Pune: N Vijay Sundar Prashanth put up a valiant fight against a quality player in Evgeny Donskoy before losing a tight singles quarterfinal match in the KPIT-MSLTA Challenger tournament here on Thursday.
The 373-ranked Chennai lad made his Russian rival, ranked 100, work hard for points in his first ever Challenger level last-eight match, which he lost 6-7(8) 6-7 (5) after sweating it out for two hours at the Centre Court of the Balewadi Sports Complex.
Prashanth, who won three ITF Futures this season, proved that his victory over Somdev Devvarman was not a fluke.
He did battle initial nerves but then took off and presented a strong fight against second seed Donskoy, who came into the tournament after beating top-100 players, including world number 39 Borna Corcis, at the Kremlin Cup which is a ATP 250 event.
Prashanth was impressive with his returns and swift movement on the court. He showed good tennis mind but lacked in execution as he set up many points but could not finish. They were not many but those little points made a huge difference in the outcome of the match.
He backed his serve with decent ground-strokes and little more power in his shots would have added extra sting to his challenge.
The 29-year-old, who trains with Mahendra Verman in Chennai, said three points made all the difference.
"In the first set tie break, I was serving at 5-5, I could not go up and at 7-7 too. In the second set also at 5-5 I could not go up and that made a difference. I wont say that I would have won the match but had I gone up, it would have given me a better chance," Prashanth said after the match.
He said he had plans in place before every match and he followed those but lamented that his coach, who is also his close friend, cannot travel with him due to paucity of funds.
Prashant said holding serve against a top-100 player was
key and he would take a lot of positives from the tournament. He was pleased with the fact that "he started off the season by beating Yuki Bhambri and ended by beating Somdev" and added that he has learnt to control his emotions while playing.
Donskoy was all praise for his rival, saying he expected a quality match.
"I saw him playing Somdev yesterday and knew it will be a good match. I was prepared. He played well. I thought his backhand was not good mine but it was good. He returned well," the Russian said but added that he did not play his "best game".
He was broken in the very first game but broke back in the fourth to make it 2-2. Donskoy served a rare double fault and made two consecutive forehand errors to hand back the break. It was on serve after that and Prashanth saved three set points before he hit a backhand out on the fourth.
There was no break of serve in the second set but Prashanth saved two break chances each in the fourth and eighth games too and two match points before forcing another tie-breaker.
The Russian prevailed in the tie-break, cashing in on little mistakes made by his fighting rival.
Donskoy next take on eight seed Alexander Kudryavtsev, who demolished the challenge of third seed Spaniard Adrian Menendez-Maceiras 6-2 6-1.
Fourth seed Briton James Ward also reached the singles semifinals with a commanding 6-3 6-3 win over Ilya Ivashka from Belarus.
Meanwhile, at least one Indian will be in contention for the doubles title as Divij Sharan and Maximilian Neuchrist stormed into the final with a 4-6 7-5 12-10 win over second seeded Indian pair of Saketh Myneni and Sanam Singh.