In the end, it was as much cramp as it was his opponent ranked world No 49 that defeated India’s Saketh Myneni. The hot and humid New York afternoon took its toll as the 28-year-old lost his first round match 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-2, 2-6, 5-7 to Jiri Vesely of Czech Republic in three hours and 47 minutes.
To make matters worse, Myneni didn’t have the rub of the green either. Vesely appeared to double fault on match point but the call was overruled by the chair umpire. It proved to be the final straw as Myneni lost five straight games to lose the encounter.
IN ACUTE PAIN
Post match, Myneni could barely stand but signed autographs and posed for selfies with the ‘Saki squad’ comprising his family, friends and members of the Burning Tree Country Club nearby, where he used to teach. He declined the wheel chair offered but dropped his bag in it.
“I couldn’t bend the knee,” Myneni told HT over the phone. “My movements were heavily restricted in the final set.”
By his own admission, Myneni didn’t care much for the opponent — the 23-year-old Vesely has wins over world No 1 Novak Djokovic and world No 10 Dominic Thiem this season — or the occasion, Monday’s match being his first main draw appearance at an ATP event.
“I am not a big nerves guy. I was into it from the get go and I thought I was playing good tennis,” Myneni said. “It was a high-quality match in tough conditions and I am happy I kept fighting till the end.”
And fight he did. After losing the first set tie-break, he won two on the trot. He lost the fourth but raced 4-2 ahead in the decider when the spasms got worse. He clutched his right thigh, collapsed on court and called for a timeout. He returned to hold for a 5-2 lead, but couldn’t capitalise on a match point on Vesely’s serve and failed to serve out the match.
The scenes were similar to last month’s Davis Cup rubber against South Korea where Myneni braved his spasms before his opponent cramped and retired. Monday’s match was the first five-setter since that rubber for Myneni, who has spent most of his professional career on the Futures and Challenger circuits.
SWEATING TOO MUCH
The Hyderabad player doesn’t want to read much into it. “It’s not as much about the fitness as it is about the physical make-up. I sweat a lot and for that the only way is to take enough fluids and salt. But it is tough when the body gives up,” he said. “Three sets or five sets, the mental focus remains the same.”
Myneni’s high sweat rate is a foe that can never be defeated, merely fought to a draw at best.
Pat Rafter, the former world No 1, faced the same issue. The Australian met medical and physiology experts to find a solution. Someone who loses 1,500 milligrams during a three-set match can likely make up the salt deficit with a normal diet. Rafter lost 9,000-plus.
However, Rafter did prove it doesn’t limit your accomplishments. Myneni, in his first ATP match, proved he belongs to the big stage. To stay up there remains a struggle.