TOP seeded Karan Rastogi of India cruised into the semifinals of the second US$15,000 ITF Men’s Futures tennis tournament with a resounding 7-5, 6-3 victory over fifth seeded compatriot Yuki Bhambri at the National Training Centre yesterday.
The 332nd ranked Rastogi, who shifted his sights to the Cambodian event after crashing out of the Singapore Challenger last week in the second round, made a solid start, unlike at his two previous outings. Although Bhambri proved a tough cookie, the 25-year-old former Nick Bolltieri trainee worked his way to grab the lead in both the sets against a rival who is nearly six years his junior.
The match had some transient phases of brilliance on both sides of the net and led to some long and entertaining baseline duels, but Rastogi’s greater assurance on big points tilted the scales in his favour.
Both stayed honest to their service games, often digging themselves out of tight situations, but the break the top seed was looking for eventually came his way as late as the 12th game when the signs were clearly in favour of a tie-break. Down 5-6, Bhambri lost the first three points on his serve and Rastogi emerged with a break to love to seal the set.
The former Australian Open boys’ singles winner responded swiftly, breaking Rastogi in the first game of the second set and then served out well for a brief 2-0 lead. But that was as far as the top seed would allow him to go. Rare double faults flowed from Bhambri on two crucial points even as Rastogi was finding his range with precision. The breaks were imminent and Rastogi wrapped up the contest.
India’s Vijay Sundar Prashanth grabbed a place in the last four with an impressive 6-3, 6-3 victory over Russian Ervand Gasparyan. The 677th ranked Prashanth seized the initiative in the first few games and never slackened his grip on the match.
There was one desperate lunge for parity by the Russian in the second set when the Indian allowed his rival to get back on level terms at 3-3 from 3-1. But in the next three games, Prashanth was back to his best.
The recurrence of a niggling ankle injury was a bit of bad news for Prashanth as he limped off court three. He had an icepack and some help from a local physio.
“I injured my ankle during the Chennai Open three weeks ago. I kept playing with it. All of a sudden I had this sharp pang of pain. I think I can get over it,” said Prashanth.
India’s domination of the semi-final was complete with seventh seeded Virali Murugesan ending a splendid run by Thai qualifier Perkiat Siriluethaiwattana.
Minimising his own errors and forcing a great number on his inexperienced opponent, the 545th ranked Murugesan came through a demanding first set tiebreak and then took firm control of the second to emerge a 7-6, 6-3 winner.
Joining the Indian trio in the semi-final was Japan’s Arata Onozawa, who accounted for China’s Gao Peng, the author of the biggest upset of the week on Wednesday when he knocked out second seeded Vishnu Vardhan of India.
Gao Peng, silently wishing for a fabulous Chinese New Year gift, was swept out of the first set after dropping his opening service game.
But the 853rd ranked Chinese found the right ammunition in the second to blast the set out for the loss of only one game. The talented Japanese left-hander was bang on target with his trademark forehands and Gao Peng could hardly contain Arazawa’s free flow of winners in the decisive third set. Arazawa’s winning scoreline of 6-2, 1-6, 6-1 amply demonstrated his overall superiority.
In today’s semi-finals, Karan Rastogi takes on Virali Murugesan, while Prashanth is up against Onozawa.