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By Khalyan N. Ashok
Suchanan Viratprasert of Thailand goes for a return in her match against Isha Lakhani in the Indian Oil-Servo ITF women's circuit in Bangalore on Thursday. Photo: K. Gopinathan
The gallant and gritty, Isha, went down in a marathon three-setter which lasted two hours and 49 minutes at 7-6 (7-2), 3-6, 4-6.
The verdict put Suchanan on course for a semifinal showdown with third-seeded Rushmi Chakravarthi, while in the second semifinals on Friday, second-seeded Chin Bee Khoo of Malaysia once again meets her doubles partner Megha Vakharia.
The gripping contest on the centre court between 18-year-old Isha, ranked 689, and 20-year-old Suchanan, ranked 298, was easily the best of the day.
In fact, in the Delhi Futures also, the two ran into each other in the same round and Suchanan had won rather easily. The story, however, was different today as Suchanan had to sweat it out for each point.
The two strong hitters never gave each other any quarter and kept a racy tempo in the tie which was laced with some riveting rallies and absorbing net tussles.
Isha is usually voluble on court and this time her racquet too did the talking as she kept her focus and relentless pressure on Suchanan. The tie could have gone either way in the decider after two split the honours, taking a set each.
But Isha's undoing was her haste as she tried to wrest control by stepping up the pace and unfortunately for her, Suchanan, was bang on target with her solid returns and that threw Isha totally off-track.
"I guess I tried too hard, I should have taken each point as they came,'' said a chastened Isha after the defeat which was unbearable for the young lass who broke down after the tie. But at least, she had the consolation of having given it her best shot.
The breaks came early in the first set as Isha dropped her serve in the third game with two double faults, but she rallied quickly to crack Suchanan in the fourth game.
The Thai ace struck again in the 11th game and took a 6-5 lead. Suchanan's bid to close the set quickly was buried under some great shots by Isha, which included a down-the-line winner.
Isha forced deuce twice and a jittery Suchanan double faulted on the next point to provided Isha with a break point. Isha fired another good return, forcing Suchanan to drive out.
With the set tied at 6-all, Isha raced to a 3-1 lead in the tie-breaker and took the set at 7-6 (7-2).
In the second set also the two matched each other stroke for stroke and break for break. Down 1-4, Isha, fought her way to cut the deficit to 3-4, before dropping serve again in the eighth game. Suchanan then served out the set without dropping a point.
Despite the soaring temperature and tiring legs, Isha fought back after conceding a break in the fifth game. She stayed very much in the match cracking Suchanan in the eighth, which squared the set 4-all.
Isha then pushed too hard, made a hash of her returns and dropped serve again, which gave Suchanan, the opening she was looking for. The Thai top seed served out the set and match and exulted in sheer relief.
Rushmi Chakravarthi and Megha Vakharia stormed into the last four with emphatic victories. Megha outhit a surprisingly lacklustre Samrita Sekar at 6-3, 6-0, the match barely lasting 50 minutes. Rushmi, shrugged off an early resistance from Punam Reddy and won 7-5, 6-2.
Punam held her ground in the first set, rallying from 0-2 to 2-all and then kept pace with Rushmi till 5-all, but Rushmi snuffed out the challenge with solid groundstrokes and fiery forehand winners.
The second seed, Chin Bee Khoo, with her strong second serve and quicksilver returns, proved too good for Sai Jayalakshmy and won 6-1, 6-4. Sai, with her heel injury acting up again, struggled to get to the ball, though she made a game bid in the second set.
Megha Vakharia and Chin Bee Khoo made their third successive doubles final and the Indo-Malaysian pair, which had earlier won at Lagos and Delhi, beat Shruti Dhawan and Sonal Phadke 6-3, 7-5 to set up a title clash with the top seeds, Rushmi Chakravarthi and Sai Jayalakshmy, who beat Geeta Manohar and Suchanan Viratprasert 6-4, 6-1.
The results (Indians unless specified; prefix indicates seedings):
Singles (quarterfinals): 1-Suchanan Viratprasert (Tha) bt 5-Isha Lakhani 6-7 (2-7), 6-3, 6-4; 2-Chin Bee Khoo (Mas) bt 6-Sai Jayalakshmy 6-1, 6-4; 3-Rushmi Chakravarthi bt Punam Reddy 7-5, 6-2; 4-Megha Vakharia bt Samrita Sekar 6-3, 6-0.
Doubles (semifinals): 1-Rushmi Chakravarthi/Sai Jayalakshmy bt 4-Suchanan Viratprasert (Tha)/Geeta Manohar 6-4, 6-1; 2-Chin Bee Khoo (Mas)/Megha Vakharia bt 3-Shruti Dhawan/Sonal Phadke 6-3, 7-5.
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