Somdev Devvarman reached the singles semi-final of the Delhi Open after Ze Zhang retired mid-way due to a shoulder injury even as Ankita Raina waged a brave fight before bowing out of the women's ITF event on Friday.
Somdev had pocketed the first set 6-2 when Zhang's shoulder did not let him continue, sending Somdev into his third consecutive semi-final. He had also reached the semifinals of Chennai and Kolkata events.
In the women's singles quarter-finals, India's number one player Ankita Raina put up a spirited fight against third seed Yulia Beygelzimer from Ukraine as she saved three match points before losing 3-6, 5-7 in two hours and five minutes on court number one.
Ankita did not lack in effort but had an experienced rival, currently ranked 180 but once world number 83, who was well attuned to play according to situation. Ankita played with lot of conviction but tried too hard and consequently made errors on crucial points.
Zhang's pulling out of the quarterfinal contest denied the fans the chance to see a good match as the Chinese, ranked 229, had a good game to counter the 96th ranked Indian.
Somdev had beaten Zhang in the Guangzhou Asian Games in 2010.
"It's unfortunate for Zhang, I felt he's a good player, one of the best in China. He's got a big forehand. But it's part and parcel of the game. I am happy to be through to the semis," Somdev said.
Reminded about his match with Zhang in 2010 in Guangzhou, Somdev said: "It was different atmosphere in China playing against a Chinese. It was a fun match, both of us have come a long way after that. I wish him best for the rest of the year."
In the 34-minutes contest that was possible, Somdev imposed himself on Zhang by not letting the Chinese play to his strength, a booming forehand. Somdev kept hitting the ball to a relatively weak backhand of Zhang and was rewarded for his ploy as he raced to a 5-0 lead with three breaks.
Immediately after the fifth game, Zhang needed medical timeout due to discomfort in his serving shoulder.
Zhang finally got on board in the sixth game when Somdev was serving for the set but the Indian made consecutive errors to drop his serve.
In the women's singles, 285th ranked Ankita managed to hold her serve only four times out of 11 service games. But most of the times she fell back, she managed to break Yulia back.
It did not happen when she was down 3-4, despite having a breakpoint which she earned with a stunning backhand winner. Yulia was struggling with her first serve but managed to hold for a 5-3 lead.
Serving to stay in the set, Ankita hit a forehand to net to be down by two set points. Yulia could capitalize on none, hitting unforced errors. The Ukrainian earned herself a third set point with a forehand winner and converted with a similar shot.
Ankita got an early break in the second set but let go the advantage by dropping her serve in the second game. Another break of serve out down 2-4 but her persistence paid as she broke back and held her own for 4-4.
A forehand error following a long rally had Ankita facing her first match point but saved it with a backhand winner, her most impressive and consistent shot.
Yulia failed to capitalize on second match point and Ankita held to make it 5-5, keeping her hopes alive in the contest. The Indian was again serving to stay in the match. Yulia smashed an overhead volley after a superb rally to get her third match point but hit her backhand out, going for a winner.
Three consecutive errors ended Ankita's campaign in the 12th game as she netted a low ball, hit a forehand long and buried a backhand to net.
"She was a different player than the one I played yesterday. Yulia was hitting more high balls, trying to push me back. She was trying that I do not play my game. I tried to be aggressive and should have been more patient. Sometimes there was wrong selection of shot but I had my chances," Ankita said.
"She was more experienced but I was a better player. Overall I had a good tournament, it is first 25,000 event and I reached quarters. It was decent performance but could have been better," she said.
Image: Somdev Devvarman
Photograph: Renee McKay/Getty Images