IT HAPPENED sooner than anyone could have imagined. Within an hour, India's Sunil Kumar Sipaeya walked off the court shattered and disappointed, losing his semifinal match and ending India's run at the Sail Open.
Wildcard Sipaeya tried hard but could not succeed in defeating Czech Tomas Cakl. His 4-6, 2-6 loss to the world No. 325 would hurt Sipaeya for a long time to come as he was going great guns in the tournament. Sipaeya has not had a great year but there was a silver lining in the semifinal loss on Friday as this could well be the stepping-stone for the 24-year-old to achieve bigger things in life.
Sipaeya got what he wanted but not what he needed. Reaching his first semifinal at an ATP tournament, Sipaeya had got something he was yearning for all these years. But just when he got there, it all came crashing down.
He appeared nervous from the start. Being broken in the first game of the opener, Sipaeya's serves were looking unimpressive and his returns were deserting him. Cakl, who went on to take a 2-0 lead, played a safe game, forcing his opponent to make errors.
But Sipaeya's came back into his own in the fourth game. He looked every bit the awakened player who had stunned Pakistan's Aisam Qureshi on Thursday.
He played his signature forehand shots to perfection and earned a breakpoint. A loose forehand return from Cakl on the next point helped Sipaeya make it 2-2. Both played some exciting rallies and held serves till the eighth game. But just when it seemed that Sipaeya had done enough to frustrate the temperamental Czech, the Indian let go off the oppourtunity easily.
At 4-4, a string of defective returns from Sipaeya gave the Czech two breakpoints. Sipaeya managed to save one with a strong serve. But Sipaeya sent a drop volley wide to give Cakl a 5-4 lead. The Czech then held serve to take the opening set 6-4.
A demoralised Sipaeya now had a tough challenge at hand. He had to win the second set and beat the sky-high confidence of Cakl. But the Chandigarh boy squandered a breakpoint in the second game and later failed to hold serve in the third to trail 1-2.
Though Sipaeya broke back with a superb forehand winner in the fourth game to equalise, it looked that he had started succumbing to pressure.
He let the Czech break him for the second time in the sixth game where he took a 4-2 lead. There was no looking back for Cakl who took the set, match and a place in the final for the first time this year. He meets Russian Michail Elgin who overcame Ukraine's Igor Sergeyev 6-3, 6-4.
SEMIS: Tomas Cakl bt Sunil Kumar Sipaeya 6-4, 6-2, Michail Elgin bt Igor Sergeyev 6-1, 6-1; Doubles final: Xin-Yuan Yu/Xuan Shao Zeng (China) bt Pavel Chekhov/Michail Elgin (Russia) 1-6, 6-3, 10-8.