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Somdev’s flying start

- Marco upsets 6th seed Illya; sanam disappoints

Calcutta: The start was scratchy, but Somdev Dev Varman was quick to regain composure as he notched up a 6-4, 6-4 win over Egypt’s Mohamed Safwat in Round I of the State Bank of India ATP Challenger Tour, here, at the Bengal Tennis Association (BTA) courts, on Monday.

By his own admission, things might get even more difficult for Somdev in the next round. But the fact that he kept a cool head and wasn’t unnerved by the hard-hitting Egyptian is indeed a good sign for the second seed.

Somdev lost his serve in what was the match’s first game. Safwat, with his aggressive play, then held his serve and broke Somdev again to take a 3-0 lead. Just when it appeared as Safwat threatened to take the game away from Somdev, his over-aggression led to his undoing.

Trying to close his opponent down with winners, Safwat tried to hit the ball too hard, committing too many unforced errors. Somdev made sure he capitalised on those errors and in no time won four games on the trot, taking a 4-3 lead.

The pressure was right back on Safwat, who looked pretty nervy at 4-5 down, serving to stay in the set. And again, he made the same mistakes as Somdev went a set up.

“He (Safwat) started on an aggressive note and was hitting the ball very hard. Honestly, I wasn’t really ready for such a beginning,” Somdev admitted.

“But after 15 minutes or so, I started feeling better. And after getting the first break, I got a feel of the match. My movement and court coverage started to trouble him,” he added.

In the second set, all Somdev did was focus on getting the basics right, something that proved good enough to force his opponent into playing catch-up with him. Just as the scoreline was 5-4 in Somdev’s favour, Safwat erred again to lose serve and thereby, the tie.

Wild card Sanam Singh proved to be a major disappointment, having snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. He looked all set to win the match, serving at 5-4 in the second set after winning the first 6-1, against Great Britain’s Daniel Cox.

But in the end, it was Cox, who foxed Sanam to clinch the next two sets 7-5, 6-4, riding a flurry of errors from the latter, who seemed to lose control over his temperament towards the end.

Switzerland’s Marco Chiudinelli upset sixth seed Illya Marchenko of Ukraine, winning 7-6(3), 6-4 in a match lasting an hour and 47 minutes. With due respect to Chiudinelli, who was better than his fancied opponent for a better part of the match, quite a few close calls went against Marchenko. On some occasions, the Ukrainian was simply livid with the chair umpire.

Weather conditions in this part of the world could have been a reason to worry for Chiudinelli, considering the Spens Sport Centre, in Novi Sad (Serbia) - the Davis Cup World Group first round tie for Switzerland — was the last occasion where he played competitive tennis. But the 32-year-old had no such problems in adapting.

“It was indoors where I played before coming here. So, in that case, weather conditions could well have been a factor. But the weather, here, seems okay. If you ask me, it was tougher to adjust in Melbourne (during the Australian Open). And in India, I feel the weather in Chennai is hotter than other places,” Chiudinelli said.

Talking about his victory over the sixth seed, Chiudinelli added: “I didn’t practice much since my arrival here. But I knew Illya quite well, having played against him a couple of times in the past. I did drop my serve a few times today, but luckily I was able to prevail since he didn’t do well today and erred on several occasions.”