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Tennis

Balaji-Jeevan storm into doubles final, keep Indian challenge alive at Tata Open Maharashtra

N. Sriram Balaji and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan extended their brilliant run in the Tata Open Maharashtra to reach the finals of Men's doubles.

Balaji-Jeevan storm into doubles final, keep Indian challenge alive at Tata Open Maharashtra
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PTI

Updated: 7 Jan 2023 4:57 AM GMT

India's N. Sriram Balaji and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan extended their brilliant run in the Tata Open Maharashtra by entering the men's doubles final here on Friday. The Indian duo outclassed Julian Cash and Henry Patten 6-4, 7-5 in the semifinals at the Balewadi Stadium.

With this convincing win, Balaji and Jeevan also kept the Indian challenge alive in South Asia's only ATP 250 event. After finding it tough against the British pair initially, Balaji and Jeevan got into the rhythm quickly and took home the first set comfortably.

The second set witnessed neck-and-neck competition with scores locked at 5-5. However, the Indians, who have played exceptionally so far after getting entry as an alternative pair, took charge to win the next two successive games and advance into the final.

They will take on Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen in the title clash on Saturday. Gille-Vliegen beat top-seeds Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury in the other doubles semifinal. Earlier on Friday, a tenacious Benjamin Bonzi knocked out second seed and world number 35 Botic Van de Zandschulp in a gripping three-setter to reach his maiden ATP World Tour final here on Friday.

Keeping the intensity throughout, world number 60 Bonzi prevailed over Zandschulp 7-6(5) 6-7 (5) 6-1 in an intense semifinal of the Tata Open Maharashtra at the Balewadi Stadium. With his win, Frenchman Bonzi prevented a rare all-Dutch final as earlier in the day, the Netherlands' Tallon Griekspoor ousted eight-seed Russian Aslan Karatsev 7-6(4) 6-1 in the first semifinal.

It was the first win for Bonzi in three meetings with the Dutch. In each of the three sets, Bonzi went a break-up but the resolute Zandschulp, with his big game, stretched the match as well as his opponent. Bonzi hit fluent serves even as Zandschulp hit some uncharacteristic high unforced errors in the beginning. Bonzi found a stunning forehand winner on the Dutch player's drive volley to earn three breakpoints in game two and went up when Zandschulp netted a backhand on the second chance.

The Dutch were in danger of going down 0-4 as he faced another breakpoint in game four when he hit a forehand long but managed to hold to get on board. Zandschulp soon was in his element with his forehand inside-in shot troubling Bonzi.

The Frenchman hit an overhead volley on the net and Zandschulp hit a backhand crosscourt winner on the next point as Bonzi was now down 0-40. Bonzi hit a backhand on the net on the first break chance and the match is now on an even keel at 3-3. Bonzi was under pressure with the Dutchman hitting the ball very hard but the Frenchman kept his nose ahead with a tough hold in game nine, going up 5-4.

Serving to stay in the set, Zandschulp hit a double fault at 30-all to hand Bonzi his first set point but he saved that with a body serve that the Frenchman could not send across the net. No break of serve followed and eventually a tie-breaker was required to settle the opening set. Two forehand errors by Zandschulp put Bonzi ahead 4-2 following some heavy hitting by the two players.

Two backhand errors by the Dutchman gave Bonzi four set points. Zandschulp saved the first three with Bonzi perhaps feeling the nerves but he finally sealed it with a big serve that set up the unreturnable backhand down the line. Bonzi drew the first blood in the second set as well, getting the break in the very first game. Zandschulp was up 40-15 but lost three points in a row to drop serve. He hit a backhand wide at 30-all and then could not pick a half-volley on Bonzi's return.

Leading 4-2, Bonzi executed a perfect lob on the first point of game seven to negate an approaching Zandschulp for a stunning winner. Zandschulp hit an unforced error on the next point to be down 0-30 but came back strong for a hold, keeping close with Bonzi.

It was now the turn of Bonzi to go down 15-40 on his serve as he dropped serve and the momentum suddenly shifted towards Zandschulp, who got a chair umpire's correction call reversed on breakpoint to make it 4-4. The Dutch forced a decider when at 5-5, Bonzi found the net chord and the ball dropped outside the line across the net and hit a shot long on set point. Bonzi raced to a 5-0 lead with a double break, closing the intense match in a jiffy.

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