errors; there were fewer breaks of serve too.
In this pre-quarters game, Nedovyesov prevailed in three tight sets 4-6, 6-3 7-6 (3), the first and second decided by the solitary break of serve while the third went to a tie-break after the players traded breaks.
Sugita served for the game at one point and even had a couple of match points, but eventually cracked after Nedovyesov upped his game — the Kazakh sent down eight aces in the second and third sets and dialled up the power on his ground strokes to first take the decider to a tie-break and then win it comfortably.
But there were other indicators that this wasn’t quite the center court at Wimbledon. An oblivious spectator wandered down the aisle with the ball in toss, prompting the chair umpire, players and scattered spectators to holler at him. There was, of course, the perennial problem with the line calls, leaving one player or the other distraught.
Delhi is just a pit-stop for the floaters and drifters of the tennis world in what is a gruelling, endless scrape. Participants usually travel thousands of kilometers only to eke out paltry ranking points — the winner here gets 100.
After the win, Nedovyesov said he had no idea where he was going next. His options are between Chandigarh (the venue of a Futures tournament next week), Doha (Qatar Open), Miami (Indian Wells) and Astana, his hometown in Kazakhstan.
“It all depends on what happens tomorrow,” he says, referring to his quarterfinal clash.
The anonymity of the Challenger circuit also encourages him to be a little forthright. He is not happy with the scheduling that drags matches out late into the night.
“If there are a lot of people watching (because of the evening matches), I understand. It was just three people out there today. One was his (Sugita’s) coach and the other was his friend. The third guy had no idea what he was doing there (in the stands),” he says.
Nedovyesov will play French teenager Lucas Pouille, in what is likely to be another evening game. Still, Nedovyesov would not have minded staying on in Delhi for one more day, late match or not.
Tough task for Somdev
Somdev Devvarman, the lone Indian in the singles draw, will face Ze Zhang in a quarterfinal on Friday.
The 23-year old Chinese player disposed of Marco Chiudinelli, who was raked 52nd in the world at one point, in fairly straight forward fashion and will present a considerable obstacle for the Indian. Ze, six feet two inches tall, has a big serve and his ground strokes are hit cleanly.
Roger Federer was sufficiently impressed to invite Ze to partner him for the doubles leg of the Shanghai Masters last year, a move that yielded the Swiss his first doubles win of the year.