There is one thing Yuki Bhambri is sure of as he prepares to take on Somdev Devvarman. He’s going to have to run a lot.
The 21-year-old from Delhi overturned a set deficit against France Lucas Pouille to set up a semifinal clash with Somdev in the $50,000 ATP Challenger. It is for the first time that the country’s top-two players will square off.
While Yuki needed two hours to beat Pouille 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 in a close baseline battle, and then returned to win his doubles quarterfinal with Kiwi partner Michael Venus, Somdev was through without hitting a ball. His Spanish opponent Jordi Samper-Montana was down with food poisoning and gave a walkover. “I don’t think he would have been tired even if he had played the full three sets here,” said Yuki. “He is one of the fitter players around, very tough to beat. I am going to have to run around a lot. But I am up against our best singles player and have nothing to lose.”
The 28-year-old Somdev, ranked 70 places ahead of Yuki on the ATP charts, has scored three hard-fought wins in the past week, including a tough five-setter against Ti Chen in the second singles of the Davis Cup tie against Chinese Taipei.
Yuki, meanwhile, has been hitting the ball clean, especially off his forehand, and has notched up a few impressive wins this year.
“He has been in good form this week,” said Somdev, who has had to fend off claims of being ‘too defensive’ recently. “He is the kind of player who likes to attack. He takes the ball early and puts pressure on you right from the first ball. It is an interesting match-up.” It was a glass half-full kind of day for India, as, though Somdev and Yuki went through to the last four, Sanam Singh and Saketh Myneni lost their respective quarterfinals.
Sanam, having come through the qualifiers and playing his sixth match in six days, finally ran out of steam against the second seed Evgeny Donskoy, going down 5-7, 4-6. Donskoy will face fellow Russian Alexander Kudryavtsev, who rolled past a tired Myneni 6-0, 6-2.