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Prakash goes down fighting

January 05, 2009 22:31 IST

Indian Davis Cupper Prakash Amirtraj remained a pedestrian yet another time as he lost his first-round match to higher rated and fifth-seed Rainer Schuettler of Germany 2-6, 6-4, 1-6 in 85 minutes, even as Rohan Bopanna made his passage to the main draw after winning his final qualifying match in the $ 450,000 ATP Chennai Open on Monday night.

Amritraj, who has been taking part in this tournament since 2003, had practised ahead of the draw-ceremony of this tournament with Schuettler, had no answers to the tactical play of the German, a veteran in the circuit and almost a regular in Chennai.

The only time that Amritraj crossed the first round hurdle was in 2006, getting the better of Brazil's Ricardo Mello 2-6, 6-2, 6-3, but lost in the second round to second seeded Radek Stepanek of Czech Republic.

Amritraj, who does not hold an Indian passport and has been favoured with a wild card entry for the tournament for the last seven years, has already evoked criticism for his continued poor show at the lone ATP event in India.

Schuettler, who lost to Byron Black in the final in 1999, prepared for the 2009 season in Kenya before reaching the city.

He had a good start in his campaign and was more focused in winning the first set rather easily at 6-2.

The German was more relaxed and perhaps wanted to have some good match practice before meeting his compatriot Simon Greul (126) in the second round and allowed Prakash to enjoy two breaks in the second game.

The fact was that Schuettler, while trying to experiment with a few shots, ended up making some unforced errors. On some occasions Amritraj rushed to the net to finish a contest but twice he sent those shots wide.

However, Amritraj rose in stature as the match grew and came up with some great winners, particularly the double-handed back hand cross court shots. 

He stretched the match to the decider and trailed 1-3 and had a break point in the fifth game but surrendered the initiative.

Bopanna proved that he still has the venom for singles play as he remained the lone Indian to make the main round among 18 others who took part in qualifying.

Playing the final qualifying round, Bopanna, who had a strenuous preparation of three weeks of physical conditioning in Bangalore under Shyamal Pallabje, withstood the pressure to bounce back after losing the first set to Michael Berrer of Germany.

Bopanna, who had refused a wild card entry in doubles event of the tournament, tightened his grip on his baseline game and then maintained it to win the decider and the match 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

"I have improved on my game and strategy. When I was down 1-3 in the final set, I was a bit tired but still got back into the game. People think I have given up singles play but it is not like that," said Bopanna on today's win. 

Asked to talk on his exclusion from the Davis Cup team for the away match against Romania, Bopanna said, "They decided to take only four players for the match but at home, I was part of it."

As for the main draw, the season's opener started on a sour note for the Spaniards as three of former champion Carlos Moya's countrymen were sent packing after losing their respective first round matches.

Daniel Gimeno-Traver (ranked 90) was the first to go, going down to Simon Greul (126) of Germany 3-6, 4-6.      Germany's Bjorn Phau (120) then accounted for another Spaniard, Santiago Ventura (123) 6-2, 7-5.

On the centre court, third-seed Marin Cilic (ranked 23) faced little difficult in moving to the next round with a confident 6-4, 6-4 win over Spain's Alberto Martin (100).

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