Niki Poonacha asserted his maturity more than his big game as he sneaked past Digvijay Pratap Singh 6-2, 4-6, 7-6(2) in the first round of the $25,000 ITF men’s tennis tournament at the RK Khanna Stadium on Tuesday.
The 27-year-old NIki, a two-time National champion, showed athleticism, strike-power, and composure at the crunch to prevail in the energy-sapping contest on the centre-court.
Digvijay, who had beaten Niki in their last professional meeting in November last year in three sets, missed his chances when he had a bunch of break points in the fifth game of the decider. He also could not serve it out at 6-5, which led to the tie-break.
Niki rose to the occasion and capitalised on the errors of Digvijay in the tie-break. After Digvijay double-faulted to be down 2-5, Niki came with a jump shot winner from beyond the baseline to give himself four match points. Digvijay put a forehand long to bring the curtains down on his challenge.
In the only other singles match in the main draw, Rohan Mehra beat Sarthak Suden in straight sets. Rohan later joined Shivank Bhatnagar to knock out second seeds Adam Taylor and Eric Vanshelboim 10-5 in the super tie-break of the doubles pre-quarterfinals.
The hero of the junior Davis Cup last year at the same venue, Rushil Khosla did well to win three matches in the qualifying event. He will play sixth seed Eric Vanshelboim of Ukraine in the first round.
Singles (first round): Rohan Mehra bt Sarthak Suden 6-3, 7-5; Niki Poonacha bt Digvijay Pratap Singh 6-2, 4-6, 7-6(2).
Doubles (pre-quarterfinals): Francis Casey Alcantara (Phi) & Pruchya Isaro (Tha) bt Grigoriy Lomakin (Kaz) & Vishnu Vardhan 6-4, 7-6(5); Yunseok Jang & Woobin Shin (Kor) bt Faisal Qamar & Fardeen Quamar 6-2, 4-6, [14-12]; Shivank Bhatnagar & Rohan Mehra bt Adam Taylor (Aus) & Eric Vanshelboim (Ukr) 6-7(2), 6-4, [10-5].
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