In the first semifinal of the Chennai Open Challenger 80 Tennis Championship being held at the SDAT Tennis Stadium, Nungambakkam, Chennai, Mukund Sasikumar the sixteenth seed set the Indian hearts racing when he got off to a dream start against Corentin Moutet of France the second seed.  The young 22 year old Indian had earlier upset the third seeded Mohamed Safwat of Egypt and then got the better of Brydan Klein of Great Britain sent down three aces in the very first game which ensured his domination throughout the first set. Corentin who had a tough match against Nicola Kuhn of Spain the previous day was rather slow to get off the blocks lost his service game meekly to allow Mukund a 2-0 lead.  Mukund held serve with ease to go up 4-1.  Corentin with a height of 5’9” was beginning to get into his groove held his serve and then broke Mukund to reduce the deficit to 3-4.  Corentin lost the crucial eighth game when he served a double fault due to the pressure that Mukund mounted with his fierce returns.  Mukund then served an ace on game point to clinch the first set 6-3.  In the second set Mukund kept up the momentum but at the same time Corentin got his back his touch and began to play with increasing confidence.  He varied his game mixing penetrative slices with topspin strokes on both flanks. He also served with greater accuracy and led 5-4.  In crucial tenth game Mukund served a double fault to give Corintin a set point which he duly capitalized on to take the set 6-4 and level the match.  Within a matter of minutes Mukund looked out of sorts as the Frenchman scampered all over the court returning every shot with ease.  He threw in looping forehands and crisp backhand slices and an occasional drop shot.  Mukund was denied the pace from his opponent’s strokes and his timing faltered.  The Frenchman was now in the driver’s seat as he led 4-1 and completed a 6-2 win to enter the finals. 

In the second semifinals the left-handed, lanky Prajnesh Gunneswaran was pitted against the unseeded Andrew of Australia who possessed a dangerous single-hand backhand.  Andrew had earlier defeated the fourth seed Gianluca Mager of Italy and the fifteenth seed Tsung-Hua Yang of Taipei.   Prajnesh raised the Indian hopes yet again only to dash them at the end.  As the start of the match against Andrew Harris of Australia, Prajnesh served crisply and powerfully to hold serve twice.  In the fourth game Andrew served a double fault to give Prajnesh a break point.  He then served a deep first serve to save it and was down a break point once again when Prajnesh’s return hit the line.  Andrew grittily saved the second break point as well and went on to hold the serve to level 2 all.  In the next game, Prajnesh was up 40-0 on his serve.  He then served his only double fault of the set which proved to be his undoing.  He did not get his first serve in and his second serve fell too short.  Andrew capitalized by moving forward and thumping returns to win four points in a row to gain the only break of the set. In particular his firm single hand backhand returns were deed and heavy to which Prajnesh had no answer.  Andrew held serve twice and was leading 5-3.  Prajnesh was down once again 15-40 on his serve giving Andrew two set points.  Prajnesh saved the two set points with two deep serves to make it deuce.  Another unforced error gave Andrew the third set point.  Once again Prajnesh rose to the occasion neutralized the set point and held serve.  The experienced Andrew made no mistake as he served for the set to win it 6-4.  In the second set Prajnesh’s serve was shaky and was down a break 2-1.  He then broke Andrew in the fourth game playing powerful returns and keeping the ball deep.  In the seventh game, Prajnesh was down 0-40 with three break points against him.  An unforced error from his opponent, a forceful forehand down the line and an ace saved the situation.  He held serve to lead 4-3.  In the eighth game it was Andrew’s turn to serve a double fault and give Prajnesh the advantage of a break point.  A forcing return by Prajnesh helped him win the next point to lead 5-4.  Prajnesh double faulted on the first point of the next game but retained composure to get his first serves in and win the game and the second set 6-3.  The effort seemed to had had Prajnesh mentally drained and Andrew’s ground strokes, particularly the single hand backhand were in full flow as he conceded only eight points to  win the decisive set and gain his rightful place in the finals.

In the doubles final, the Italian pain of Gianluco Mager and Andrea Pellegrino got the better of the Australian pair of Matt Reid and Luke Saville 6-4, 7-6.  The Australian pair won the toss but elected to receive.  The Italians took advantage as Gianluco started with an ace.  After holding serve the Italian pair broke Reid’s serve to lead 2-0 and then 5-3.  Serving for the set Gianluco once against served an ace on the first point but then became defensive.  The Australian pair pounced on the short serves and won the next four points to break back and reduced the deficit to 4-5.  The Italian sharpened their returns in the next game and broke Reid’s serve once again to win the first set 6-4.  A lapse of concentration saw Pellegrino loose his serve in the very first game of the second set.  The Australian pair led 5-4.  While serving for the set Luke Saville played safe and paid the penalty.  The Italians returned with precision to level the score 5 all.  In an exciting tiebreak which saw fortunes fluctuate the Italian pair saved a set point before winning the tiebreaker 9-7 and the match to lift the doubles trophy.

Mr. Dheeraj Kumar, IAS, Principal Secretary, Government of Tamil Nadu, Youth Welfare & Sports gave away the trophy in the presence of Mr. Vijay Amritraj, President, Tamil Nadu Tennis Association

Men’s Singles Main Draw – Semifinals

[2] Corentin Moutet (FRA) Bt. [16] Sasikumar Mukund (IND) 3-6, 6-4, 6-2

Andrew Harris (AUS) Bt. [1] Prajnesh Gunneswaran (IND) 6-4, 3-6, 6-0

Men’s Doubles Main Draw – Finals

Gianluco Mager (ITA) / Andrea Pellegrino (ITA) Bt. [1] Matt Reid (AUS) / Luke Saville (AUS) 6-4, 7-6(7)