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Prakash Amritraj out of Tata Open

January 08, 2004 21:10 IST

India's top tennis player Prakash Amritraj failed to capitalise on a first set lead to crash out 6-3, 1-6, 2-6 against higher ranked Thierry Ascione of France in a second round match, bringing the curtains down on the Indian challenge in the Tata Open ATP Tour tennis championship at Chennai.

The 20-year-old Prakash, the last of the three Indian wild card entrants to survive, clinched the first set with superb all-round tennis, but lapsed into errors in the subsequent sets confronted with the power game of his rival to surrender meekly.

Prakash, son of Indian tennis legend Vijay Amritraj, raised hopes of becoming only the second Indian to enter the quarterfinals of the premier tournament in the country after Leander Paes, who lost in the semifinals in 1998, as he broke the tentative Ascione in the 8th game to take the first set.

But, Ascione, who had upset sixth seeded Rafael Nadal in the first round, had different ideas and bounced back into the match lifting his game several notches in the second set.

With breaks in the fourth and sixth games, the 149-ranked French took the set in no time even as the Indian made a series of unforced errors.

The third set was no different as Prakash, ranked 193 in the ATP list, was broken in the very first game and then in the third and fifth games as Ascione leaped to a 5-0 lead. But Prakash, a first round loser here last year, staged a late charge breaking his rival in the sixth game and held his own in the next, though it only helped in reducing the margin in the end.

Initially, the first set was fought evenly with very little separating the rivals. Both served and volleyed well while Ascione held a slight edge with better returns. Prakash kept his rival on the backfoot making several productive approaches to the net.

Prakash, who ousted a jet-lagged compatriot Harsh Mankad in the first round, got into rhythm early and won some good points with his forehands. On the other hand, Ascione, playing well behind the baseline, held his serves comfortably.

After games went on serve till the seventh, Prakash achieved the crucial break in the next game. Coming up with a couple of good winners, he took the game to deuce and an excellent forehand on the up put him on break point. He converted it with a return on a very good serve which forced Ascione to hit his forehand out.

The second set saw Prakash improving his game further and hold serves comfortably with a good mix of drop volleys and cross court winners. Sensing danger, Ascione stepped up the pace and started attacking Prakash and broke him in the fourth game.

Prakash kept making more and more unforced errors as he was broken in the sixth game before Ascione served out the set in style sending down three aces.

Ascione soon took control breaking Prakash in the first game of the third set itself as the Indian started finding the net often. Nothing went right for him as he made a couple of double faults also and conceded another break in the third game before being broken for the third time in the fifth.

Ascione, who dropped his serve in the sixth game, kept his cool in the eighth and held three match points. He converted the first as Prakash hit his forehand return long.

"I just kind of lost mentally in a duration of 15 minutes in the second set. In the first set, my concentration was good. Had I been able to keep it up, I would have been able to give a good fight," Prakash said after the match.

"Also, Ascione started attacking once he got his rhythm and I was in a defensive mood in the second set," he added.

"The bright thing is that I lost 2-6, 2-6 last year. Now I have done better and I hope to do even better in the future," he said.

However, he said in the second set the points were closely fought and he should have won them. He agreed that his return of serves should have been better.

Asked whether a line call in the crucial third game of  the second set upset his rhythm, Prakash said it did upset him a bit.

On his next engagement, Prakash, who turned pro last year, said he would he playing in the Australian Open  qualifiers and then in the Davis Cup in New Zealand.

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