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Bar raises himself to scalp fifth-seeded Escoffier

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Israel’s Dekel Bar plays a shot against Antoine Escoffier of France during their second round match of the GLF-Cham Prasidh Cup at the National Training Centre, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. Photograph: Sreng Meng Srun/Phnom Penh Post

It has taken Israel’s Dekel Bar nearly a year and a half of hard work, tedious travel and grinding qualifiers to gain a place in the quarter-finals of an ITF Futures event since he last made the grade on his debut at home in Tel Aviv.

The tall and athletic 19-year-old right-hander entered the final eight of the GLF-Cham Prasidh Cup at the National Training Centre today, knocking out fifth-seeded Antoine Escoffier of France 6-3, 6-4 in a match full of spirited points where no quarter was sought nor given.

Having played three matches, two of them qualifying rounds, in the run-up to the clash with the Frenchman, Bar showed no signs of wear or tear.

Brimming with confidence and staying as nimble on court as his tall frame allowed, he never quite slackened his grip on the contest.

The first set hinged on the Israeli’s ability to attack his rival’s weakness, at the same time playing to his own strengths – a strong serve and a testing depth on the ground strokes.

He had a chance to close out the second set a lot earlier than he finally did.

At 5-2, Bar dropped his serve when Escoffier came up with more than one belter and followed this timely break back with a strong service game of his own.

Nerves had clearly played a role, Bar admitted to the Post after the match.

But at 5-4, he quickly built up three match points on his serve, nailing the first of those to complete what he described as a fulfilling victory.

“I am feeling good and confident. I made the quarter-finals the first time I played the Futures, but it has been a very tough road since then,” said Bar.

As for the hot clime, Bar said he had no qualms in quickly adjusting. “An Isareli summer is just as hot and humid,” he said.

The 19-year-old Bar teamed up just before his trip to Cambodia with well-known coach Shimon Rapoport, a contemporary of Israel’s most successful professional, Shlomo Glickstein.

“He is connecting the dots very well. Most importantly, he is very calm and composed and is a good and quick learner,” Rapoport told the Post.

“I can see improvement in him week to week and match to match. He is watching his videos and analysing his matches and training really hard.”

Top seed stretched

Mico Santiago, a losing semi-finalist last week caused a stir when he took top seeded Ti Chen to a tie-break in the first set.

But the vastly experienced Taiwanese player dashed the qualifier’s hope by playing an exquisite tie-break.

It took the 204th ranked Chen another load of hard work to dislodge his American opponent in the second set for a 7-6, 6-4 win.

But elsewhere, fourth-seeded Alexander Ward of Great Britain was never off the bit in his 6-0, 6-1 victory over Wang Chuan of China.

Marcus Daniell of New Zealand made last week’s winner Maximilian Neuchrist stretch every sinew and muscle before surrendering 5-7, 3-6.

The Austrian right-hander now runs into the third seeded Alex Michon in a quarter-final pairing tomorrow that is a remake of last week's Futures final.

The younger and fitter French left hander packed too strong a punch for Japanese veteran Katsushi Fukuda, who managed to get just three games in the first set and only one in the second.

A sprained ankle midway through the second set rendered Frenchman Sebastien Boltz hors de combat, giving his Algerian rival Mehdi Bouras a passage to the quarter-finals, where he will meet the No 1 seed Ti Chen.

Boltz took the first set 6-3 but at 3-3 in the second came the setback. Though he soldiered on, the Algerian took the set 6-4, at the end of which the Frenchman called it a day.

Meanwhile, second-seeded Jeevan Neduncheziyan of India perfectly trained his blazing gun on Austrian Maxi Pongratz for a rapid 6-3. 6-2 second-round wrap-up.

“I have to work on my game a bit and be more aggressive on my back hand and cut down on the slices” said Jeevan, putting in perspective his quarter-final clash against New Zealand’s decidedly aggressive Artem Sitak, a 6-3, 6-3 winner over seventh-seeded Sarvar Ikramov of Uzbekhistan.

Tuesday’s second round owes

Three matches late Tuesday evening had to be abandoned due to a sudden downpour.

Those first round matches were completed this morning, which meant that the winners had to take the court again during the course of the day for their second round.

Mico Santiago of the United States sent out Ting Yu Chuang of Taipei 6-7, 7-6, 6-2.

On Court 2, China’s Chuhan Wang got the measure of Luca Margaroli of Switzerland 6-1, 7-5 and eighth-seeded Sebastien Boltz of France dismissed Uzbekistan’s Sergey Shipilov 6-3, 6-4 on Court 3.

To contact the reporter on this story: H S Manjunath at hirimanju@yahoo.com

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