Down a match point, Alexander Kudryavtsev saw his first serve fly wide. The second was sent straight into the net. It was his seventh double fault of the match from the man who had the stronger serve on the day and possibly the strongest in the tournament. The Russian thwacked his racquet on the court in frustration. Yuki Bhambri let out a sigh of relief.
It had been that kind of a match. Kudryavtsev was walking that thin line between brilliance and self-destruction. The Indian hung in there, capitalising on each of his stumbles, till Kudryavtsev finally fell on the wrong side of it --- Yuki emerging a 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 winner in the final.
It has also been that kind of a week for Yuki. Everything has fallen in place for the Delhi youngster, who seems to have finally built the muscle to steel his aggressive strokeplay. To add a dash of sparkle, he also claimed the doubles title with Michael Venus. The second seeds came through 6-4, 7-6 (3) over N Sriram Balaji and Blaz Rola.
There is something to be said about Yuki’s mental fortitude in the singles final. Having been the one to go for the kill all week, on Saturday, the Indian showed the patience to work out points against a dangerous opponent.
“It was a different ball game,” admitted Yuki. “I had to play the waiting game. With a player like him it is very unpredictable.”
Kudryavtsev, with his monstrous serve and a cracking backhand, had looked overwhelming to begin with. He kept Yuki cornered to the backhand, and with a 6-4, 3-1 lead seemed ready to run away with the match.
But once Yuki started drawing him into rallies, the errors started coming from the Russian’s racquet. The Indian picked up on Kudryavtsev’s fragility on important points, making him work harder than his preferred dash and hit style. He battled back to win the second set 6-3 and then overturned a 3-5 deficit in the decider—breaking Kudryatsev at love when he served for the match at 5-4 --- to claim the singles crown.
It was Bhambri’s third ATP Challenger title in four finals at the age of 21, while Kudryavtsev, 28, has none from six finals.