March 1, 2021

Poonacha sets up semis clash with Czech Republic’s Svrcina 

Delhi boy Niki Kaliyanda Poonacha kept India’s hopes alive, marching into the semi-finals of the $15,000 ITF men’s tournament, getting the better of Italy’s Lorenzo Bocchi 6-3, 6-7, 6-3 in a little less than three hours at the RK Khanna stadium on Friday.

“I played a good match. I had injuries in the past few weeks, but I have been able to play good (tennis) this week. I had chances in the second set but I could not convert them. I was serving at 6-5 in the second but I could not hold (my serve). However, I played a really good third set and stuck to a plan,” said the 25-year-old Poonacha.

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Poonacha started the match with a heavily-strapped right wrist but after the win he said he was confident about giving it his best shot in the semi-final on Saturday.

“I don’t think the wrist will be a problem. It is feeling better. The tape is just a precaution. I am confident I will do well in the semis,” added Poonacha, the 2019 Indian National champion.

In the other quarter-final matches, No. 2 seed Simon Carr of Ireland, fourth-seeded Oliver Crawford of the US and 18-year-old Dalibor Svrcina from the Czech Republic advanced to the last-four stage, beating Hungarian Zsombor Velcz, Alexander Kotzen (USA) and third seed Aidan McHugh from Britain, respectively.

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Poonacha will be up against Svrcina, while last week’s ITF M15 Pune winner Crawford will take on Carr in the other semi-final.

In the doubles semi-final on Friday, the No. 1 pair of Arjun Kadhe and Saketh Myneni defeated compatriots Anirudh Chandrasekar and Niki Kaliyanda Poonacha 6-4, 7-6 to set up a title clash with the Czech Republic-Hungarian pair of Dalibor Svrcina and Zsombor Velcz.

In the final match of the day, which was partly played under floodlights, Svrcina and Velcz (both 18 years old) made short-work of India’s Manish Suresh Kumar and Ranjeet Virali-Murugesan 6-1, 6-2 in under one hour.

Results: Singles (Quarter-finals): Niki Kaliyanda Poonacha (Ind) bt Lorenzo Bocchi (Ita) 6-3, 6-7, 6-3; Simon Carr (Irl) bt Zsombor Velcz (Hun) 6-3, 2-6, 6-3; Oliver Crawford (USA) bt Alexander Kotzen (USA) 6-4, 7-5; Dalibor Svrcina (Cze) bt Aidan McHugh (Gbr)4-6, 6-0, 6-2.

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Doubles (Semi-finals): Arjun Kadhe (Ind) / Saketh Myneni (Ind) bt Anirudh Chandrasekar (Ind) / Niki Kaliyanda Poonacha (Ind) 6-4, 7-6; Dalibor Svrcina (Cze) / Zsombor Velcz (Hun) bt Manish Sureshkumar (Ind) / Ranjeet Virali-Murugesan (Ind) 6-1, 6-2.

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