Qualifier Sandeepti Singh Rao saved three match points to beat the champion of the last tournament, third seed Tamara Curovic of Serbia, 7-5, 2-6, 7-6(5) in the semifinals of the $15,000 ITF women’s tennis tournament at the Joygaon Academy on Saturday.
In the final, the 19-year-old Sandeepti will play Zeel Desai who scored her first win over her doubles partner Vaidehi Chaudhari in five meetings, with a 7-5, 6-2 score.
It was a memorable birthday for Zeel, as she stopped Vaidehi from serving out the first set at 5-4, and turned the tide in her favour decisively with an energetic game.
Later, it was not that memorable as Zeel and Vaidehi were outplayed 6-2, 6-1 in the doubles final by top seeds Diana Marcinkevica and Fanny Ostlund.
Of course, it was some consolation for Diana, the top seed in singles who was knocked out by Sandeepti in the pre-quarterfinals.
What stood out in Sandeepti this day was her ability to keep fighting despite the variation and power play of her tall and strong Curovic.
At 0-40 on her serve at 4-5 in the decider, defeat was staring at her, but Sandeepti fought courageously to stay alive in the match to eventually force the tie-break.
Curovic, who was exasperated by the cat and mouse battle that lasted three hours, recovered to be on par at 5-5, winning two successive points for a heady climax.
However, Sandeepti had the last laugh, even though it was a bitter sweet finish, as Curovic made an unsuccessful appeal for a line call on match point, as umpire Somnath Manna was able to show the mark to justify the point in favour of Sandeepti.
The celebration may have been muted by the circumstances, but with her shoulder and leg in tape and brace, Sandeepti was indeed a warrior defying the odds against more experienced players, winning her seventh match on the trot, including three in the qualifying event.
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