Satschko shows his class on clay

Alexander Satschko, the top seed, belonged to a different league. Nobody from the 32-player draw seemed capable of matching his consistency, writes Amitabha Das Sharma.

Alexander Satschko carried a piece of reading material to the court whenever he had a match. With the international tennis regulations barring any kind of on-court training, it was obvious that the chair umpire would raise an objection to this practice. The protestation from the supervising official came as soon as the German was seen reading something during a break between games.

“No, no, no, it is not what you are thinking,” said Satschko as he went up to the umpire and showed him the hymnal he had been reading between games to perk himself mentally.

The “secret weapon” — that’s how the German preferred to call it when asked about his unusual reading habit — did seem to prove its worth, as Satschko stormed his way to the ITF Futures title. The $15,000 prize-money event in Kolkata, hosted by the Jaidip Mukerjea Tennis Academy and sponsored by Coal India, is the first in a string of ITF men’s Futures scheduled in India.

The surface being clay, the main draw did produce a few interesting matches, but it was Satschko, the top seed, who proved to be in a different class from the rest of the field. His level of consistency was matched by none.

The German reserved his best for the final where he pounded the unseeded Korean, Hyun-Woo Nam, 6-0, 6-0.

Hyun-Woo Nam was literally speechless after being blown away by Satschko in just 50 minutes. He even refused to speak to the media after the loss.

The control and poise of Satschko came to the fore in the final. For Hyun-Woo Nam, the humiliation he faced in the final eclipsed an otherwise remarkable run he had in the tournament. The Korean scalped two seeded players — the highly favoured second seed, Guillermo Alcaide of Spain, and the sixth-seeded David Savic of Serbia. He, like Satschko, did not drop a set till the final.

While Satschko and Hyun-Woo Nam dominated the action in the two halves of the main draw — a field of 32 — the only other notable aspect of the tournament was the large presence of Indians. However, the Indian players — there were 14 of them in the first round — contributed little by way of quality. The Indian challenge, led by seventh-seeded Karan Rastogi, largely evaporated in the first round itself. Rastogi, India’s only tennis player to be selected for financial assistance from the BCCI, stuttered before losing to the National grass-court champion J. Vishnu Vardhan.

Vivek Shokeen caused a major upset by beating China’s Peng Sun, seeded No. 5, but failed to maintain his form in the quarterfinals.-SANDEEP SAXENA

Vivek Shokeen

Vardhan, a wildcard, negated Rastogi’s strength on clay with his flair and fitness. He, however, crashed out in the pre-quarterfinals, losing to Tsung-Hua Yang of the Chinese Taipei.

Rastogi, the highest-ranked Indian in the draw — he is No. 4 in the AITA rankings — was soon joined by a few other compatriots who enjoyed privileged positions in the national tennis hierarchy. Among the ones making their exit in the first round were Ashutosh Singh (AITA rank No. 5), Divij Sharan (No. 6), Aditya Madhkekar (No. 7) and Vijay Kannan (No. 9). It was then left to the two relatively unheralded players, Vivek Shokeen and V. M. Ranjeet, to keep the Indian flag fluttering.

Shokeen created a major upset by knocking out fifth-seeded Peng Sun of China in straight sets in the pre-quarterfinals. Ranjeet too handed out a straight set defeat to compatriot Rohan Gide, who came into the main draw as a ‘lucky loser’.

Hyun-Woo Nam caused the biggest upset of the tournament, defeating Alcaide of Spain. Todor Enev of Bulgaria, the third seed and winner last year, and fourth-seeded Matteo Volante of Italy too joined Alcaide on the way out. Volante lost to wildcard Vaja Uzakov of Uzbekistan, while Enev was outgunned by Alexey Kedryuk of Kazakhstan.

The Indian challenge did not last beyond the quarterfinals. Shokeen put up a good fight against Satschko but it wasn’t enough to quell the German. Ranjeet committed far too many errors against Hyun-Woo Nam, which helped the Korean to post an effortless win.

The imperious Hyun-Woo Nam and Satschko dominated the semifinals too. While Satschko sent the unseeded Yang packing, Hyun-Woo Nam bent back the challenge of Savic. Vijay Kannan, who could not do much in the singles, brought some cheer to the Indian camp by winning the doubles title in the company of Alexey Kedryuk. Kannan, who works with the ONGC in Chennai, and Kedryuk prevailed over the Chinese Taipei pair of Hua-En Ghang and Hsien-Yin Peng.

THE RESULTS (Prefix denotes seeding) Singles final

1-Alexander Satschko (Germany) bt Hyun-Woo Nam (Korea) 6-0, 6-0.

Semifinals

Satschko bt Tsung-Hua Yang 6-3, 6-3 (Taipei); Hyun-Woo Nam bt 6-David Savic (Serbia) 6-1, 6-4.

Quarterfinals

Satschko bt Vivek Shokeen (India) 7-5, 6-1; Tsung-Hua Yang bt Vaja Uzakov (Uzbekistan) 6-2, 4-6, 6-0; Savic bt Alexey Kedryuk (Kazhakstan) 7-5, 6-4; Hyun-Woo Nam bt V. M. Ranjeet (India) 6-2, 6-1.

Doubles final

2-Vijay Kannan (India) & Alexey Kedryuk (Kazhakstan) bt Huai-En Chang & Hsien-Yin Peng (Tapei) 7-6 (9-7), 7-6 (7-2).