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Bhambri wins epic thriller

Christopher Rungkat plays a return against Yuki Bhambri at the National Training Centre yesterday. Photo by: Sreng Meng Srun

Undaunted by a mid-match crisis, India’s Yuki Bhambri trumped the never-say-die attitude of Indonesia’s Christopher Rungkat in three pulsating sets stretching to three hours on his way to booking a quarterfinals place in the US$15,000 ITF Men’s Futures tennis tournament at the National Training Centre yesterday.

The fifth seeded Bhambri ran into unexpected second set turbulence after the Indonesian engineered a breath-taking turnaround. The decisive third set was tantalisingly poised until Bhambri played a couple of pressure points with great precision to run out a 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 winner in what was easily the longest encounter in the last week-and-a-half of action in Phnom Penh.

The contest was one of thrust and parry, full of merited rallies, earned points and some amazing court coverage by two sets of untiring legs.

The twists and turns of the match began in the third game of the second set when Bhambri lost his serve after deuce was called half a dozen times. The Indian teenager banged the ball in disgust attracting a code violation warning from the chair.

But Bhambri was in no mood to fall prey to his emotions, and the next few games were among the most combative seen in this event so far. Each was moving the other edgewise with purpose, both were slicing with verve and picking up low volleys with timely advances.

It was quite typical that a masterful backhand pass from Rungkat was answered in the next point by a delicate topspun back hand lob by Bhambri.

The decisive break for the 18-year-old Indian came in the seventh game of the third set. In keeping with his fighting instincts, Rungkat had three break points in later games to level the scores, but Bhambri served his way out of trouble to ensure a place in the last eight.

Reputations and rankings took a huge tumble yesterday, as China’s 853 ranked Gao Peng pulled off the biggest upset of the week by knocking out second seeded Vishnu Vardhan of India in straight sets 6-3, 6-2. Even as the first event runner-up was struggling against the Chinese giant killer on Court 1, India’s Vijay Sundar Prashant was enhancing his own stature by packing off third seeded Nikolaus Moser of Austria 6-4, 6-2 on Court 3.

Earlier yesterday, another tardy start followed by tough recovery saw top-seeded Karan Rastogi of India tame Japan’s ebullient Kento Takeuchi 2-6, 6-2, 6-1.

The left handed 24-year-old from Kyoto was all over the 332nd ranked Rastogi, who dropped his first service game and never quite recovered to lose the first set in a hurry. But in the next two sets, the tournament favourite ensured he was the master of his own destiny.

Another Japanese left hander to impress was Arata Onozawa, who got the measure of India’s Vijayant Malik 6-4, 6-4.

In a clash of two qualifiers, Thailand’s Perakiat Siriluethaiwattana - who scored a seeded scalp in Matsui Toshihide on Tuesday - had no qualms in winning his second round against Vladimir Ivanov of Estonia 6-0, 6-2.



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