October 24, 2016 9:35:44 pm
A profligate Sanam Singh squandered four match points to let the first round match against seventh seed Dmitry Popko slip out of his hands but national champion Vishnu Vardhan booked a second round berth in the KPIT-MSLTA Challenger, in Pune on Monday.
Unseeded Sanam had the match in his grasp against an equally erratic Kazakhstan rival but could convert none of the match points in the second-set tie-break and eventually lost 6-3 6-7(6) 6-7(5) in the opening round that lasted two hours and 30 minutes.
Sanam, whose ranking has plummeted to below 600, was solid in the opening set, in which he lost only six points on his serve. However, the diminutive lad from Chandigarh could not continue with the momentum and was left to rue missed chances against an inconsistent opponent.
Dmitry will now clash with wild card Vardhan, who dumped Vinayak Sharma Kaza 7-6(2) 6-4 in his opening round.
Another wild card entrant Dhruv Sunish knocked out national championship finalist Siddharth Vishwakarma 6-4 2-6 6-3 and awaits winner of match between top seed Russian Evgeny Donskoy and Mohit Mayur Jayaprakash.
Sanam, married to psychologist Kanika Minocha, who handles a few junior athletes, broke 265th ranked Dmitry in the fifth game to take the lead and then again broke him in the ninth game to pocket the opening set.
However, he blinked first in the second set as he dropped serve in the third when his forehand crashed to the net on the second breakpoint. Sanam saved two break chances in the fifth game before breaking his rival in the sixth with a crushing forehand winner to draw parity. Soon it was 5-5.
A double fault and a couple of unforced errors meant that Sanam was down 0-40 in the 11th game. He saved the first two but lost the third when he failed to return a Dmitry shot.
The Kazak was now serving for the set but Sanam capitalised on the unforced errors from his rival to force a tie-breaker. He raced to a 4-1 lead and had three match points at 6-2 but lost five points in a row to allow his rival stretch the match to decider.
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