Ivo Karlovic proved too tall a task to surmount for Prakash Amritraj. The Indian Davis Cupper wilted in straight sets in the first round of the ATP Chennai Open at the Nungambakkam stadium on Monday.
The 6'10" Croat served 14 aces in his 7-6(3), 6-3 victory over the Indian, who returned to competitive tennis from a wrist injury that kept him out for almost six months.
It was almost a family get-together on the sidelines with Prakash being cheered on by his father, the legendary Vijay Amritraj, his uncles Anand and Ashok, grandparents, younger brother and cousins. But the 23-year-old could not come up with a strong enough performance; every time he edged into the match, Karlovic got out of a tight corner with his huge serves.
The Indian employed his pet serve and volley tactics to keep Karlovic at bay. He staved off three break points in the first game but steadied thereafter as the first set went into the tie-break without a single break of serve.
Though Prakash fought till 3-3 in the second set -- he had two break opportunities in the earlier game -- Karlovic stormed back with four straight service winners. The Indian's serve fell apart in the eighth game as he served two double faults and lost the game at love.
In another singles match, third seeded Xavier Malisse (Belgium) made short work of Doha Asian Games champion Danai Udomchoke (Thailand), winning 6-2, 6-2 and moved into the second round.
In the doubles, the show pair of Rafael Nadal and Bartolome Salva-Vidal made short work of defending champions Petr Pala and Michal Mertinak.
The Czech-Slovak pair, which had beaten Leander Paes-Martin Damm last year, weren't even a patch on the Spaniards, and went down 1-6, 3-6 in 56 minutes.
India's challenge in the doubles ended as Vishal Uppal and Ashutosh Singh lost 4-6, 4-6 to Tomas Behrend and Robin Vik.
Nadal and Vidal, both left-handers, put on a smooth show for the spectators. The world number two, known for his relentless hitting from the baseline, showed deft touch at the net and pulled off some spectacular crosscourt volleys as the pair raced through the match.
"It was good to beat the defending champions. It is important for us mentally to start the tournament with a victory," said Nadal after the match.
Though his tough singles schedule makes it almost impossible for him to play in the doubles, the 20-year-old said he likes to play doubles whenever it is possible.
"I love the doubles. It helps me improve my game and movement also."
Vidal wasn't a livewire on the field like his partner but was steady, served well and carried out his job to perfection as the pair coasted to victory."He is a good friend of mine and we train together. We have played in the juniors together though this was the first time we were playing together in an ATP event," said Nadal of his partner.
Tomas Behrend/ Robin Vik bt Ashutosh Singh/ Vishal Uppal 6-4, 6-4
Julien Benneteau bt Telmuraz Gabashvili 6-3, 6-4
Ivo Karlovic bt Prakash Amritraj 7-6 (3), 6-3
Nicholas Mahut bt Alejandro Falla 7-5, 6-4
Kevin Kim bt Simon Greul 1-6, 6-2, 6-3
Rafael Nadal/ Bartolome Salva-Vidal bt Michal Mertinak/Petr Pala 6-1, 6-3.