Sriram Balaji gets first French Open win, Yuki bows out

Balaji, who is most likely to be Bopanna's choice for the Paris Games, combined well with Mexico's Miguel Angel Reyes-Varela Martinez for a win.
Indian tennis star Sriram Balaji (File | PTI)
Indian tennis star Sriram Balaji (File | PTI)

PARIS: N Sriram Balaji made a strong case for his inclusion in the Indian men's doubles team for the Paris Olympics along with Rohan Bopanna by logging his maiden win at the French Open but Yuki Bhambri, the other contender for the berth, made a first round exit here on Friday.

Despite the defeat, Yuki reminded what he brings on the table with his all-round game, hitting ability from the baseline and a decent serve.

Yuki and Olivetti lost 3-6 6-7(5) to Australia's John Peers and Russia's Roman Safiullin in the opening round.

Balaji, who is most likely to be Bopanna's choice for the Paris Games, combined well with Mexico's Miguel Angel Reyes-Varela Martinez for a 6-3 6-4 win over American Reese Stalder and Dutch player Sem Verbeek.

Balaji has made tremendous progress as a doubles players.

Bopanna was watching Yuki's match from the stands, making his calculations as to who will be a better partner for him.

In the opening set, Yuki and his French partner struggled a bit.

They had left the court open too many times to allow their rivals to blast easy winners. Yuki dropped his serve in game four with his feeble backhand crashing on the net.

From there, it was all too easy for Peers and Safiullin.

The Indian was again down 0-30 when he returned to serve but managed to hold.

Yuki's overhead volley winner earned a break chance when Safiullin served in game four of the second set but the Indian returned just long.

However, Peers did not miss the chance when Olivetti was down 15-40 as the Australian found a crushing service return winner to draw the first blood.

At 30-all on Safiullah's serve in game eight, the Indo-French pair had a chance to put pressure and get the break back but Peers' overhead smash winner averted the danger.

An exciting duel followed between Yuki and Safiullin on the next point which went into a deuce but some solid serve and returns ensured a hold for the Australian-Russian pair.

Olivetti came out to serve to stay in the match and hit a forehand long after two deuce points to be down by a match point.

Yuki saved that with a volley winner at the net.

Serving to win the match, Peers was broken as Yuki returned extremely well to earn those chances.

The match got stretched to a tie-breaker but Yuki's backhand crashed to the net on second match point.

On Saturday, India's top players Bopanna and Sumit Nagal will be up against each other in the men's doubles first round.

Nagal entered the draw with Austria's Sebastian Ofner as alternate pair.

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