Divij Sharan, Sriram Balaji advance to Czech Open quarter-finals

The doubles pair came back from a set down to score a superb victory but Prajnesh Gunneswaran was not so lucky in nearby Austria.

By Rahul Venkat

India’s Divij Sharan and N Sriram Balaji came back from a set down to win 3-6, 6-3, 10-6 against Australians Alex Bolt and Marc Polmans at the Czech Open in the city of Prostejov on Tuesday.

It was a good return to form for Divij Sharan in particular, after he had suffered a first-round exit at the US Open men’s doubles with Nikola Cacic.

However, the ATP Challenger tie did not see the best of starts for Sharan and Sriram Balaji.

The first set of the pre-quarterfinal clash was flowing smoothly, with both pairs holding their serve until the sixth game, when Sharan-Balaji suffered a break of serve to trail 2-4.

The Indian tennis duo hit back at Bolt-Polmans in the very next game, earning two break points and converting the second of those to make it 3-4 in the first set.

However, Sharan-Balaji conceded serve again in the eighth game to trail 3-5 and the Australians comfortably saw out their service game this time around to win the set.

Divij Sharan

In the second set, the Indians created an early advantage by breaking their opponents’ serve in the fourth game. It was the only opening they needed as Sharan-Balaji held serve easily in the rest of the games to make it one set all.

The match then moved to the super tie-breaker, a system where the first pair to reach 10 points is declared winner.

It was another battle of nerves in the super tie-breaker as both teams exchanged points off each other’s serves but Sharan-Balaji crucially held serve when leading 7-6 and won three consecutive points from thereon to score a creditable win.

They will now face third seeds Andre Goransson and Goncalo Oliviera in the quarter-finals on Wednesday. The Swiss-Portuguese pair had beaten Russians Teymuraz Gabashvili and Evgeny Donskoy 6-1, 6-4 in the Round of 16.

Prajnesh out of Austria Open

It was not a happy return to the courts for Indian tennis ace Prajnesh Gunneswaran as he was unable to make it to the main draw of the Austria Open in Kitzbuhel on Tuesday.

It was a familiar feeling for Gunneswaran after the US Open, another tournament where he was one step away from playing in the main draw, having made the long trip from Chennai to New York.  

The Indian Davis Cupper had started well on his first professional tournament since March, having beaten local player Sandro Kopp in the first round of qualifiers on Monday.

However, the 136th-ranked Gunneswaran fell 6-3, 6-3 in the second round to Marc-Andrea Huesler of Switzerland.

Prajnesh Gunneswaran could not make it to the main draw of the ATP 250 Austrian Open.

The crucial break came in Gunneswaran's first service game of the match. Huesler had taken a 1-0 lead and the Indian struggled with his serve to be down 40-0 in the second game.

Though Gunneswaran fought back to save two break points, Huesler finally made the third break count to go up 2-0.

Both players held serve for the rest of the set, though Huesler could have wrapped it up even earlier had he exploited Gunneswaran’s tentative serves in the eighth game.

However, the Swiss player held serve in the ninth game to take the first set.

The story was similar in the second set for Gunneswaran as he lost serve early, this time in the third game to hand the advantage to Huesler.

Though Gunneswaran fought hard, it was not enough on the day as he conceded serve yet again in the ninth game, and with it the match in straight sets to allow Huesler to advance to the main draw of the ATP 250 event.