Monday, November 19, 2007

Sandy too good for Isha

Maharashtra Herald, November 18, 2007

Suhrid Barua

Pune: Her route to the final has been a smooth one. For someone, who hasn’t dropped a set on her way to the summit clash, it was a significant pointer that Sandy Gumulya of Indonesia was in red-hot form. Only an extra special effort from somebody could have stopped her juggernaut. If at all she was looking for inspiration from any quarter, she didn’t really have to look far - the presence of former Indonesian top player Yasuk Basuki in the Deccan Gymhkana tennis courts on Saturday was enough to spur her on.
The pocket-sized player, ranked 263 in the world, showed the importance of playing the crucial points better as she brought the title aspirations of home crowd favourite Isha Lakhani crashing down to earth with an emphatic 6-3, 7-4 victory in the $25,000 NECC-ITF women’s tennis tournament. It was Isha who held the early aces, breaking Gumulya to go up 2-1 after the latter smacked a backhand return into the net.
The eight-seeded Indian blew away the opportunity of calling the shots, losing the very next game at love. Isha A lapse of concentration seemed to get the better of her as she made a flood of needless unforced errors and lost the plot from thereon to concede first set 3-6.
Both players traded breaks in the first two games of the second set. There was no break of serve till the tenth game as the scoreline read 5-5. Isha may have held her serve until now, but inconsistency was her bugbear. Gumulya broke Isha in the eleventh game and later held her serve after a marathon game that witnessed five deuces to win the match.
Isha sounded gracious in defeat. "I had my chances, but couldn’t make the most of it. Hats off to Sandy."

Resilient Isha packs off Zhang

Maharashtra Herald, November 17, 2007

Pune: If the organisers of the $25,000 NECC-ITF women’s tennis tournament needed a kick, Isha Lakhani provided it by pulling off a thrilling three setter against Ling Zhang of Hong Kong at the Deccan Gymkhana tennis courts here on Friday. The match, which was played on court two to facilitate National broadcaster Doordarshan get a better vantage point to beam the match live, panned out to be a disappointment initially as Isha, the lone Indian survivor, got off to a sloppy start, dropping her serve in the second set to surrender the initiative to Zhang, who exuded oodles of vim and vigour early on.
The 518-ranked Hong Kong girl was precise with her groundstrokes and consolidated her dominance over Isha, effecting another break in the fifth game to pocket the first set 6-1. Trailing by a set, Isha had a mountain to climb. The eight-seeded looked steady with her serves as she led 4-3 with games going on serve.
In desperate pursuit of a break, Isha took the bulls by the horns in the eight game and extended it to deuce on five occasions, pounding two brilliant double-handed backhand winners to stay in the contest. The long game frustrated Zhang as she slammed a forehand wide to hand Isha a lifeline.
The Indian then made a mess of her serve, allowing Zhang bounce back at 5-4. Isha literally snatched the game from Zhang with a couple of robust service returns, leaving the latter save two game points at 15-40. Zhang muffed an opportunity to save her serve when she smacked an overhead wide to tilt the second set in Isha’s favour.
The third set was a piece of cake for Isha. She broke Zhang in the second set and raced away to a 3-0 lead. She hastened celebrations, producing a break in the sixth game to have a stranglehold over the match.
Isha made heavy weather of the victory march as the sixth game went to deuce four times before she closed out the match for a 1-6, 6-4, 6-1 romp. "I was slow off the blocks. She (Zhang) was hitting the ball flat, so it was difficult to retrieve it. But I was more solid later and got more winners in," a bucked Isha said after the match.
Isha will lock horns with second-seeded Sandy Gumulya of Indonesia, who overcame Alexander Panova of Russia 7-5, 6-3. The 265-ranked diminutive lass broke Panova once to bag the first set. The second set was hotly contested. Gumulya broke Panova to gain the headstart. But the Russian showed remarkable resilience to reel off three straight games, including two breaks and raised visions of a decider.
But Gumulya nullified all such aspirations, breaking Panova in the fifth game en route to winning four straight games to open up a 5-3 lead. Gumulya was relentless as she broke her for the fourth time to wrap up a 7-5, 6-3 victory. "I was playing defensively in the beginning and she (Panova) was taking advantage of it. I became more aggressive and that worked," Gumulya said. The soft-spoken Indonesian has played Isha before twice with both winning once.
Meanwhile, Varatchaya Wongteanchai of Thailand and Ling Zhang of Hong Kong won the doubles title, pipping the Indonesian pair of Wynne Prakusya and Angelique Widjaja 1-6, 7-5, 10-5.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Isha keeps Indian flag flying

