Maharashtra Open 2018: Failure to convert numerous break points denies Yuki Bhambri a quarterfinal berth
Indian Number 1, Yuki Bhambri, has now played two games in less than eighteen hours in the Maharashtra Open in Pune. He beat the local favourite, Arjun Kadhe, in his first-round match yesterday (January 2) night, and had to play against Frenchman Pierre-Hueges Herbert in the first match on the centre court today (January 3).
He lost 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 after putting up a tough fight against the man who is 37 places ahead of him in the ATP rankings.
He started exactly where he left off yesterday, hitting consistent groundstrokes devoid of errors to break in the very first game of the contest. Herbert has a big serve and fired as many as 5 aces in the first set, but was unable to hit it big in his maiden attempt to hold his serve.
Bhambri struggled with his forehand initially and made some uncharacteristic errors, but managed to retain his lead in the set with his typically calm disposition.
The 25-year-old got a chance to serve for the set at 5-4. He couldn't get his first serve right in the first two attempts but regained his composure soon to fire an ace at 15-15. After that, the right-hander did not lose his focus and capped the set 6-4 with composure.
Herbert came back strongly in the second set. He held his serve before breaking Bhambri in the next game. He consolidated the break with another hold, to take a commanding position in the set at 3-0. He broke and consolidated again later in the set to double his lead at 5-2.
The 26-year-old racked up some exceptional serves, which included three aces, to take the second set and push it into a deciding set. This was the first time a centre court match went the distance in the tournament.
Bhambri's strokes were finding the net way too often in the first two sets, but there was a significant improvement in his shotmaking from the opening game of the final set. This helped him hold serve and pressurized Herbert immediately. Bhambri notched up three break points for himself in the next game with some terrific court coverage and precise groundstrokes.
However, he couldn't convert even one them. His opponent showed a spirited fight to win 5 points on the trot to retain the crucial game.
The Indian player's dangerous forehand, which had gone missing in the first two sets of the game, finally came to life in the third. The inside-out forehand, in particular, was a treat to watch. He had a triple breakpoint again in the fourth game as a result of his relentless gameplay, but the gutsy Frenchman saved them all, yet again.
The failure to convert six huge break points played on Bhambri's head as he was 15-40 down on serve in the next game. He made two massive double faults in the same. Herbert's efficiency came into play as he converted the first break point that came his way in the set, and took the lead, courtesy his resilient effort. Clinical serving next couple of games helped him race to 5-3 in the decider.
The World Number 81 was put under tremendous pressure by the crowd assembled at the stadium and fell to a double fault while serving for the match. However, he did not let his concentration dwindle any further and won the deciding set, 6-4.
Bhambri converted none out of the six break points he got, Herbert converted the one he did. That was the point of difference that decided the end result of the tight encounter.