Poonacha leads Indian march at Bengaluru Open
Local lad and wild card entrant Niki Poonacha created ripples when he recorded the biggest win of his career thus far when he sent home the 16th seed Lucas Rosol, ranked 570 places above him to make it to the pre-quarterfinals of the Bengaluru Open at the KSLTA here on Tuesday. The 24-year-old was a 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 winner over the Czech in a match that lasted 1 hour and 45 mins.
“I am thrilled to have reached this stage of a Challenger event which was my dream since the last year. And having beaten a seeded player I am even more happy,” said Poonacha.
In the other upsets of the day which went in the favour of the Indians, runner-up at the last edition of the Bengaluru Open, Saketh Myneni sent sixth seed Evgeny Donskoy of Russia packing in straight sets 6-3, 6-3 while qualifier Abhinav Shanmugam (ranked 1093) prevailed over the fancied Daniel Masur of Germany 7-5, 6-3 who is currently ranked 180.
Also advancing into the next round was 2017 winner and eighth seed Sumit Nagal who made a short work of Malek Jaziri of Tunisia 6-0, 6-4, even as Jaziri was ranked 42nd just last year but has plummeted to 260.
Poonacha after having jumped into the professional circuit at 18 after showing much promise as a junior went through a rotting period after his training in Spain. So much so that his parents had to sell off their property to sustain his training expenses and when the pockets dried up, his talent was rotting until he bumped into Rohan Bopanna about three years ago and since then was on a rise and was close to breaking the 500 barrier until an injury set him back.
After a grueling opening round yesterday, Poonacha, although tired, pulled himself along and broke Rosol in the 10th game to take the first set. The 34-year-old Rosol, who was once ranked 26th and having the reputation of having beaten the likes of Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon in 2012, achieved breaks in the fifth and seventh games and served out for the set at 6-2. An early break in the second game of the decider saw the match turn into Poonacha’s favour. “After I broke him, I was determined to just hold my serve and I am happy that I did,” said the lad who was born in Tamil Nadu and had won the Nationals last year. “I don’t even know whom am I playing in the next round but I hope to keep the rhythm going,” said the genial pro adding “at the moment, I am trying to improve my ranking and play on the Challenger Tour more often.”
Saketh, currently ranked 192nd got broken in the third game and was down 1-3 in the next. However he came back strongly to win the next five games on a trot with breaks in the 6th and 8th games to take the first set. Myneni who has been flirting with injuries during the last two years, broke the Russian in the third game to gain an advantage and broke again in the ninth to take the set and the match.
Meanwhile the star of the event Indian tennis legend Leander Paes will play his first match at the centre court tomorrow along with his doubles partner Matthew Ebden of Australia.
Benjamin Bonzi (FRA) bt [Alt] Manish Sureshkumar (IND) 6-2, 6-3
 Stefano Travaglia (ITA) bt Filippo Baldi (ITA) 6-2, 6-1;
[Q] Abhinav Shanmugam (IND) bt Daniel Masur (GER) 7-5, 6-3;
Julian Ocleppo (ITA) bt [Q] Anirudh Chandrashekar (IND) 6-2, 6-1;
[Alt] Sebastian Fanselow (GER) bt Bogdan Bobrov (RUS) 6-2, 6-3
Saketh Myneni (IND) bt  Evgeny Donskoy (RUS) 6-3, 6-3;
 Sumit Nagal (IND) bt Malek Jaziri (TUN) 6-0, 6-4;
 Ilya Ivashka (BLR) bt Mukund Sasikumar (IND) 7-5, 6-3;
 Yuichi Sugita (JPN) bt Vaclav Safranek (CZE) 6-4, 6-3;
 Blaz Rola (SLO) bt Vladyslav Orlov (UKR) 7-5, 6-3;
[WC] Niki Poonacha (IND) bt  Lucas Rosol (CZE) 6-4, 2-6, 6-3
 Thomas Fabbiano (ITA) bt Laurent Lokoli 6-3, 2-6, 6-1
Frederico Ferreira Silva (POR)/Nikola Milojevic (SRB) bt Sriram Balaji (IND)/Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan (IND) 6-7(1), 7-5, 10-8
C. Hsieh (TPE) / D Molchanov (UKR) bt [WC] N Prashanth (IND) / Vishnu Vardhan (IND) 6-3, 7-6(6).
 Purav Raja (IND) / Ramkumar Ramanathan (IND) bt [WC] SD Prajwal Dev (IND) / Adil Kalyanpur (IND) 6-2, 6-2.
Photo Credit: Deepthi Indukuri.