Maharashtra Herald, November 16, 2007

PUNE: Southpaw Isha Lakhani lifted the pall of gloom surrounding India’s campaign in the NECC-ITF women’s tennis tournament, ripping apart fellow Indian Rushmi Chakravarthi 6-1, 6-1 to sail into the singles semi-finals at the Deccan Gymkhana tennis courts here on Thursday. Taking the court in an early morning match, the national champion settled into in top gear straightway, breaking Rushmi in the second game with a down-the-line backhand winner and jumped out to a 3-0 lead.
Rushmi struggled to get her first serve in and that allowed Isha enough leeway to go for the big strokes on her second serve. The 443-ranked Chennai girl, who has hitherto put on a determined show en route to the quarter-finals, found Isha a tough nut to crack and never looked like matching her game. She again dropped serve in the fourth game before holding serve in the sixth game, but by then it was too late for her to mount a comeback.
It was a similar tale in the second set. Isha kept her foot on the accelerator and broke Rushmi in the very first game. The early break took out whatever fight Rushmi had in her and she was merely going through the motions, waiting for the inevitable to happen.
Isha on the otherhand, was disciplined with her serve. Exhibiting solid baseline game and clinical precision at the net, she made Rushmi’s cup of woes brimming over when the latter conceded serve in the third game as Isha took charge. The 22-year-old Mumbai girl completed the formalities with a 6-1, 6-1 romp. Isha will be up against the 518-ranked Ling Zhang of Hong Kong in the semi-finals. Zhang rallied from a set down to prevail over Kyung-Kee Chae of Korea 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 in a gripping contest.
The match assumed an interesting turn with both players splitting the first two sets. Zhang took the confidence of winning the second set into the decider. She broke Chae in the opening game to gain confidence The 739-ranked Korean appeared lost. Her game fell to pieces, her serve went haywire while her groundstrokes were beginning to wear an inconsistent look.

Kolesnichenko upstages Brachikova

Maharashtra Herald, November 15, 2007

Suhrid Barua

PUNE: Players like to clench their fists or punch the air, but she has an altogether different way of bucking herself up - she likes to thump her thighs every time she needs to get her concentration going. Qualifier Alexandra Kolesnichenko of Uzbekistan kept patting her thighs every now and then en route to upstaging the fifth-seeded Nina Brachikova of Russia to romp into the quarter-finals of the $25,000 ITF women’s tennis tournament at the Deccan Gymkhana tennis courts on Wednesday.
The Tashkent lass, who will turn fifthteen next month, exhibited remarkable resilience to signal the end of Brachikova’s singles campaign, winning 7-6 (10-8), 6-3 in an intriguing tussle on court one. The 375-ranked burly Russian known for her booming serve and power-packed groundstrokes, acquitted herself well early on even as games went on serve in the opening set until the tie-break had to be enforced.
Kolesnichenko took the first set by the skin of the teeth and that seemed to rattle her opponent. Kolesnichenko held her serve to go up 2-1 in the second set. She produced a whipping forehand winner to break Brachikova’s serve in the fourth game to ensconce herself in the driver’s seat. She then held serve to take a 4-1 lead before a bit of drama unfolded.
Brachikova broke Kolesnichenko in the seventh game after holding serve the game before to narrow down the gap to 4-3. But Kolesnichenko immediately broke back to make it 5-3. Serving for the match, Kolesnichenko didn’t find the going easy as Brachikova drove her to the wall, taking the game to deuce twice before the Uzbek prevail.
The exit of Brachikova was not the only upset of the day. Third-seeded Neha Uberoi of US put up a spirited performance against Alexandra Panova before going down 6-7 (2-7), 5-7 in a ding-dong battle. Neha’s serve let her down badly. She double-faulted whopping 13 times. Both players traded breaks in the sixth and seventh games before the set was decided via tie-break.
The second set saw Neha dropping serve in the fifth game while Panova returned the favour in the next game. Both players held serve as the scoreline read 5-5. Panova then got the crucial break in the eleventh game to seal her place in the last-eight stage. Meanwhile, two Indians -Isha Lakhani and Rushmi Chakravarthi eased into the quarter-finals where they will run into each other.

