Balaji, Yuki overcame shaky starts to move to quarters

New Delhi: N Sriram Balaji got his act together in time as he overcame a sluggish start to subdue Ramkumar Ramnathan in a three-setter and move to the singles quarter-finals of the USD 10,000 ITF Futures tournament, here on Wednesday.

Third seed Balaji scored a 4-6 6-3 6-2 win in the second round in two hours and seven minutes to assert his supremacy over his young rival as he extended his clean head-to-head record against the Chennai boy to 4-0.

By his own admission, Balaji forgot that he relies much on his net play and after losing the first set, he woke up and changed his strategy.

He started coming more on net and with some smart volleys, he broke the momentum of his young opponent, who was not trying too hard and subsequently started hitting unforced errors.

To his credit, Ramkumar fought well in the first set. He broke his nemesis in the very first game and that break stayed with him, helping him pocket the first set.

A change in tactics and staying calm helped Balaji to claw his way back as he broke Ramkumar in the eighth game of the second set and comfortably brought the match to level terms.

His confidence shaken, Ramkumar dropped serve in the first game. He saved another in the third game to get on board. After two more chances in the fifth, Ramkumar did not help his cause when he hit a forehand long on the third break chance.

Balaji was leading 4-1 that became 5-1 with an easy hold. He served out the match when Ramkumar hit a backhand wide.

"Net play is my game. I forgot that in the first set. I was tentative, not playing my shots. I was not playing my best. But now I have to be ready for tough matches ahead," Balaji, who trains in Germany with Benjamin Abraham, said after his win.

Playing on court number one, top seed Yuki Bhambri was in for a surprise as he found himself facing two set points in the opening set against national championship runner-up Arjun Kadhe, but made a strong comeback for a 7-5 6-1 win in one hour and 15 minutes.

Yuki was leading comfortably 4-2 but lack of concentration cost him three games on the trot and he was down 15-40 in the 10th, facing two set points.

However, as all champions do, he raised his game by a few notches and not only saved both the chance but also broke Kadhe in the 11th game and served out the set in the next.

Some delectable sliced dropped shorts by Yuki marked the second set as Kadhe seemed to have no clue about how to stop the Delhi boy.

"It`s good wake up call. I hope there won`t be more let ups. I lost concentration after 4-2 lead and took it easy in the first set," he said adding adding that he was confident of putting up a good show against Karunuday Singh, who demolished Vinayak Sharma Kaza 6-1 6-0.

Earleir, Vishnu Vardhan made short work of Abdullah Shaikh 6-2 6-3 in just one hour and two minutes.