A Suchanan show again

SUCHANAN VIRATPRASERT, the 20-year-old law student from Bangkok and an aspiring WTA pro, gave a lesson in consistency to her Indian counterparts.

KHALYAN N. ASHOK

SUCHANAN VIRATPRASERT, the 20-year-old law student from Bangkok and an aspiring WTA pro, gave a lesson in consistency to her Indian counterparts. For two weeks running, there was none to stop the soft-spoken, smiling Thai lass, who displayed an amazing winning streak with her sensible game, which was all about poise, power and perfect placement. She made it a back-to-back triumph at the Bangalore Indian Oil Servo-ITF $10,000 Futures.

Suchanan Viratprasert, the champion. -- Pic. K. GOPINATHAN-

The top-seeded Suchanan, the only player in the fray with a ranking in the top 300, showed some chinks as well, which was exploited admirably by Isha Lakhani, before the Indian National champion lost her focus in the quarter-finals. But Suchanan, barring that spirited challenge from Isha, was bothered by no one as she cantered away to title No. 2 at Bangalore, which took her tally of ITF Futures titles to six.

Breaking into the top 100 is her aim. There are rough edges, which she needs to smoothen out before she plays in the big league, but Suchanan has shown the willingness to work for it.

It is a pity that despite a poor turn out of foreign contenders, the Indians were unable to take the crown, but for all the flashes of brilliance, they had a blackout. Each one had a reason. Sai Jayalakshmy had a spur bone growth in the heel bothering her, Rushmi had a sore arm before the semi-finals, Megha Vakharia was exhausted even before she took the court for the final against Suchanan, but what seemed to be really lacking was right focus.

Of course, there were two outstanding performances by Isha Lakhani and Megha Vakharia, which had the fans asking for more. But, while the spotlight was on their dazzling progress, Suchanan made her way to the final like a mugger at midnight and knocked them all cold.

Suchanan ripped apart fourth-seeded Megha Vakharia's challenge in the title contest. It was all but over even as quite a few fans were still trooping into the Stadium. A 6-2, 6-1 verdict in 54 minutes was not the kind of fare the fans expected, but Suchanan wouldn't settle for anything less.

The doubles winners, Sai Jayalakshmy and Rushmi Chakravarthi. — Pic. K. GOPINATHAN-

Megha, in her own words was "too tired to play my strokes''. If she couldn't, who else would? She struggled to get to the ball and despite a bright start which saw her take the first game without conceding a point and stretching Suchanan to deuce in the second game. Suchanan having tested the waters, opened the throttle with her full range of strokes and well angled placements, dragging Megha from one end of the court to the other. She came up with a double break in the third and fifth games and shut out the first set at 6-2.

The second fell into the same groove with Suchanan giving little respite to her rival. Megha slowed down the pace in the second set, but that too proved futile as the crafty Thai, stayed back and kept pounding her groundstrokes with pinpoint accuracy. Down 0-4, Megha had certainly run out of ideas and she signalled her abject surrender with a double fault to drop the set and match at 1-6.

But the 19-year-old southpaw from Mumbai can take consolation that she was the best Indian performer on the Circuit, having made the semi-finals at Delhi .

In the semi-finals, in Bangalore, Megha exorcised the ghost of her Delhi defeat at the hands of the second seeded Chin Bee Khoo, by scripting a dramatic 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (7-5) victory.

The clash between the two doubles partners, which lasted nearly three hours, saw fortunes sway wildly till the end. Both knew each other's game and traded long rallies. Megha was at her best in this tie, playing with a great sense of timing and power, which threw Khoo off gear.

After honours had been shared in the first two sets, with Megha taking the first at 6-2 and Khoo, the second at 6-4, the decider saw Megha taking charge, breaking Khoo in the ninth game and serving for the match. Megha swiped a forehand out, thus squandering a match point. Khoo saved one more match point, before she cracked Megha and squared the set at 5-all.

The set soon slipped into the tie-breaker and Megha called the shots, racing away to a 5-0 lead. Khoo battled back to draw almost level at 5-6, before netting a drop volley. Megha ran to the stands and hugged her proud mother.

Suchanan brooked no challenge from an off-colour Rushmi Chakravarthi, the highest ranked Indian at 455, and romped to a 6-2, 6-2 win. This indeed lifted her spirits, after an Isha scare in the quarter-finals.

The 18-year-old Isha never holds back her strokes and she went full blast against Suchanan and had the top-seed in trouble for a while, as she drilled winners on both flanks. The two broke each other twice in the first set, before Isha settled the set on a tie-breaker at 7-2.

Suchanan bounced back in the second set, hitting close to the lines with great accuracy and keeping her solid returns constantly in. Isha, on the other hand, never showed signs of slowing down, and kept her barrage of big strokes unmindful of the errors, which were slowly and surely creeping in.

She dropped the set at 3-6, and then battled back from a 1-4 deficit in the decider to level at 4-all. But a sloppy show in the ninth did her in. Suchanan grabbed the break for a 5-4 lead and served out the match.

The other quarter-final ties produced predictable results with Rushmi Chakravarthi making short work of qualifier Punam Reddy 7-5, 6-2 and Megha Vakharia hammering Samrita Sekar 6-3, 6-0. Chin Bee Khoo overcame Sai Jayalakshmy 6-1, 6-4.

The preliminary rounds had their share of surprises and Punam Reddy, who is a clean striker, stopped the eighth-seed, Archana Venkatraman 6-1, 7-6 (7-5) in the opening round. Samrita Sekar, a semi-finalist at Delhi was impressive in her 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 win over the seventh seed, Sonal Phadke. The local favourite, Sheetal Goutham, re-enacted her Delhi encounter with Sai Jayalakshmy, which saw her again squander a couple of good openings before going down at 6-3, 0-6, 4-6.

Rushmi Chakravarthi and Sai Jayalakshmy, the most durable pair on the Indian women's circuit, claimed their 17th career title beating the second-seeds and the new hot pair, Chin Bee Khoo and Megha Vakharia 6-2, 6-4.

The results:

Singles final: Suchanan Viratprasert (Tha) bt Megha Vakharia 6-2, 6-1. Semi-finals : Suchanan Viratprasert bt Rushmi Chakravarthi 6-2, 6-2; Megha Vakharia bt Chin Bee Khoo (Mas) 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (7-5).

Quarter-finals: Suchanan Viratprasert (Tha) bt 5-Isha Lakhani 6-7 (2-7), 6-3, 6-4; 2. Chin-Bee Khoo bt 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: Final: Rushmi Chakravarthi & Sai Jayalakshmy bt Chin Bee Khoo & Megha Vakharia 6-2, 6-4. Semi-finals: Rushmi Chakravarthi & Sai Jayalakshmy bt Suchanan Viratprasert & Geeta Manohar 6-4, 6-1; Chin Bee Khoo & Megha Vakharia bt Shruti Dhawan & Sonal Phadke 6-3, 7-5.