India's total domination

ABHIJIT SEN GUPTA

Vijay Kannan won the men's singles final without any sweat. -- Pic. P. V. SIVAKUMAR-

THE tennis event of the Afro- Asian Games turned out to be one of the most one-sided tournaments of the entire event. India bagged all the seven golds which were up for grabs. It won the men's and women's team titles, the men's singles and doubles, women's singles and doubles, and the mixed doubles. In the women's singles, men's doubles and also in the mixed doubles, the silver medal was also pocketed by the host country.

Women's champion Sania Mirza caught in a lighter mood. — Pic. K. RAMESH BABU-

The entries received from other countries were of mediocre nature and there were no players to challenge the Indians who were in the fray. It was amazing to see the ease with which Indian players dispatched their opponents in all the matches. It hardly looked like an international tournament. But although it did not improve the competitive level of the tournament, it however gave the crowds something to cheer about and the tennis championships turned out to be a big draw. Tennis became one of the most popular events of the Games and everyday the stadium was packed to capacity. The spectators who were mostly college students cheered every point scored by the Indians, particularly the Hyderabad lass Sania Mirza. The schoolgirl picked up four golds for herself and her popularity which was already very high, rose by another notch as she blazed her way to title triumphs in four different categories.

Last minute pull outs by some of the teams which were originally listed to take part affected the level of competition said some officials. But one felt that considering the mediocre nature of the teams, it may not have made much difference to the final results even if those teams and players had taken part. Clearly some steps have to be taken to involve the best players of the region as and when the second edition of the Games are held.

Rohan Bopanna (left) watches Mahesh Bhupathi go for the kill in the men's doubles final. The Indian pair won . — Pic. PTI-

In the men's team championships, India beat Nigeria in the final. Rohan Bopanna gave the home team, the right start when he defeated Rotomi Jegede 6-2, 6-2 without much trouble. The Nigerian player had a lot of power but his inaccuracy let him down. Prakash Amritraj faced a stiffer challenge from Sunday Maku especially in the first set. Prakash took time to settle down before getting the better of his opponent 6-4, 6-2. In the doubles the Indian pair of Vishal Uppal and Vijay Kannan made short work of Abdul Babalola and Sunday Maku.

Sania Mirza and her mixed doubles partner, Mahesh Bhupathi, in an upbeat mood during their final match against Rushmi Chakravarthy and Vishal Uppal (not in picture). -- Pic. P. V. SIVAKUMAR-

The women's final saw India take on Indonesia. If any team came near to giving the Indians a fight it was Indonesia. Both the singles were quite tough for the Indian players and in the first singles Rushmi Chakravarthy had to stretch herself to beat Septi Mende. So also was the case with Sania Mirza. She seemed a little off colour on the day and had to work hard to beat Sandy Gumulya.

When the individual events began it was immediately clear that the Indian players would not face much opposition. And it turned out exactly as expected. The women's singles final was an all India affair as Sania Mirza took on Rushmi Chakravarthy. Playing on home ground, Sania got a generous slice of luck to help her to get the better of her more experienced rival. But the two teamed up to win the women's doubles title later.

Rushmi Chakravarthy and Sania Mirza display their gold medals after winning the women's doubles event. -- Pic. P. V. SIVAKUMAR-

But nowhere was the Indian dominance more in evidence than in the men's singles where Vijay Kannan brushed aside Johnny Arcilla of Philippines 6-1, 6-1 in the final. Rarely is the final of any competition so one sided in nature. The way Kannan played it seemed as if he could correctly anticipate every move that his opponent would make and thereby counter it effectively. The Philippines player on the other hand soon became totally demoralised and towards the end he seemed to have given up the cause.

The men's doubles was won by Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna who defeated Vinod Sridhar and Sunil Kumar Sipaeya in a good contest. In the mixed doubles, Sania Mirza and Mahesh Bhupathi teamed up to make an ideal combination and they were able to get the better of Rushmi Chakravarthy and Vishal Uppal.

The results (all finals):

Men's singles : Vijay Kannan (Ind) bt Johnny Arcilla (Phi) 6-1, 6-1.

Prakash Amritraj, Vijay Kannan, Rohan Bopanna and Vishal Uppal pose with S. P. Mishra (extreme left) after winning the men's team championship. -- Pic. P. V. SIVAKUMAR-

Men's doubles : Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna (Ind) bt Vinod Sridhar and Sunil Kumar Sipaeya (Ind) 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.

Women's singles : Sania Mirza (Ind) bt Rushmi Chakravarthy (Ind) 7-6 (8-6), 6-3.

Women's doubles : Sania Mirza and Rushmi Chakravarthy (Ind) bt Setfanie Rosa Maya and Septi Mende (Ina) 7-6 (7-2), 6-3.

Coach Enrico Piperno with the Indian women's side -- Sania Mirza , Rushmi Chakravarthy , Megha Vakaria and Sonal Phadke -- which won the team gold. -- Pic. P. V. SIVAKUMAR-

Mixed doubles: Mahesh Bhupathi and Sania Mirza (Ind) bt Vishal Uppal and Rushmi Chakravarthy (Ind) 7-6 (7-1), 6-3.

Team championships:

Men's final : India bt Nigeria 3-0 (Rohan Bopanna bt Rotimi Jegede 6-2, 6-2, Prakash Amritraj bt Sunday Maku 6-4, 6-1; Vishal Uppal and Vijay Kannan bt Abdul Babalola and Sunday Maku 6-1, 6-4).

Women's final : India bt Indonesia 2-0 (Rushmi Chakravarthy bt Septi Mende 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (7-4); Sania Mirza bt Sandy Gumulya 6-1, 5-7, 7-6 (7-5).