Sandhya, Parul post hard-fought wins

Maharashtra Herald, November 14, 2007

PUNE: The ITF tourneys are often considered the breeding ground for the new Sanias to take shape. And on Tuesday, two Indian players -Sandhya Nagraj and Parul Goswami showed enough grit to suggest that they can be the rising stars of Indian tennis while notching eye-catching victories in the $25,000 NECC-ITF women’s tennis tournament at the Deccan Gymkhana tennis courts on Tuesday.
Playing against 810-ranked Varatchaya Wongteanchai of Thailand, Sandhya made the right noises breaking Varatchaya’s serve in the first game. She completely lost focus after that, losing the next six games to surrender the opening set 1-6.
However, the 591-ranked Indian was a transformed player in the second set. Exuding solid baseline play, she pulled off two service breaks to run away with the second set 6-1.
There was a spring in the steps of Sandhya after her fierce second set fightback. Towering over Varatchaya in the deciding third set, she unleashed stinging winners, breaking her serve in the first, third and fifth games to close out the match at 6-1.
Wildcard Parul Goswami started her match against Jung-Yoon Shin of Korea on a jittery note, conceding serve in the sixth game to hand the opening set 6-3. But the 961-ranked Indian was quick to rebound as she broke Shin’s serve twice to take the second set 6-4. Parul was beginning to look more solid now with her groundstrokes.
The diminutive Indian produced a powerful double-handed backhand winner in the third game to effect the decisive break and assumed control. She forced Shin to drop serve again in the fifth game before wrapping it up at 6-2.
Meanwhile, day two witnessed two upsets. Seventh seeded Nungnadda Wannasuk of Thailand was sent packing by Ukraine’s Katerina Polunina in straight sets 6-4, 6-1. Fourth seed Tara Iyer of India went down to veteran Indian Rushmi Chakravarthi 4-6, 2-6.
Second seeded Sandy Gumulya of Indonesia took India’s Poojashree Venkatesha to the cleaners with a facile 6-1, 6-1 triumph. Third seeded Neha Uberoi edged out Tanvi Shah 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 in a nervy three-setter. Fifth seeded Nina Bratchikova of Russia halted the campaign of India’s Ankita Bhambri 6-2, 6-3. Actually, Bhambri sisters capped off a forgettable day with Sanaa Bhambri earlier suffering a 0-6, 1-6 drubbing at the hands of Korea’s Kyung-Yee Chae.
Sixth-seeded Silivia Disderi of Italy walloped Shalini Sahoo of India 7-5. 6-2. Another Indian, Sonal Phadki had enough in her tank before outduelling countrymate Prerana-Mythri Appineni 6-1, 6-7, 7-5. Eight-seeded Isha Lakhani of India blanked fellow Indian Ashmitha Easwaramurthi 6-0, 6-0.

Results: Singles First round: Katerina Polunina (Ukr) bt (7) Nungnadda Wannasuk (Thai) 6-4, 6-1, Rushmi Chakravarthi (Ind) bt (4) Tara Iyer (Ind) 6-4, 6-2, Alexandra Panova (Rus) bt Kelsey Sundaram (US) 6-2, 6-2, (6) Silvia Disderi (Ita) bt Shalini Sahoo (Ind) 7-5, 6-2, Ling Zhang (HK) bt Kumari-Shweta Solanki (Ind) 7-6, 6-0, Julia Parasyuk (Rus) bt Adnya Naik (Ind) 6-3, 6-3, Parul Goswami (Ind) bt Jung-Yoon Shin (Kor) 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, Kyung-Yee Chae (Kor) bt Sanaa Bhambri (Ind) 6-0, 6-1, Alexandra Kolesnichenko (Uzb) bt Asha Nanda Kumar (Ind) 6-4, 6-1, (8) Isha Lakhani (Ind) bt Ashmitha Easwaramurthi (Ind) 6-0, 6-0, Sandhya Nagraj (Ind) bt Varatchaya Wongteanchai (Thai) 1-6, 6-1, 6-1, (2) Sandy Gumulya (Ind) bt Poojashree Venkatesha (Ind) 6-1, 6-1, Sonal Phadke (Ind) bt Prerana-Mythri Appineni (Ind) 6-1, 6-7, 7-5, (5) (5) Nina Bratchikova (Rus) bt Ankita Bhambri (Ind) 6-2, 6-3.

