Thursday, September 27, 2007

Mumbai misses Indians at Kingfisher Open

It took four rain-hit days to complete first round matches at the Kingfisher Airlines Tennis Open but when the roll call was taken, no Indians were left in the singles draw.

There's not going to be any consolation from doubles either. Mahesh Bhupathi, who claimed the inaugural title in 2006 with Mario Ancic, pulled out before his opening round doubles match with what appears to be a bad back.

Wildcard Rohan Bopanna, at 244 the highest ranked Indian in singles, was our best hope and he almost made it. But it was Frenchman Nicolas Devilder who prevailed 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (11-9) after saving three matchpoints.

NCAA champion Somdev Dev Varman, the other Indian wildcard in the draw, actually led 5-4 in the second set against Italian Fabio Fognini but had to settle for a 3-6, 6-7(8-10) loss at the $416,000 ATP event.

In a battle of qualifiers, Navdeep Singh couldn't find anything to break Toshihide Matsui's rhythm and lost 4-6, 6-7(6-8) to the Japanese player.

And lucky loser Purav Raja couldn't make much of a second chance, falling 4-6, 1-6 to Spain's Ivan Navarro.

Raja and Vivek Shokeen are playing doubles too, but as last-minute replacements for Bhupathi and France's Fabrice Santoro and no miracles are expected from them.

Last year's surprise finalists Bopanna and Ghouse also survive in the doubles event though with different partners - Bopanna with Pakistan's Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi and Ghouse with Karan Rastogi.

But the question on everybody's minds is the whereabouts of Leander Paes. The doubles specialist skipped the Mumbai event apparently because of his tiff with Bhupathi. But he and Britain's Jamie Murray are also missing in action at the ATP Bangkok event, where they were supposed to be playing this week.

Update: Ghouse and Rastogi lost to the British pair of James Auckland and Ross Hutchins 2-6, 6-3, 3-10 in a first round match on Centre Court that lasted an hour and 14 minutes.

Update 2: Bopanna and Qureshi have advanced to the doubles semifinals thanks to a walkover over Ivan Navarro of Spain and Sergio Roitman of Argentina. Roitman withdrew with an elbow injury in the quarterfinals.

Raja and Shokeen, the only other Indian pair still in the fray, lost their first round match in straight sets 3-6, 2-6 to the Serbian duo of Boris Pashanski and Victor Troicki.
Will Bopanna and Qureshi win the doubles title?
Yes - Bopanna was a finalist at ATP Mumbai last year
No - Luck favoured them so far, not any more
Can't say - all depends on who they play next free polls

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