Rika’s revenge

Rika Fujiwara with the trophy after winning the singles title at the Ganesh Naik ITF women's championship.-

Rika Fujiwara had won her last title in India — a $50,000 tournament in Pune — four years ago. The 32-year-old Japanese won another title in the country recently at the Ganesh Naik ITF $25,000 women’s championships. Playing as a qualifier, she won seven matches on the trot to claim the singles crown.

Down by two match points in the final against the top seed, Magda Linette of Poland, Rika fought back to win the contest 2-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4).

“I have been physically shattered in the last three years and could not even play three matches in a row,” said the champion, who is currently ranked No. 693. The diminutive player, who had a career high ranking of 84 in singles (2005) and 13 in doubles (2002), decided to give herself another shot this year. “I worked hard on my fitness and ensured it paid off. It has been challenging, but it is in our DNA to fight against adversity and come out winner,” said Rika, who had played for Japan in the Fed Cup. Coached by parents Shinichi and Michiko Fujiwara, Rika avenged her quarterfinal loss to Magda in Pune recently.

In the final of the Ganesh Naik ITF tournament, the wily qualifier came back from 3-5 (15-40) down in the third set to shock the 21-year-old Polish player, ranked 140 in the world. Playing on a new court at the Navi Mumbai Sports Complex, Rika defeated seven players who were at least 15 years younger to her on way to the final.

When asked if she was inspired by her former doubles partner Kimiko Date-Krumm’s comebacks, Rika responded: “I and Kimiko share a great relationship, though she is older to me by 12 years. We have won eight doubles events, apart from numerous key Fed Cup doubles games. I’m truly inspired by her and even thought of Kimiko after my victory here.”

For Magda, a resident of Poznan, the loss was a setback to her preparation for the 2014 Australian Open. A victory would have taken the former World junior No. 25 into the top 120 and ensured a spot at the Australian Open qualifiers.

Anna Smith and Jocelyn Rae of Great Britain won the doubles title, defeating Oksana Kalashnikova of Georgia and Diana Marcinkevica of Latvia 6-4, 7-6 (7-5).

A Special Correspondent