If Vishnu Vardhan, cheekily, likes to describe himself as the “Indian Tsonga”, his opponent Ashwin Vijayragavan’s performance in the first round of the ITF 15,000 Futures event could help him qualify as the Indian Djokovic (complete with the on-court breathing problems).
Ashwin counterpunched with gusto but Vardhan, the top seed, finally shook him off for a 6-4, 5-7, 6-3 victory at the CCI courts in Mumbai on Tuesday.
Vardhan had complained of a knee injury and fatigue coming into the tournament, and looked below par in the opening match. He fired 13 aces, and it was his serve that kept him afloat in the contest for most time.
Ashwin, who has re-started his pro-career this season after a college stint at the University of Texas, showed an impressive set of wheels and stomach for a fight.
Vardhan has somewhat been the flavour of the summer in Indian tennis, but the 23-year-old from Hyderabad, refused to be bogged down by reputation, kept his head down and stuck to his game plan: of retrieving every ball.
He was rewarded at the end of the second set, when Vardhan, serving for the match at 5-3, showed the first sign of nerves. He whacked a forehand into the net to give Ashwin a break point, and then served a double fault to concede the break.
Once 2-5 down in the set, Ashwin won five games in a row to take the set 7-5. He had trouble breathing at the beginning of the decider, much like the mighty Serb, who has been brought down by breathing issues during matches. Ashwin lost his serve in the very first game, and though he continued to stall Vardhan's attack, the game break was enough for the Davis Cupper to claim victory.
"The first match is always tough,” said Vishnu later. “It’s not just the knee that was bothering, but we are at the end of the season so the body is tired. I have to assess with my fitness trainer how many tournaments I can play till the end of the season.”
He will face Croatian youngster Mate Pavic in the second round. Pavic is the one-half of the doubles team that won this year's junior Wimbledon.
Results: Singles 1st round: 8-Ranjeet Virali-Murugesan bt Reid Carleton 4-1 (retd); 5-Saketh Myneni bt Neeraj Elangovan 6-2, 6-1; 7-Vijayant Malik bt William Kendall 6-4, 7-5; 2-Christopher Rungkat bt Siddharth Rawat 6-3, 6-1; Purav Raja bt Jatin Dahiya 6-1, 6-0; Mate Pavic bt Rakshay Thakkar 3-6, 6-2, 6-2; 4-Liang-Chi Huang bt N. Vijay Sundar Prashanth 6-2, 6-7(2), 6-2; James Marsalek bt Lakshit Sood 6-1, 6-2; 1-Vishnu Vardhan bt Ashwin Vijayragavan 6-4, 5-7, 6-3; Sebastian Ofner bt Kaza Vinayak Sharma 6-0, 6-4; Mohit Mayur bt Peng Chih Hsueh 6-3, 6-2