Chennai, Jan 1: Indians Somdev Devvarman and Prakash Amritraj scripted fairytale victories to advance to the second round of the Aircel ATP Chennai Open tennis tournament here Tuesday.
Devvarman, the 27-year-old wild card entry and on a comeback trail after a string of injuries, outplayed a limping Jan Hajek of Czech Republic 6-3, 6-3, while 29-year old US-born qualifier Amritraj, returning to competitive tennis after a self-imposed two-year break, beat Frenchman Guillaume Rufin 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-2.
Devvarman, a finalist here in 2009, was rarely troubled in the 69-minute match by the 106th-ranked Czech who seemed to be nursing a troublesome ankle that caused a medical time out in the second set as the courtside physio strapped the left foot.
In fact, Devvarman, who will next take on top seed and World No.6 Tomas Berdych, did as he pleased as he blasted seven aces and fired 25 winners, and built his victory on early service breaks in both sets while Hajek seemed to merely go through the motions.
Devvarman opted for a modest view of his first round win and said it was a good start to the new season after being out of action for some six months due to shoulder injury that required a surgery.
“Yes, it is a good start for the New Year, but you can’t take any credit from Hajek who had a great season last year. Perhaps, he was practicing in the cold back home, but I have been preparing well for this tournament,” said Devvarman.
Amritraj, ranked 551, failed to convert an early service break by dropping serve and then squandered a 3-0 lead in the first-set tie-break, but came up with a brilliant fight back to turn the match around.
Amritraj won seven games in a row to to move from 2-2 in the second set to 3-0 in the third before serving a love game to wrap up the match even as the 92nd ranked Frenchman contributed to his own downfall with six double-faults and 60 unforced errors.
“I was a little bit off at the start and it was disappointing to lose the first set, but I buckled down thereafter and began to feel comfortable,” said Amritraj during a courtside, post- match interview to his father, the legengary Vijay Amritraj.
“Two years ago, I was lying on the couch and wondering whether I would hit a ball at all. Six months ago, I picked up the racquet and began to hit with my cousin Steven (Amritraj).
“I have played a lot of tennis in the past one week and I hope that the organizers will give me a day’s break before my next match,” said Amritraj who will take on eighth seed Go Soeda of Japan in the next round.
Earlier, Germany’s Matthias Bachinger caused a flutter by ousting seventh seed Lu Yen-Hsun of Taipei 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, to set up a second round clash with Spaniard Roberto Bautistaagut who put out Slovenia’s Blaz Kavcic 7-6 (6), 6-2.
Also advancing to the second was another qualifier Cedric-Marcel Stebe of Germany who overcame Igor Sijsling of the Netherlands 6-4, 6-4, and will go up against fourth seed Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland.
Late last night, the Indians Sanam Singh and Vishnu Vardhan gave the experienced players Benoit Paire from France and Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland a scare before losing a close opening doubles match 2-6, 7-5, 7-10.
The results (prefix denotes seeding):
Singles (1st round): WC-Somdev Devvarman (IND) bt Jan Hajek (CZE) 6-3, 6-3; 5-Benoit Paire (FRA) bt Flavio Cipolla (ITA) 6-3, 6-4; Roberto Bautistaagut (ESP) bt Blaz Kavcic (SLO) 7-6 (6), 6-2; Q-Prakash Amritraj (IND) bt Guillaume Rufin (FRA) 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-3; Q-Cedric-Marcel Stebe (GER) bt Igor Sijsling (NED) 6-4, 6-4; Matthias Bachinger (GER) bt 7-Lu Yen-Hsun (TPE) 6-4, 3-6, 6-4; Edouard Roger-Vasselin (FRA) bt Andrey Kuznetsov (RUS) 6-3, 6-4.
Doubles (1st round): Benoit Paire (FRA)/Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) bt WC-Sanam Singh/Vishnu Vardhan (IND) 6-2, 5-7, 10-7.