ITF: Mukund finds form to reach the semi-finals
The India no 3 played an aggressive brand of tennis to beat second seed Crawford in straight sets
Despite being the top-ranked Indian player at that time, young Sasikumar Mukund wasn’t picked for the World Group playoff Davis Cup tie against hosts Denmark this February as the Indian team management chose to go with Prajnesh Gunneswaran, Ramkumar Ramanathan, Sumit Nagal, Yuki Bhambri and Rohan Bopanna.
Mukund didn't let that dampen his spirits though. At the Delhi ITF tournament last week, he won a good first set against Australian Blake Ellis 6-3 in the first round before losing the second set by 4-6. However, he was forced to retire at 0-4 in the set after complaining of some breathing problems.
Also Read | Jessica Pegula, Coco Gauff, Elena Rybakina cruise into Miami Open third round
But on Friday, the India No. 3 showed that he had regrouped well and sailed into the semi-finals of the ITF $25K Men’s Open with a resounding win over second seed Oliver Crawford 7-6, 6-2 at the Ekana Sportz City. Mukund played sensibly and mixed up his game even as his American opponent piled on the errors.
Mukund fired in 11 aces, including seven in the first set and converted 100 percent of the breakpoint opportunities that came his way to win in one hour and 32 minutes. It was neck-and-neck in the first set before the Indian won it in a tie-break. But in the second set, Mukund was all over his opponent as he raced to a 4-2 lead before pocketing the set 6-2.
“It was one of the best matches since the pandemic began. I am happy to play at this level and aim to play like this throughout the season,” said Mukund. “It was an important win and I am happy with the way I played today. There was no special plan as such in the match. I wanted to play my natural tennis so I just kept my cool and hit the ball in the right spots,” he added.
Mukund has been playing Challengers for the last few years and playing the ITF events seems to have given him confidence as well as vital ATP points.
"I didn’t think too much about the match today and for me, every match is fun to play. For sure, it’s a new beginning for me after Covid,” Mukund said.
He, however, said missing the Davis Cup tie against Denmark last month wasn’t a disappointment for him. “Not really disappointed. I always believe that the team needs to win and everybody is equally good. Now, don’t think too much about that,” said Mukund, who has been really working on his tennis under the guidance of his Austrian coach nowadays.
The two other Indians in the quarterfinals lost in straight sets. Home favourite Siddharth Vishwakarma went down fighting to top seed Hoang Nam Ly of Vietnam 6-7, 3-6 whereas Karan Singh was beaten by former world no 65 Evgeny Donskoy of Russia also in straight sets 7-5, 6-2.
The fourth quarterfinal between the two Ukrainians saw them battling for every point before seventh seed Eric Vanshelboim brushed aside fourth seed Vladyslav Orlov 6-4, 6-2 in straight sets. Now, in the semi-finals slated for Saturday, Mukund meets Donskoy and Vanshelboim locks horn with Nam Ly.
Singles (quarterfinals): Sasikumar Mukund (IND) bt Oliver Crawford (USA) 7-6, 6-2; Eric Vanshelboim (UKR) bt Vladyslav Orlov (UKR) bt 6-4, 6-2; Evgeny Donskoy (RUS) bt Karan Singh (IND) 7-5, 6-2; Hoang Nam Ly (VIE) bt Siddharth Vishwakarma (IND) 7-6, 6-3.
Doubles (semi-finals): Parikshit Somani-Manish Suresh Kumar (Ind) bt SD PrajwalI Dev-Sai Karteek Reddy 7-5, 6-0; Blake Ellis (AUS)-Shuichi Sekiguchi (JPN) bt Rithvik Choudary-Niki Kaliyanda Poonacha (IND) 6-2, 7-6.