Sasikumar stretched, Nishant shines at SKME ITF Open

Bengaluru, March 15 : Top seed Mukund Sasikumar survived a first-round exit scare against unseeded Rishab Agarwal in the US$ 15000 SKME ITF Open being held at the KSLTA Stadium here on Tuesday. The 25-year-old toiled to a 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 victory in two hours and 26 minutes to advance to the pre-quarterfinals. Maks Kasnikowski of Poland created the first flutter of the tournament when he felled sixth seed Robert Strombachs of Germany in straight sets 6-1, 6-4. However, it was the young Nishant Dabas who stole the limelight today. The 18-year-old, playing on a J or-exempt spot in the main draw, a privilege earned by being in top-100 ranking and also the best j or player to have applied for exemption, produced an unexpected victory over Nikshep Ballekere Ravikumar 6-1, 7-6 (12-10) to enter into the stage of 16. Sasikumar and Rishab engaged in a close fight in the first set with both holding their serves until the 11th game where the fancied player lost his serve and Rishab served out for the set, dropping just a single point. With an early break in the second game, Sasikumar raced to a 4-1 lead. However his opponent showed signs of a comeback winning the next two games. But the spurt did not last for long as the seasoned campaigner earned a break in the eighth game and won the next at love. The decider saw the first three games going with the serve with Rishab leading 2-1. However, his game dived southwards as he committed many unforced errors, which Sasikiran took gleefully to win five games on the trot to take the set and the match. In another interesting duel, Nishant dominated the first set after both players had shared the first two games. The 18-year-old, who earned his first ATP points last week in Bhopal where he exited in the second round was skeptical about playing Nikshep who had been the top j or in all age categories. Winning five games in a row, Nishant took the first set in just 32 minutes. In the second set, Nishant who was the only Indian to finish in the ITF top 100 rankings for 2021, took a 3-1 lead after a break in the third game and was just break points away from winning the match. However, Nikshep thwarted the effort and won three games in a row as the set headed for a tie-breaker that lasted for 22 points. Nishant finally converted the fourth match point with his opponent hitting it out. “I was not feeling well since morning but prepared myself for the match. When the second set entered into a tie-break, I was literally praying that the match should not enter the third set,” admitted Nishant who had won the ITF J or World Tour event in Cairo in 2021. Results Singles (Round of 32) Dalwinder Singh (IND) bt Yann Wojcik (POL) 6-4, 6-4; 1-Sasikumar Mukund (IND) bt Rishab Agarwal (IND) 5-7, 6-3, 6-2; Maks Kosnikowski (POL) bt 6-Robert Strombachs (GER) 6-1, 6-4; Abhinav Sanjeev Shanmugam (IND) bt WC-Tathagat Charantimath (IND) 6-2, 6-1; Nishant Dabas (IND) bt WC-Nikshep Ballekere Ravikumar (IND) 6-1, 7-6 (10) Doubles (Round of 16) Parikshit Somani (IND)/Enzo Wallart (FRA) bt Daisuke Sumizawa (J )/Nicolas Tepmahc (FRA) 7-6 (2), 6-3; Arnav Pathange (IND)/Suraj R Prabodh (IND) bt Alexis Canter (GBR)/Dostanbek Tashbulatov (KAZ) 6-4, 4-6, 10-8; 3-Yuki Bhambri (IND)/Saketh Myneni (IND) bt Adil Kalyanpur (IND)/Karan Singh (IND) 6-2, 6-1; 1-Julian Cash (GBR)/Arjun Kadhe (IND) bt Nitin Kumar Sinha (IND)/Manish Sureshkumar (IND) 6-3, 6-0; Maks Kasnikowski (POL)/Yann Wojcik (POL) bt WC-Paras Dahiya (IND)/Jagmeet Singh (IND) 6-4, 6-7 (3), 10-7; 2-Sasikumar Mukund (IND)/Vishnu Vardhan (IND) bt Dev Javia (IND)/Sidharth Rawat (IND) 4-6, 6-3, 10-7; Anirudh Chandrasekar (IND)/Vinayak Sharma Kaza (IND) bt Rishab Agarwal (IND)/Rishi Reddy (IND) 6-4, 6-7 (3), 10-6; 4-Constantin Bittoun Kouzmine (FRA)/SD Prajwal Dev (IND) bt Akram El Sallaly (EGY)/Lukas Krainer (AUT) 6-4, 6-2. BDN RKM SHK2134

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