Parija reaches second round

Maharashtra Herald, November 13, 2007

PUNE: There was a semblance of dullness attached to the proceedings of the $25,000 ITF women’s tennis tournament being played at the Deccan Gymkhana tennis courts on Monday. A soporific ambience, coupled with a sparse crowd, greeted Parija Maloo and Vishakha Sheoran as the two players strode out to court 3 for the mid-afternoon match.
In an all-Indian contest Parija ultimately won 6-2, 6-4. Both players were lavish with their unforced errors but still did their best to make the match an interesting one. It was left to 750-ranked Parija to wrest the early initiative. She broke Vishakha’s serve with a whiplash forehand crosscourt winner even before her opponent had got the time to find her range of strokes.
A clinical down the line winner saw one more break of serve and Parija was through with the opening set, winning it at 6-2. The second set wore a similar look. Parija called the shots, breaking Vishakha’s serve with a ripping backhand winner in the fifth game to gain a slender 3-2 lead and was poised for an early victory. Vishakha may have been down and out, but she was in no mood to let Parija wipe the floors with her.
At 3-2 and down by a break of serve, the writing was clearly on the wall for Vishakha.
However, she mounted a doughty fightback, breaking Parija’s serve with an angular shot in the very next game to level things at 3-3. The joy of staying in the contest barely lasted for a minute. Three decisive errors flowed from Vishakha’s racquet as she dropped serve at love to surrender the advantage to Parija at 4-3. Parija held her nerves to wrap up the match, winning the second set 6-4 in the only women’s singles main draw match of the day.

Adyna upsets seasoned Archana

Maharashtra Herald, November 12, 2007

PUNE: Unheralded Adnya Naik created a flutter when she knocked out vastly experienced Archana Venkatraman in three sets 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 and reach the final qualifying round of the $25,000 NECC-ITF women’s tennis championships at the Deccan Gymkhana tennis courts on Sunday.
The opening set witnessed a gripping contest as both players struck sharp winners from both flanks. Adnya broke Archana’s serve and that was enough for her to close out the first set at 6-4. Down by a set, Archana had to bring all her experience into play in the second set. She broke Adnya’s serve to even things up, winning the second set 6-4.
Buoyed by her spunky performance, Adnya kept playing to her strengths, attacking from the baseline as well as coming up with clinical winners at the net to effect the crucial break of serve and clinch the decider 6-4 to chart her path into the final qualifying round.
In another all-Indian affair, Prachi Nadkarni was taken to the distance before ousting Geeta Manohar 7-6(7-2), 6-4. Another Indian Pooja Shree Venkatesha also kept her hopes alive of making the singles main draw, decimating hapless Pallavi Sharma 6-1, 6-0.
Meanwhile, three Indian players have been seeded in the singles main draw. Neha Uberoi is the highest seeded Indian player at No. 3. Talented Tara Iyer is seeded second while Isha Lakhani is seeded eighth and there is even a likely possibility of Tara and Isha running into each other in the quarterfinals.
Top seeded Su-Wei Hsieh of Taipei is the top seed for the championship. Sandy Gumulya of Indonesia is the second seed while last year’s winner Nungnadda Wannachuk of Thailand is seeded eight. Former India Davis Cup player Sandeep Kirtane will inaugurate the championship.
Results:(2nd Round Qualifying): Kelsey Sundaram (US) bt Nicola Mooney (Britain) 6-2, 6-4, Julia Parasyuk (Russia) bt PV Raja Rajeshwari (India) 6-1, 6-0, Kyung-Yee Chae (Korea) bt Arushi Sharma 6-1, 6-0 (India), Varatchaya Wongteanchai (Thailand) bt Sagarika Phadke 6-2, 6-2, Shalini Sahoo (India) bt Daria Bykodarova (Russia) 6-3, 6-1, Alexandra Kolesnichenko (Uzbekistan) bt Subbadharmi Sundaram (US) 6-1, 6-2, Sonal Phadke (India) bt Nupur Kaul (India) 6-3, 6-1, Arthi Venkatraman (India) bt Bhavani Ravishankar (India) 6-0, 6-1, Ashmitha Easwarmurthi (India) bt Deepna Vazirani (India) 6-4, 6-2 , Adnya Naik (India) bt Archana (India) Venkatraman 6-4, 4-6 , 6-3, GK Shweta (India) bt Shahin Ansari (India) 6-3, 6-4, Prachi Nadkarni (India) bt Geeta Manohar (India) 7-6(7-2) , 6-4 , Pooja Shree Venkateshan (India) bt Pallavi Sharma (India) 6-1, 6-0, Asha Nandkumar (India) bt Aishwarya Agarwal (India) 6-3, 6-3, Sweta Kumari (India) bt Prerna Prathap (India) 6-3, 6-2.