New Delhi: Playing with a lot of 'self belief', India number one, Ankita Raina knocked out fifth seed Noppawan Lertcheewakaran in the women's event while men's top seed Aleksandr Nedovyesov fought off two match points against Yuichi Sugita to progress to the quarter-finals of the Delhi Open on Thursday.
Playing at the surface of her liking, Ankita came up with an aggressive game as she shocked the 229th-ranked Thai and former junior world number one 6-3 6-1 in one hour and 12 minutes to reach the quarters of the USD 25,000 ITF tournament at R K Khanna Tennis stadium.
Nedovyesov rallied to edge past Sugita 4-6 6-3 7-6(3) in two hours and 10 minutes in the second round of the USD 100,000 men's ATP Challenger event. Sugita messed up a 4-1 lead and two match points in the ninth game of the third set to be outplayed in the deciding tie-breaker of the final set.
Ankita had struggled to adjust to the slow and bouncy centre court in her opening match but today she came out all guns blazing as she served well, returned well, her ground strokes had power and most importantly, she kept fighting hard.
This was despite being broken in the very first game of the match. Noppawan sent down some powerful returns but Ankita handled everything well with her new-found confidence.
Her court coverage was good and some of her backhand winners were stunning, especially the one on the second point of the eighth game in the first set.
Ankita levelled the score by breaking Noppawan in the sixth game. Somewhat startled by the turnaround, Noppawan started to make errors. By netting a forehand, the Thai girl handed Ankita a breakpoint and she followed it up with a backhand error to give the Indian a 5-3 lead.
Serving for the set, she was down 0-30 but Ankita did not wilt under pressure and took four straight points to close the set in her favour in 33 minutes.
It was one-way traffic in the second set as Ankita raced to a 4-1 lead by breaking Noppawan twice - first and fifth games. Again, she was down by two breakpoints in the seventh but managed to save both and closed the match in the next game.
"I was thinking last night why we kept losing despite going up against quality players. We don't believe in ourselves. I just had to believe in myself and think that it is possible," the soft-spoken Ankita, an undergraduate, said after her win.
Ankita said she could improve her fitness towards the end of the last season as she did not play many tournaments and that after a long time she could play a match like this.
She said the surface was definitely of her liking but it was also the responsibility of the players to adapt to all the conditions.
The men's singles second round between top seed Nedovyesov and Sugita was a cracker of a contest and the Japanese stood on the wrong side of the result after blowing away two match points in the final set.
World number 92 and last week's semi-finalist, Nedovyesov shifted the gears after losing the first set and handled crucial points much better than the 164th ranked Japanese.
Not only did the Kazakhstan player have an impressive serve but also a booming forehand which he used to good effect to block Sugita's solid double-handed backhand.
He broke Sugita in the eighth game of the second set. Such powerful were his returns that Sugita could not take a single point in that game. The Kazakh then fired two aces to take the set.
Three consecutive errors in the second game meant that Nedovyesov had conceded the early lead and the Japanese made it 3-0 with a comfortable hold in the second set. He saved two breakpoints in the fifth game to further consolidate his lead to 4-1 and was serving for the match in the ninth game.
Sugita hit a backhand out on the first match point and Nedovyesov hit a volley winner on the second. The unforced error could not have come at a more wrong time for the Japanese as he hit a backhand on the net to be down a breakpoint and double faulted on the following point, letting his rival claw his way back.
There was no stopping Nedovyesov after that. He served with authority and dictated terms, serving out the 12th game with an ace to force a tie-breaker, in which he prevailed.
"I had watched his first match and I knew he could be tricky. After the first set, I tried to be aggressive. His backhand was solid and I did not give him much on that and it worked," Nedovyesov said after his win.
"I did not expect to break him when he was serving," Nedovyesov, who likes the way Russian great Marat Safin played and charmed the fans in his playing time, added.
Meanwhile, Kolkata leg winners Saketh Myneni and Sanam Singh remained on course for a second successive title after progressing to the semifinals.
They beat India's N Sriram Balaji and Taipei's Ti Chen 6-7(4) 7-6(4) 10-7 in the quarterfinals.
In the singles, Slovakian seventh seed Blaz Rola bowed out with a 4-6 7-5 4-6 defeat against Radu Albot of Moldova but fourth seed Russian Evgeny Donskoy reached the quarterfinals with a 7-5 6-1 win over Germany's Matthias Bachinger.
In the women's event, Rishika Sunkara's campaign ended with a quarterfinal loss in the doubles event with New Zealand partner Guthrie Abigail. They lost 6-2 4-6 3-10 to the Thai pair of Noppawan and Varatchaya Wongteanchai.
Natasha Palha's singles challenge ended with a 3-6 4-6 defeat against seventh seed Belarusian Ilona Kremen.