Chennai: Indian wildcard entrant Yuki Bhambri shocked higher-ranked Karol Beck of Slovakia 6-2, 6-3 to make the second round of the ATP Chennai Open on Monday.
Elsewhere, Israeli Dudi Sela routed sixth-seeded Italian Fabio Fognini 6-0, 6-1 to set up a second-round clash by Benoit Paire. Paire beat Spaniard Pere Riba 6-2, 6-1.
Displaying tremendous variation in pace and game plan, Bhambri, ranked 345 to Beck's 101, eked out only his second men's tour win after defeating the Slovakian in 79 minutes in front of a sparse crowd at the Centre Court.
It was tough going for Bhambri as he won the match only on his seventh match point, after Beck failed to put across the Indian's cross-court forehand return.
The 19-year-old Bhambri, who brought about the first upset of this lone South Asian ATP tour event, will now meet top-seeded Janko Tipservic of Serbia.
Bhambri, who had earlier won a first-round tour match in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2010, was in his element on Monday and played a waiting game to race to a 4-1 lead with a break in the fourth game, and then led 5-2 with another break. However, his serve was broken in the eighth. But the Delhi-boy held on and wrapped up the first set with his third break.
The Indian, a world junior title winner in Australia, was also helped by a series of unforced errors by Beck. In the first set, Beck made few errors and created room for Bhambri to score points. The 29-year-old also fared poorly in winning points on serves, but upped his game in the second set.
Bhambri maintained the momentum in the second set, broke his rival in the fourth game, held his fifth and played powerful tennis in the sixth to lead 5-1. Beck tried to make a comeback in the seventh when Bhambri was up on winning the match at 6-2, but the Indian lost three match points. He finally managed to win the ninth game and the match.
Meanwhile, Vishnu Vardhan raised visions of another massive upset win, but blew five match points and lost to fifth-seeded Ivan Dodig of Croatia 6-4, 6-7 (8), 1-6, in the first round.
With Somdev Devvarman, the highest-ranked Indian on the ATP World Tour pulling out owing to a "recurring shoulder injury", the onus will be on 19-year old Bhambri to carry the Indian hopes as the only home player left in the singles main draw.
While Bhambri lifted his game a couple of notches to beat Beck, Vardhan had nothing left in the tank once Dodig, ranked as high as No. 36, dug deep after dropping the first set to win a close second set tie-break and then blast his opponent in the third in a two-hour-35-minute match.
If Bhambri played smart tennis and kept his nerves at the finish, Vardhan made for a study in contrast as he wasted five match points and seemed to suffer from cramps in the third, but that was hardly cognizable since the difference in level of play between him and Dodig was fairly apparent.
Bhambri lifted his game against a player who seemed a step slower, but did well when suffering bouts of nerves towards the end of both sets.
"I was a bit nervous towards the end of both sets, but I had sufficient lead by then and maybe I should have closed the match much earlier," said Bhambri, who dropped serve in the seventh game of both sets while leading 5-1.
Bhambri admitted that being the lowest-ranked player in the main draw, he was not under any pressure and that he was able to bring into play a few variations that he had been working on, especially the sliced stroke.
"I put the slice, which I have been working on, to bring some variation in my strokes, to good use," said Bhambri.
The young Indian also expressed confidence that he would have lasted a third set. "I would have backed myself had it gone to the third set. But I am glad that I got the job done, though I spent a few extra minutes on the court."
Later, Vardhan, a wildcard entry like Bhambri, was a man inspired against Dodig, taking the first set with a break in the 10th game. In the second, the Indian, ranked 312, sustained the momentum for a 5-4 lead, but Dodig threw caution to the winds and blasted winners to tie at 5-5 and eventually it came to a the tie-break.
Vardhan had his nose in front in the tie-break, but fumbled when on match points, while Dodig held nothing back with screaming winners and finding the corners with precision to pick up some good points.
In the third, it was Dodig all the way even as Vardhan seemed to cramp up after trading early service breaks. The Croatian seized the opportunity to romp home.
In the final qualifying matches for the singles' main draw, Japanese players Go Soeda, the fifth seed, Yuichi Sugita, fourth seed Vasak Pospisil of Canada and Thiemo De Bakker of the Netherlands won their respective matches to progress to the next round.
Meanwhile, in the doubles, fourth seed Israeli pair of Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram breezed past the inexperienced Indian doubles pairing of Mohit Mayur Jayaprakash and Ramkumar Ramanathan in the first round.
The 18-year-old Jayaprakash and 17-year-old Ramanathan showed some spunk towards the latter stages of the match, but the accomplished Israeli pair exploited their inexperience at the highest level and won 6-2, 6-1.
The Indian pair, whose combined age is only a year more than 34-year-old Erlich, started well by going 2-2 in the opening set, before the opposition ran away with the match.
Erlich and Ram broke Jayaprakash and Ramanathan in games six and eight of the first set and games two and four of the second.
Where Erlich and Ram had a firm understanding of each other's movement, the Indian pair's outing clearly showed lack of match practice at the highest level.