Aqueel keeps his cool

THE International Tennis Federation Futures' Hyderabad leg champion Aqeel Khan stood in awe of the Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh complex

A. JOSEPH ANTONY

THE International Tennis Federation Futures' Hyderabad leg champion Aqeel Khan stood in awe of the Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh complex, which hosted the said event in the first fortnight of September. "No such facility exists back home," said Khan of his native Pakistan.

Aqeel Khan, the singles champion. — Pic. P. V. SIVAKUMAR-

Ironically, the lone Indian left in the last four was Ajay Ramaswami. The upsets had begun right from round one. Mustafa Ghouse, ranked No. 3, was ousted by Jaco Mathew, 7-6 (1), 6-2. The pre-quarterfinals went off without incident, but the last eight stage showed up the susceptibility of the home team's players once again.

Laidback approach

In a duel between left-handers, Vinod Sridhar, seeded second, succumbed to the strapping Tai Wei Liu of Chinese Taipei, 2-6, 2-6. Sixth ranked Vijay Kannan surrendered to the eventual winner Aqeel Khan, 3-6, 6-7 (5). Both the losers seemed laidback in their approach, which their opponents exploited.

Ajay Ramaswami (left) and Mustafa Ghouse beat Chris Kwon (USA) and Tai Wei Lui (Taipei) to clinch the doubles title. -- Pic. P. V. SIVAKUMAR-

Contrast this to the attitude of Chris Kwon, who threw up twice on court, while battling Sanam Singh and from a set down. Into the second set, Kwon could barely stand. After medication, Kwon held on grimly. His resolve revived presently, as his game recovered steadily. To conserve his limited resources, he chose to ignore the returns that required much running.

Sanam Singh didn't seem to have much stamina either, screaming and collapsing when a side-strain called a stop to his campaign in the third set. To regain the upper hand he held in the first set, he may have overworked himself, his exhausted frame needing a massage from the physio to recoup. By then, Kwon had gained control, glancing up at his father John in the stands, each time he fired a winner.

Attacking game

On court three, Ajay Ramaswami sank to the floor with stomach cramps, while facing Vishal Punna. After first aid was administered, Ramaswami was back to his winning ways, at the expense of Hyderabad's hope, Punna. The latter, a serve and volleyer, attacked the net too often and with a serve that had little sting for backup, was `passed' time and again.

Ramaswami fell in the semis though, overpowered by Tai Wei Liu. "I didn't think too much," Liu later recounted of the match, "but just tried my best."

Title winner Aqeel Khan channelled much of Liu's power for his own gain. That's where the absence of a game plan cost Liu dear. Khan chipped often, charged seldom, remaining in control for most of the showdown, but for a lapse of concentration in the opening set, that slipped out of his fingers, when he was up 5-3 and serving at 30-0.

Some solace came the host nation's way, when Ajay Ramaswami and Mustafa Ghouse combined well to defeat Tai Wei Liu and Chris Kwon for the doubles crown.

Closely following the action was Davis Cupper S. P. Misra. "Of what use is the world-class infrastructure if our boys aren't able to exploit them? Of what use are these tourneys when Indians don't win?" he lamented.

The Results:

Singles (final): Aqeel Khan (Pak) bt Tai Wei Liu (Tpe) 6-7 (5), 6-1, 6-1.

Semi-finals: Tai Wei Liu bt Ajay Ramaswami 6-4, 4-6, 6-2; Aqeel Khan bt Chris Kwon (U.S.) 7-6 (4), 7-5.

Doubles (final): Mustafa Ghouse and Ajay Ramaswami bt Chris Kwon and Tai Wei Liu 6-3, 7-6 (3).