Yuki Bhambri became only the third Indian to reach the singles quarter-finals of an ATP World Tour event at home after winning his second round against an unfit world number 16 Fabio Fognini even as Ramkumar Ramanathan's fairytale run came to an end in Chennai on Thursday.
It was the biggest win of Yuki's career when the third seed formidable Italian, who struggled due to an injured left leg, conceded the match after trailing 1-6, 5-5.
Fognini had earlier pulled out of the doubles event for which he was supposed to partner India's veteran star Leander Paes. They duo were seeded second.
Yuki's next opponent will be Canadian world number 32 Vasek Pospisil, who got a walkover from Taipei's Yen-Hsun Lu.
The 21-year-old Indian, ranked 195, is only the third Indian after Somdev Devvarman and Leander Paes to make the singles quarterfinals of this event in Chennai.
Somdev had ended runner-up in the 2009 edition. Paes had reached the semi-final in 1998 when the event was known as Gold Flake Open. Paes had lost to eventual champion Patrick Rafter from Australia.
The 19-year-old Chennai boy Ramkumar, who came through qualfiers and shocked Somdev in the first round, put up a brave fight against world number 38 Marcel Granollers before losing his second round encounter 2-6, 4-6.
To his credit, Ramkukmar continued to play fearless tennis and kept fighting till the last point. He even broke his formidable opponent twice in the second set.
Despite his restricted movements, Fognini was good enough to trouble Yuki with his solid ground strokes, specifically his power-packed forehand.
A proper contest would have served as a good tennis lesson for the Indian youngster. It will be first ever appearance for Yuki in an ATP tour tournament quarter-finals Friday and it will help him improve his ranking.
"It's great to be in the quarterfinals of an ATP tour event before the home crowd. You don't get to play matches against world number 16 everyday. I am looking forward to next match tomorrow," Yuki said.
"He showed why he is top-20 player, hope he recovers well before the Australian Open," Yuki said when asked about Fognini's fight despite laid low by the injury.
After breaking Fognini in the fourth game, Yuki raced to a 3-1 lead but had to battle out two breakpoints in the next game before comfortably serving out the set in the seventh game.
In the second set too, Yuki succeeded in getting the first break in the fifth game but was broken back. It was on serve at 5-5 when Fognini decided against continuing.
Meanwhile, India's Purav Raja and Israel's Dudi Sela lost their doubles quarter-finals 4-6, 4-6 to fourth seeded pair of Johan Brunstrom from Sweden and Frederik Nielsen from Denmark.
The 19th edition of the tournament had been badly hit by the players pull out due to injuries. First it was Serbian Janko Tipsarevic who did not come here to defend his title and then second seed Mikhail Youzhny, Russian qualifier Alexander Kudryavtsev, also conceded their matches.
At the post-match media briefing, Ram Kumar rued that he could not use the chances he had in the second set.
"I am very disappointed from the match. I had my chances in the second set with two breaks but he is a good player with a lot of experience. I was lacking in first serves and return side was also not good. It slowly came together and I broke him twice and failed to hold myself," he said.
Meanwhile, fourth seeded Benoit Paire of France gave a fine exhibition of controlled tennis to advance to the quarter-finals of the event, beating Spaniard Guillermo Garcia Lopez 6-1, 6-4.
Image: Yuki Bhambri
Photograph courtesy: Aircel Chennai Open on Twitter