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Yuki survives but five of his compatriots crash out in Pune

Top seed Yuki Bhambri laboured into the quarterfinals of the KPTI-MSLTA Challenger event but five other Indians bowed out of the singles competition on Wednesday.

Yuki struggled to find his touch in a 4-6 6-2 6-4 win over Serbia’s Nikola Milojevic, whereas a profligate Ramkumar Ramanathan lost 6-7(6) 6-7(5) after being in command against third seed Spaniard Adrian Menendez-Maceiras.

Yuki never played like a top seed and someone who was in authority, and it was the 319th ranked Serb, who dictated terms before losing the plot.

By his own admission Yuki made it tough for himself by not being able to execute the plan. He had saved his best perhaps for the last when he broke Milojevic to seal the match.

“It was up and down match. There was poor execution as I gifted away the games. I made my life tougher,” Yuki said after the match.

“But it is important to get through. He hit the ball flat. I was defensive and had no control. I also lost concentration. He came out playing freely and it happens when you play as underdog,” he added.

Milojevic’s forehand was better than his backhand but he used his double-handed backhand to good effect, surprising Yuki on a few occasions.

23-year-old Yuki, ranked 105, took some time to settle down and stave off a break chance in the opening game before managing to hold. He started off with a double fault and following errors put him down 30-40 before he served well to push the danger away.

Milojevic was fluent and struck the ball really hard and flat, making impressive returns. He did not lose a single point on his serve in the first two service games and broke the Indian in the third for a 3-1 lead.

Yuki fought back and induced errors from the Serb after fierce rallies to earn three break chances. The second was converted when Milojevic sent a forehand soaring over the baseline and the match was back on level terms 3-3.

A flurry of errors again put Yuki down by three break chances. He saved two but hit a forehand on the third and the Serb was now serving for the set.

Yuki had his chance to claw back but could not capitalise on the break chance. Milojevic was down 15-30 and then 30-40 but served to save the chance and hit a backhand winner past Yuki to pocket the opening set. 

Surprisingly, Milojevic started to commit a lot of unforced errors at the start of the second set, letting Yuki run away with a 3-0 lead. Two double faults by the Serb in the second game and a forehand error on breakpoint meant that the Indian had an early break.

Yuki seemed to have let go the advantage by surrendering his serve in the fifth but immediately negated the loss with a double break -- fourth and sixth.

Serving to stay in the set, the Serb saved two set points but hit a forehand to net on the third, as Yuki forced a decider.

Again an early break of serve helped Yuki’s cause as he led 3-0 by breaking Milojevic in the second when the Serb double faulted at 0-30.

Yuki had a comfortable 4-1 cushion in the decider but allowed little opening to his rival by again surrendering serve in the ninth when he was serving for the match, firing a volley wide and out.
The Indian finally sealed it with a forehand winner after earning two match points with a stunning drop shot.

Other Indians to lose were Sanam Singh, who was his usual fighting self in a 4-6 2-6 defeat against Russian eighth seed Alexander Kudryavtsev and left-hander Prajnesh Gunneswaran, who won a set against Taipei’s Ti Chen before losing 7-6(4) 1-6 1-6.

Vishnu Vardhan was another one to bow out after suffering a 6-3 3-6 6-4 defeat at the hands of fourth seed Briton James Ward.

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