N Sriram Balaji out of Barcelona tennis doubles after thrilling semi-final

The Indian tennis player and his Swiss partner came back to level the match at 1-1 but went down in the tie-breaker.

By Utathya Nag ·

India’s N Sriram Balaji and his Swiss partner Luca Margaroli missed reaching the doubles final of the Sánchez-Casal Mapfre Cup ATP Challenger 80 tennis tournament in Barcelona by a whisker.

In what turned out to be a thriller of a clash, the Indo-Swiss doubles pair, seeded third in the tournament, were stunned by USA’s Alex Lawson and Finland’s Harri Heliovaara 7-5, 6(8)-7(10), 10-7 in the semi-finals on Friday.

Balaji and Margaroli came close to breaking their opponents in the very first game of the first set, but Heliovaara and Lawson managed to save two break points and deny the Indo-Swiss duo an early advantage.

The missed opportunity came back to haunt Balaji and Margaroli as the US-Finnish team made the most of a few unforced errors and weak second serves from Balaji in the sixth game and broke the third seeds.

Indian tennis player N Sriram Balaji went down in the doubles semi-final of the Barcelona Challenger. Photo: Instagram/N Sriram Balaji.

With the score 5-2 against them, Balaji and Margaroli mounted a spirited comeback, winning the next three games on the trot to level at 5-5.

In a tantalizing finish to the first set, Heliovaara and Lawson managed to save yet another break point in the 11th game and proceeded to break Balaji-Margaroli in the 12th game after a deuce to settle the first set 7-5.

The second set saw Balaji and Margaroli play some aggressive tennis in a bid to draw level, but Heliovaara-Lawson put up a gritty front, saving as many as five break points to take the second set to a tie-break.

In the playoff, Heliovaara and Lawson raced to a 5-0 lead. The Indo-Swiss team, however, rallied to bring it back to 5-5. They eventually won 10-8 to make it one set all and force the tie-break.

After a closely-fought decider, it was Heliovaara and Lawson who came out on top by a 10-7 margin.