Somdev asserts his superiority

KAMESH SRINIVASAN

HE was a cut above the rest and Somdev Dev Varman asserted his growing stature as the best junior in the country by clinching his second title in the ITF junior tennis tournament in Delhi.

Yanchong and Somdev Dev Varman, the singles champions.-SANDEEP SAXENA

The 17-year-old BAT trainee from Chennai, the reigning National junior champion, Somdev did not drop a set on way to the title as he asserted his all-round ability.

In the final, the third-seeded Tushar Liberhan was expected to give a good fight to Somdev, but the challenge never really took off, as the Assam lad walked away with the title in 47 minutes, conceding a mere three games.

It was not easy for Somdev in the semifinal, when he struggled with his rhythm against Divij Sharan. However, Somdev saved two set points and won the match in straight sets, even as his left-handed opponent failed to capitalise on the favourable situation.

There was some consolation for Divij as he partnered Tushar to clinch the doubles title. It was the maiden doubles title in the ITF junior circuit for both Divij and Tushar. The top-seeded duo had to negotiate tough opposition right from the first round, when it needed three sets, till the final, when Divij and Tushar downed the second-seeded Thai lads Natapong Dongkunsub and Weeraput Doakmaiklee in another three-setter.

Coming back to the singles, Tushar had done well in beating the second-seeded Chatwinder Singh in the semifinal, but tended to overhit in the final. Another lad to catch the eye from Chandigarh, like Chatwinder and Tushar, was the 14-year-old Sanam K. Singh, who made it to the quarterfinals on his maiden appearance.

Tushar Liberhan and Divij Sharan, the boys' doubles winners.-SANDEEP SAXENA

It was a fruitful outing for most of the Indian boys in a draw which had one Korean and a Thai for a token foreign participation.

It was not the case in the girls' section, as four Chinese and three Thai girls made it difficult for the Indian players.

The top-seeded Sanaa Bhambri could not survive the strong strokeplay of the seventh-seeded Pichittra Thongdadh of Thailand and crashed out in the quarterfinals. For someone, who had made the semifinals of the Asian junior championship last year, it was a tame finish for the 14-year-old Sanaa.

Of course, Sanaa may have to add muscle to her strokes to complement her intelligent play. To be fair to her, it had to be mentioned that Sanaa was troubled by a shoulder pain, and was not at her best.

If that was the case with Sanaa, the plight of the others could be imagind as a predominantly young set of Indian players failed to make the semifinals. Krushmi Chheda and Kartiki Bhat were the others to make the quarterfinals along with Sanaa. Both gave a good account of themselves, and would have pulled through with a bit of luck.

Yue Qing and Chen Yanchong, the toppers in girls' doubles.-SANDEEP SAXENA

Some of the other Indian juniors had opted to play the women's tournament held in the same week in Hyderabad, and that was one major reason for the abrupt end to the Indian challenge.

The second-seeded Chen Yanchong of China took the girls title as she overwhelmed Pichittra in the final, after an indifferent start. The 15-year-old had the athleticism and strong strokes to cruise through a weak draw for the loss of 15 games in all.

The top-seeded Sanaa and Krushmi went down fighting in the third set tie-break against Wu Shuang and Zhang Shuai of China in the semifinals, leaving the Chinese to fight for the doubles title.

The quick exits apart, it was encouraging to see so many young players venturing into the tough world of international junior tennis. They will improve with time, if they retain their focus on the game.

It was quite disappointing to see the organisers showing scant respect for hosting the junior event, though it was creditable on the part of the host to have roped in ONGC as the sponsor. There were no umpires and ball-boys till the semifinals, which led to a lot of unpleasant exchanges and bouts of cheating.

When the umpires came on the scene, they were not ready to make the right calls in the absence of linesmen, and for want of practice in the previous rounds.

For an overall development, every aspects needs to be addressed to fully. When players just go about playing, as if in practice, leaving the few onlookers wondering about the status of the contest, it is not exactly a healthy sign for the game.

The results (finals):

Boys' (final): Somdev Dev Varman bt Tushar Liberhan 6-1, 6-2; Semifinals: Somdev Dev Varman bt Divij Sharan 7-6 (7-3), 6-4; Tushar Liberhan bt Chatwinder Singh 6-3, 7-5.

Doubles (final): Divij Sharan and Tushar Liberhan bt Natapong Dongkunsub and Weeraput Doakmaiklee (Tha) 6-2, 2-6, 6-1; Semifinals: Divij Sharan and Tushar Liberhan bt Chatwinder Singh Punna Vikas 7-6 (7-1), 6-1; Natapong Dongkunsub and Weeraput Doakmaiklee bt Somdev Dev Varman and V. M. Ranjeet 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.

Girls' singles (final): Chen Yanchong (Chn) bt Pichittra Thongdadh (Tha) 6-3, 6-2; Semifinals: Pichittra Thongdadh bt Yue Qing (Chn) 6-4, 6-0; Chen Yanchong bt Zhang Shuai (Chn) 6-1, 6-3.

Doubles (final): Yue Qing and Chen Yanchong (Chn) bt Wu Shuang and Zhang Shuai (Chn) 6-4, 6-3; Semifinals: Wu Shuang and Zhang Shuai bt Krushmi Chheda and Sanaa Bhambri 6-0, 3-6, 7-6 (7-4); Yue Qing and Chen Yan Chung bt Pichittra Thongdadh and Porntip Mulsap (Tha) 6-3, 6-3.