Vardhan revels

The singles champions: Vishnu Vardhan and Rushmi Chakravarthy (below).-PICS. S. PATRONOBISH The singles champions: Vishnu Vardhan and Rushmi Chakravarthy (below).

Jagadish Vishnu Vardhan made it a grand double at the South Club courts in Kolkata. S. Sabanayakan reports.

Not many would have given Jagadish Vishnu Vardhan, a 20-year-old strapping youngster from Hyderabad a chance to win the National grass court men’s singles title. It was sheer grit, determination and unerring focus that helped Vardhan achieve the feat.

If the men’s singles was the focal point of everyone at the South Club courts in Kolkata during the weeklong tournament that began on December 17, the women’s singles went as per the script with top-seed Rushmi Chakravarthi of Tamil Nadu regaining her title quietly and methodically. She had won the title in 2005 in New Delhi.

Vardhan’s hunger for success did not end with the singles triumph. He, and Vinod Sridhar of Tamil Nadu, seeded third, produced some telling tennis against the fourth-seeded Tamil Nadu pair of N. Sriram Balaji and V. M. Ranjeeth to win the doubles crown. Thus Vardhan has emulated Vishaal Uppal, who won a double crown when the National was played last in 2005 in New Delhi.

Taking on a proven grass court player, the fourth-seeded Divij Sharan of Delhi, in the title round, the sixth-seeded Vardhan was a bit apprehensive about his chances. He knew he had to serve consistently and produce better ground strokes to nullify his opponent.

While outplaying the top-seed Karan Rastogi in the semifinals, Sharan had displayed all his wares and it looked as if the crown was his.

His high percentage of first serves and the ability to produce crisp volleys at will made him the man to look out for. But Vardhan had other ideas. “I knew I will not be able to beat Divij at the net. I decided to serve the second service as fast as the first even if I had to take the risk of double faulting. That did the trick as I put away loose returns,” he recalled after the memorable victory.

Sharan’s game went astray the moment he faltered with his first serve. The first set was full of errors with both players serving repeated double faults and they also made innumerable mistakes. Even here Vardhan’s ground strokes stood out and this clinched the issue in his favour.

Interestingly, Vardhan has been beaten only once on grass in two Nationals. The only loss was at the hands of Rohan Bopanna in the semifinals in Delhi.

The men's doubles winners: Vinod Sridhar & Vishnu Vardhan.-

“I would not have regretted had I lost in the final. I just wanted to go out and play as best as I can,” he said. “The victory is memorable indeed, for I played for the first time on the Centre Court which is steeped in history.” The talking point of the championship was the defeat of Rastogi at the hands of Sharan. The top-seed did play one wonderful match in the quarterfinals eliminating wild card entrant Harsh Mankad. That victory did firmly place Rastogi as the favourite. Yet, he had no answer to the serve and volley play of Sharan and surrendered meekly. Vardhan ousted second-seed Ashutosh Singh of Delhi in the quarterfinals.

Two unseeded women caused a stir in the singles. Poojashree Venkatesh of Karnataka, ranked 42, and Treta Bhattacharyya of Bengal, ranked 35, proved the dark horses of the championship. Treta, a class X student of the Assembly of God Church School in Kolkata, defeated fourth-seed Parul Goswami in the first round and ousted sixth-seed Ragini Vimal of Bengal in the quarterfinals to advance to the semifinals where she lost to eighth-seed Shalini.

Poojashree defeated fifth-seed Sweta Kumari Solanki of Delhi in the second round and upset third-seed Asha Nanda Kumar of Karnataka in the quarterfinals before falling to the top seed in the semifinals.

The women’s final between Rushmi and Shalini was a tame affair. The surprising part of the match was that the two preferred to slug it out from the baseline rather than come to the net. Obviously the better groundstrokes of Rushmi decided the contest. At the same time, a word of praise is due to Shalini who showed courage and gumption in her first final.

The women's doubles winners: Geeta Manohar & Archana Venkataraman.-

The Mayor of Kolkata, Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya, was the chief guest at the closing function and gave away the trophies.

THE RESULTS

Men’s singles final: 6-J. Vishnu Vardhan (AP) bt 4-Divij Sharan (Dli) 6-3, 6-4. Doubles: 3-Vardhan & Vinod Sridhar (TN) bt 4-N. Sriram Balaji & V.M. Ranjeeth (TN) 6-2, 7-6 (9/7). Singles semifinals: Sharan bt 1-Karan Rastogi (Mah) 6-3, 6-3; Vardhan bt V. M. Ranjeeth (TN) 6-4, 6-2.

Women’s singles final: 1- Rushmi Chakravarthi (TN) bt 8-Shalini Sahoo (Dli) 6-3, 6-3. Doubles: Geeta Manohar (AP) & Archana Venkataraman (Kar) bt 1-Rushmi Chakravarthi (TN) & Sonal Phadke (Mah) 6-3, 6-4. Singles semifinals: Rushmi bt Poojashree Venkatesh (Kar) 6-3, 6-3; Shalini bt Treta Bhattacharyya (Ben) 6-0, 6-0.