The mercury dropped on centre court, as the clock neared one in the morning. The Balewadi Tennis Stadium floodlights were still on, the handful of fans braving the cold grabbed onto every ounce of heat their woollens would allow. Meanwhile, down on the blue hard court, Egor Gerasimov was blistering his way through a three-set thriller. Less than 20 hours later, the Belarussian was back on the court for the biggest match of his career so far.
It was the second semifinal of the Tata Open Maharashtra, India’s only ATP event. Only once in his career had Gerasimov reached this far in a tour-level competition – at St. Petersburg last year. Now he had a chance to go one better, and fatigue wasn’t going to stop him.
After all, he used up two years of his career recovering from a serious injury.
On Saturday, he came up against the crafty and tenacious James Duckworth. But no matter how many times the Australian would try to mix up play – putting in some slices and chops in between rallies – Gerasimov was there to clobber home a powerful groundstroke of his own. The pressure from the East European was immense as he played a near-flawless first-set tie-breaker, and in the second set, got the only break when it mattered most to register a 7-6(2), 6-4 win.
“I’m really happy with this, with the game. I played pretty well,” says the 27-year-old. “This is my first final in the ATP. I’ve been dreaming about this for a long time.”
Indeed, it has been a long time coming for the world no. 90. In fact, he’s been having many ‘firsts’ in his career only in the last two years. In 2018, at Los Cabos in Mexico, he won his first-ever ATP tour main-draw match, beating mercurial Australian Bernard Tomic. Last year at the US Open, he qualified for the main draw of a Grand Slam for the first time in 14 attempts. But the man from Minsk has also spent nearly a year out of action because of a slipped disc.
“I could not play for two years consistently because of the surgeries I had to have,” he explains. “I lost half a year (because of the operations) and then another in recovering. But I was waiting for this (getting to the final). I never gave up even during the injuries. I always wanted to get as high as possible in the rankings.”
He’s at a career-high ranking at the moment but may go up to 71 when the chart is updated on Monday. And with that, he’s slowly taking strides towards becoming the next big thing from Belarus after former world no. 18 Max Mirnyi.
“People at home have been looking for someone like him to come up, especially since the girls (two-time Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka and current wold no. 13 Aryna Sabalenka) have been doing well,” he says. “But now, I’m back and have confidence in my game. I’m going to improve more and more.”
‘Fast food’ celebration
On Sunday, he will take on former world no. 35 Jiri Vesely, who himself has been struggling with injuries and bad form in the last few months. But Gerasimov has had the more convincing run to the final compared to his upcoming Czech opponent, who beat second seed Ricardas Berankis in three tie-break sets on Saturday evening.
And the man whose ‘guilty pleasure’ is fast food – according to his ATP profile – already has a plan on how to celebrate if he wins.
“Who doesn’t like fast food?” chuckles Gerasimov. “If I win, for sure I’ll go to a McDonald’s in my hometown.”
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