Saturday, Sep 13, 2003
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By Khalyan N. Ashok
Sai Jayalakshmy (left) and Rushmi Chakravarthi the winners of the doubles title in the Indian Oil-Servo ITF women's circuit tennis tournament in Bangalore on Friday. Photo: K. Gopinathan
The 17th career title for Rushmi and Sai came in 63 minutes as they made light of the challenge posed by the second seeds, Chin Bee Khoo of Malaysia and Megha Vakharia at 6-2, 6-4, thus stopping their winning streak on the circuit.
It was Sai's great anticipation at the net and Rushmi solid serve and consistent returns which carried the top seeds through the contest, which saw some keen rallies in the second set. Khoo and Vakharia had earlier played a long singles semifinals match and that certainly made a difference to their forutnes as they struggled to time their strokes.
The Indo-Malyasian combine started on the wrong foot in the first set with Khoo dropping the serve in the first game and the slide started there, with Rushmi and Sai picking holes in their rivals' defence.
Megha Vakharia was broken in the fifth game, and that put Sai and Rushmi well ahead at 4-1 and it was just a matter of time before Rushmi and Sai closed the set at 6-2.
Megha and Khoo did well in the second set, and Megha especially punished the loose balls and kept the pressure on Sai and Rushmi for a while. But in the ninth game, Rushmi and Sai turned the heat on Khoo, who was the weak link among the four.
After being stretched to deuce Khoo netted a return and Sai unleashed a superb volley winner to crack her serve, which gave the top seeds a 5-4 lead. Rushmi just dropped a point as she served out the set to seal an emphatic win.
Megha wins a thriller
Earlier in the day, southpaw Megha Vakharia exorcised the ghost of her Delhi defeat at the hands Chin Bee Khoo, by scripting a dramatic 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (7-5) victory and set a title clash with Suchanan Viratprasert. The Thai top seed quickly stifled sporadic challenge from the third seed, Rushmi Chakravarthi at 6-2, 6-2 in the other semifinals.
The two-hour 45-minute battle between fourth-seeded Megha Vakharia ranked 519, and her doubles mate and second seed, Chin Bee Khoo, ranked 368, had several twists and turns and till the last point, the match seemed right openMegha almost had the visions of the Delhi nightmare when her rival came back from a matchpoint down to level the set score at 5-all.
She opened the match on a high note as she belted winners on either flanks and kept a hot pace. She broke Khoo in the third and fifth games to wrap up a 6-2 win.
Megha kept the pressure and forced a break in the first game of the second set, but dropped the serve in the next game, with a couple of mishits. The two kept charging at each other in an absorbing net tussle and Khoo, in the ninth game, suffered a muscle pull and needed a medical attention.
The decider was marked by some long rallies and both tried mixing their shots and played lot of deep angles. In the ninth game, Khoo slammed a few returns out and found herself in trouble. Megha broke for a 5-4 lead and pushed to matchpoint on her serve, but at 40-30, she swiped a forehand out which forced a deuce. Then on advantage, Megha again hit out. Khoo, thus saving the second matchpoint, was determined not to let go the chance and kept her cool and returns in, while a shaky Megha faltered with wide returns and dropped serve.
With the set score squared at 5-all, Megha's shoulders drooped, but the 19-year-old Mumbai lass was quick to wipe away her disappointment and launched into a furious counter assault.
She forced three deuces on Khoo's serve in the 11th game, before the Malaysian girl managed to hold the serve. The tie soon slipped into the tie-breaker with Megha holding her serve in the next game.
Megha made a dream start in the tie-breaker, racing away to 5-0 lead with a couple of clean-hit winners. But then she suffered a slump, dropping next four points in a row. Khoo was looking menacing at this stage, but Megha unleashed a volley winner to pull ahead at 6-4. Khoo picked up one more point with a smash, but after a brief rally netted a low return, which sent Megha into raptures.
Suchanan Viratprasert made short work of Rushmi in the other semifinals. Rushmi, who was nursing an arm injury, was unable to cope with the load as her nippy rival kept a racy pace. The two traded early breaks in the first set, but Suchanan pulled away quickly, hitting fluent winners on both flanks to wrap up the first set at 6-2 and it was an encore in the second also, as she came up yet another double break to seal her victory.
The results (Indians unless specified; prefix indicates seedings):
Singles (semifinals): 1-Suchanan Viratpraset (Tha) bt Rushmi Chakravarthi 6-2, 6-2; 4-Megha Vakharia bt 2-Chin Bee Khoo (Mas) 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (7-5).
Doubles (final): 1-Rushmi Chakravarthi/Sai Jayalakshmy bt 2-Chin Bee Khoo/Megha Vakharia 6-2, 6-4.
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