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Chennai Open: Divij Sharan-Purav Raja a win away from third ATP title; Daniil Medvedev reaches first ever semis

Chennai: The ever-improving Divij Sharan and Purav Raja livened up the Chennai Open for home fans by storming into the doubles final as they scalped the second seeded Argentines Guillermo Duran and Andres Molteni, here on Friday.

Unseeded Sharan and Raja were in complete control of their semifinal, save two breaks they suffered in second set, in a 6-4 6-2 win in the quarterfinal lasting 63 minutes.

It will be the third ATP level final together for Sharan and Raja, having won titles in Bogota (2013) and Los Kabos (2016). Raja has played a final with Fabrice Martin in Zagreb where they ended runners-up in 2015.

When India’s challenge has already ended in the singles, and veteran star Leander Paes has also exited, the Sharan-Raja pair has kept the home fans interested in the tournament.

It can get even better if Rohan Bopanna and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan win their semifinal tomorrow to set up an all-Indian final. They play fourth seeds Nicholas Monroe from the USA and Artem Sitak from New Zealand.

Paes was impressed with their ‘I-formation’ style of play and they said it was giving them excellent results.

“It really helps playing the I-formation. It keeps the players guessing which way the ball will move. It has worked for us,” Sharan, who hails from Delhi, said.

Asked which pair they would prefer playing in the final, Raja said it does not matter to them much but an all-Indian final would be great.

“We don’t think about these things. We try to win each match. Playing against Rohan and Jeevan or any other players will give us the same points but yes it will be good if the two Indian teams play,” Raja said.

Sharan also said that they have set themselves the target of getting into top-30 in 2017.

“It’s a great start to the season. If you are ranked better, it helps in getting good tournaments. We want to be in top-30 this year,” he said.

The Indians, who will play the Australian Open main draw, outclassed their rivals in the opening set, losing only three points on their serve. Both of them were class act at the net as they played some delectable volleys that just dropped dead.

Raja did not lose a single point on his serve in the opening set even as he lost serve twice in the second. Sharan yet again stood out with his service games, losing only five points in the entire match.

They surged ahead by breaking Molteni when Sharan hit a winner between the two Argentines in the third game. In the next game when Divij served, Raja played some awe-inspiring volleys, all dropped dead with silky touch of Raja’s racquet. Sharan did the same when Raja served in the eighth.

The lead stayed with them and they took the set in the 10th game. The Indians broke Duran in the opening game of the second set but Raja was broken in the next.

The second seeds could not hold serve even once in the second set as Sharan served out the match in the eighth with Raja hitting a volley winner on the second match point.

Later, Daniil Medvedev earned his maiden entry into the singles semifinals of an ATP World Tour event when he ended the dream run of Slovakian qualifier Jozef Kovalik with a commanding win in the Chennai Open quarterfinals.

Russia’s Medvedev quelled a late resistance from Kovalik for a 6-4 6-1 win that came in one hour and 28 minutes.

Nevertheless, it turned out to be superb tournament for Kovalik, who came through qualifying and scalped the biggest player of the event, world number six Marin Cilic.

The Russian was playing much better than his first round effort. He not only served big as he fired eight aces and had sting in his shots, he smartly played drop shots to catch Kovalik by surprise on several occasions.

“I am super happy to be in my first ever semis in the ATP. My opponent played very good,” the Russian, ranked 98 in the world, said.

Both the players were unhappy with many calls during the match but Medvedev chose not to make an issue out of it.

“It’s part of the game. The conditions were same for both of us,” he said adding that the Russian players needed more support from the national Federation.

He next faces Israel’s Dudi Sela, who battled past Spanish third seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas 7-5 6-4.

Also making it to the last-four was French fifth seed Benoit Paire, who had an easy outing there, beating Aljaz Bedene 6-3 6-0 as the British struggled with a back problem.

Medvedev served big to subdue the Slovak, who lost his serve twice to trail 0-4 in the opening set. Kovalik was hitting the ball but Medvedev had better control over his strokes.

Kovalik finally got on board in the fifth game but not before saving a breakpoint in that game.

Struggling to find a way out, Kovalik several times looked at his coach Boris Borgula sitting in the stands, which apparently made him look more helpless against a relentless Medvedev.

Medvedev felt the heat for the first time in the match when the Slovak started to return better and found a forehand winner at 40-40 to earn a breakpoint but the Russian managed to save with his big serve.

The unforced errors continue to flow from Kovalik’s racquet and he lost the first set with a double fault down a breakpoint in the seventh game.

The Slovakian started to play much better in the second set and was rewarded for perseverance. He returned well and had more power behind his shots.

Medvedev made some unusual unforced errors and a third consecutive backhand error meant that Kovalik got first break of the set in the fifth game to lead 3-2.

Kovalik’s bad temper got to him as he allowed the Russian to get the break back when he double faulted at deuce and lost a long rally by netting a backhand. Kovalik threw his racquet on to the advertising boards out of frustration.

He had a chance to break back but sent a forehand just over the sideline, a call which he protested loud. Medvedev held and Kovalik was now serving to stay in the match but the Russian sealed it with a forehand winner.  

Source: Zee News