After saving match points in two different matches, Jiri Vesely is one win away from his first title in five years as he faces Egor Gerasimov in the final of the Maharashtra Open in Pune on Sunday.
Vesely vs Gerasimov is live from Pune on Sunday 9 February at 5pm local/11.30am GMT
Vesely’s solitary ATP Tour title came at the ASB Classic in Auckland in January 2015 when he defeated Adrian Mannarino in the final, and he went on to reach the final of Bucharest the same year, losing to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.
Reaching those two finals propelled Vesely to a career-high ranking of world no. 35 in April 2015, but he failed to defend his points from either in 2016 and a surprise run to the fourth round of Wimbledon in 2018 only briefly delayed his slide down the rankings.
Vesely divided his time between the ATP Tour and Challenger Tours in 2019, and had his best result of the year at Wimbledon once again when he came through qualifying, beat Alexander Zverev, seeded sixth, in the first round and went on to reach the third before falling to Benoit Paire. The left-handed Czech picked up a Challenger title in Eckenthal on hard courts in October, but it did not come soon enough for him to secure a main-draw berth at the Australian Open.
Vesely played the Bangkok Challenger instead and made the quarterfinals, coming into the Maharashtra Open ranked world no. 107 and polishing off wildcard Arjun Kadhe and seventh seed Salvatore Caruso in straight sets to reach the quarterfinals. Then things got complicated. Against Ilya Ivashka in the quarterfinals, Vesely had to save match points in the third-set tie-break to win 2-6, 6-1, 7-6(11). Then he had to do the same thing in Saturday’s semifinals: In a match that took three hours and 6 minutes and in which both players won 18 games, Vesely edged past Ricardas Berankis 6-7(8), 7-6(3), 7-6(9).
The big-serving Czech rained down 28 aces and came back from 3-6 down in the final set tie-break to get the win in the longest match ever played at the Maharashtra Open.
‘I am really happy to be in a final again after almost five years. I hope I can keep the momentum.
‘I hope I can use these two matches where I turned the match around and use it as an advantage. I will play with a lot of confidence tomorrow and I will go for it, that’s for sure.’
Egor Gerasimov’s progress was a lot less dramatic. The Belarusian beat Paolo Lorenzi in straight sets to open his campaign before twice coming back from sets down against Nikola Milojevic and Soon-Woo Kwon to make the semifinals. But he was largely in control in that final-four encounter on Saturday, beating James Duckworth 7-6(2), 6-4.
This is the first ATP Tour final for 27-year-old Gerasimov, who came into the Maharashtra Open at a career-high world no. 90 and is playing some of the best tennis he has ever played recently. After missing a good seven months of competition in 2017-18, Gerasimov’s ranking dropped as low as world no. 301 in July 2018, but a surprise ATP quarterfinal appearance at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow that October pushed him back inside the top 200 and he climbed steadily in 2019, dividing his time between the ATP Tour and Challenger Tour. On the latter, he won in Recanati and made semifinals in Shymkent, Aptos and Bratislava; at ATP Tour level, he successfully qualified for numerous events and had a breakthrough semifinal run in St Petersburg in September, winning his way into the main draw before defeating seventh seed Adrian Mannarino and third seed Matteo Berrettini to make the final four.
Gerasimov went on to make the quarterfinals in Chengdu, defeating John Isner on the way, and although he was 1-3 coming into Pune, that ‘1’ was a stellar five-set victory over Casper Ruud in the first round of the Australian Open before losing to Zverev.
The Belarusian is in the form of his life at the moment, and he should be considerably mentally and physically fresher than Vesely. Gerasimov also won their only previous match, 7-6(5), 6-4 in Dubai last spring. Don’t be surprised if it’s Gerasimov who claims the title in Pune on Sunday.