Titles for Vishnuvardhan and Punam

J. Vishnuvardhan (left) and S. Punam Reddy, who won the boys' and girls' singles titles respectively in the junior National tennis tournament in Hyderabad. — Pic. P. V. SIVAKUMAR-J. Vishnuvardhan (left) and S. Punam Reddy, who won the boys' and girls' singles titles respectively in the junior National tennis tournament in Hyderabad. — Pic. P. V. SIVAKUMAR

THE hosts could not have asked for a better show. For, two Hyderabadis — J. Vishnuvardhan and S. Punam Reddy — won the boys' and girls' singles titles in the junior National tennis tournament organised by Ace Tennis Academy in memory of Farkhunda Ali, former National player from the City, at the Lal Bahadur Stadium SAAP Tennis Complex.

It didn't surprise many when 12th seeded Vishnuvardhan picked the title eventually for the tall and lanky youngster showed the desired improvement in each match as the event progressed. Widely believed to be the best junior player ever from Hyderabad after almost 15 years, Vishnuvardhan gave ample proof with brilliant performances.

Thus, when Vishnuvardhan made short work of third-seeded Aditya Madkekar of Maharashtra 6-2, 6-2 in what was clearly a one-sided final, it was almost like completing a formality. He meant business from the word go with a break-point. With a very strong and precise second serve, he exploited the weak backhand of the opponent on a very sultry evening. The return of serve by the 16-year-old Vishnuvardhan was impeccable. And he doubled up the misery of Madkekar with a series of forehand, cross-court returns. The only time he looked in trouble was when he preferred the sliced backhand returns which didn't get the desired elevation. Ironically, as the match progressed, Madkekar looked out of sorts as his game went awry. Nothing really clicked for him. With super interceptions at the net, Vishnuvardhan effectively countered the few times Madkekar tried to employ the serve-and-volley strategy.

The girls final turned out to be a simple case of qualifier Meghna Paritala flattering to deceive against S. Punam Reddy. For someone who knocked out the top-seed in the semi-final, Meghna failed to sustain the impressive form of the first set. However, Punam raised the level of the game and looked more determined and keen to improve which fetched her a creditable 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 win.

Though Meghna looked really good interspersing some fine, cross-court returns with forehand passing shots from the baseline in the first set, she seemed to have caved in to the big-match pressure after easily wrapping up the first set. For suddenly, there was palpable nervousness which saw her concede quite a few negative points. Once Punam got the momentum and the game perfect, there was no looking back for this student of Hyderabad Public School. Clearly this southpaw, made Meghna pay a heavy price for not having a strong serve.

Later, Punam was back in action winning the doubles title with Sania Mirza outplaying Kommireddi Pooja and Oormila Ram 6-0, 6-1.

The semi-finals saw the biggest upsets of the event when qualifier Meghna Paritala knocked out top-seeded, Kommireddi Pooja 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 and later 12th seeded J. Vishnuvardhan showed the exit to top-seeded Rupesh Roy with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 win.

Punam Reddy shocked second-seeded Sandri Gangotri 6-4, 6-1 in the other girls' semi-finals. Top-seeded Pooja apparently paid a heavy price for being too temperamental, repeatedly arguing the close, line calls and consequently losing concentration. It is a pity that this 15-year-old youngster, who is much more talented than the result showed today, lets the bouts of frustration get the better of her when she could instead channelise her energy on the court and stay focussed.

The Punam Reddy v Sandri Gangotri semi-final was an erratic encounter, which saw Punam record four double-faults in the first set and trail 1-4 at one stage. But, that she came back in style to stun the fancied opponent was another instance when a better player made things worse for herself.

The boys singles semi-final between local boy Vishnuvardhan and Rupesh Roy of West Bengal gave enough proof that the former was in the right frame of mind. The tall and lanky Vishnu fought back from an early set deficit to outslug Rupesh of West Bengal.

The boys doubles title was won by Rupesh Roy and Anshuman Dutta who outplayed Siddarth Gulati and Jitin Bishnoi 6-3, 6-2.

Sania Mirza picked her second title by partnering Punna Vikas to win the mixed doubles final against Kommireddi Pooja and Anshuman Dutta 6-2, 6-2. It was a funny sight to see Anshuman repeatedly have a look at the watch as he had to catch the evening train.

The results: Boys: Singles: J. Vishnuvardhan (AP) bt Aditya Madkekar (Mah) 6-2, 6-2. Doubles: Rupesh Roy (WB) & Anshuman Dutta (Asm) bt Siddarth Gulati & Jitin Bishnoi 6-3, 6-2.

Girls: Singles: S.Punam Reddy (AP) bt Meghna Paritala (AP) 4-6, 6-2, 6-2. Doubles: Sania Mirza (AP) & Punam Reddy (AP) bt Kommireddi Pooja & Oormila Ram (AP) 6-0,6-1.

Mixed doubles: Sania Mirza (AP) & Punna Vikas (AP) bt Kommireddi Pooja (AP) & Anshuman Dutta (Asm) 6-2, 6-2. — V. V. Subrahmanyam