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Mixed opening for Indians

Chennai: Indian Davis Cupper Prakash Amirtraj remained a pedestrian yet again as he lost his first-round match to fifth-seed Rainer Schuettler of Germany 2-6, 6-4, 1-6 in 85 minutes, even as Rohan Bopanna made his passage to the main draw after winning his final qualifying match in the $450,000 ATP Chennai Open here Monday night.

Amritraj, who has been taking part in this tournament since 2003, had practised ahead of the draw-ceremony of this tournament with Schuettler, but had no answers to the tactical play of the German, a veteran on the circuit and almost a regular in the Chennai Open.

The only time that Amritraj crossed the first round hurdle was in 2006, getting the better of Brazil’s Ricardo Mello 2-6, 6-2, 6-3, but lost in the second round to second seed Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic.

Amritraj, who has been favoured with a wild card entry into the tournament for the past seven years, has already evoked criticism for his continued poor showing in India’s lone ATP event.

Schuettler, who lost to Byron Black in the final here in 1999, prepared for the 2009 season in Kenya before reaching the city.

He had a good start to his campaign and was more focused in winning the first set rather easily at 6-2.

The German was more relaxed and, perhaps looking for some match practice before meeting his compatriot Simon Greul (126) in the second round, allowed Prakash to enjoy two breaks in the second game.

The fact was that Schuettler, while trying to experiment, ended up making some unforced errors. On some occasions Amritraj rushed to the net to finish a contest but twice he sent those shots wide.

However, Amritraj rose in stature as the match progressed and came up with some great winners, particularly the double-handed backhand cross-court shot.

He stretched the match to the decider and trailed 1-3 and had a break point in the fifth game but surrendered the initiative. Playing the final qualifying round, Bopanna withstood the pressure to bounce back after losing the first set to Michael Berrer of Germany.

Bopanna tightened his grip on his baseline game and then maintained it to win the match 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

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