National C’ship: Natasha Palha into final with come-from-behind win

Defeats top seed Zeel Desai in the women’s semifinals; among men, Arjun Kadhe, Siddharth Vishwakarma book final spot.

Natasha Palha in action in her semifinal contest on Friday. Photo: Kamesh Srinivasan

Natasha Palha played increasingly better after an indifferent start to outplay top seed Zeel Desai 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 in the women’s semifinals of the Fenesta National tennis championship at the DLTA Complex here on Friday.

It was an surreal climax for Natasha, a Goan who trains in Pune, after she stumbled to a 0-5 start. But, as the match wore on, Natasha got into her rhythm and the fragile temperament of Zeel had her perform below par in the third set. “I am very, very happy. I have been looking for a good result for a long time,” said Natasha, whose previous best was a semifinal berth (she played Rishika Sunkara) at the National Championship.

It was a remarkable performance by the 24-year-old Natasha as she had twice lost to the 19-year-old Zeel in the professional circuit this season, winning 10 games in all four sets.

In the final, Natasha will challenge defending champion and second seed Mahak Jain, who overcame a stiff resistance from four-time champion Prerna Bhambri in three tough sets. Mahak, who was competing in the School Games concurrently, found the energy to fight it out against Prerna, who was a bit tentative. This was in contrast to the way Natasha had handled the crunch against the top seed. “I have never played her before. I will play my best,” assured Natasha about the final against Mahak.

Doubles’ title for Mahak

Mahak won the women’s doubles title in partnership with Sathwika Sama, beating Humera Shaik and Sara Yadav.

Sidharth Rawat tried to grab some of the attention with a vibrant game against top seed Arjun Kadhe, as he served big and hit the ball on the rise with conviction. But he could not sustain his strong game after the good start.

After losing the first 6-2, Arjun regrouped nicely to outwit Sidharth Rawat, first by pushing the contest into the third set by winning the tie-break, after having missed two set points in the 10th game.

Class act

In the decider, Arjun was a class act. He wound up the show with a simple drop. In the final, Arjun, who was part of the Indian Davis Cup team recently in the World Group play-off tie against Serbia, will face the wiry Siddharth Vishwakarma.

The left-handed Siddharth, who had played a final in the past against Vishnu Vardhan, packed too much punch in his game for the Asian junior champion Nitin Kumar Sinha and cruised home for the loss of five games. “I have hardly played tennis in the last eight months because of ill-health. I am only playing to about 80 per cent of my game. I am looking to improve further,” Siddharth, who trains with coach Kamlesh Shukla, said.

In an entertaining men’s doubles final, Parikshit Somani and Suresh Dhakshineswar beat Kaza Vinayak Sharma and Mohit Mayur in straight sets.

The results
  • Men (semifinals): Arjun Kadhe bt Sidharth Rawat 2-6, 7-6 (2), 6-2; Siddharth Vishwakarma bt Nitin Kumar Sinha 6-3, 6-2.
  • Doubles (final): Parikshit Somani & Suresh Dhakshineswar bt Kaza Vinayak Sharma & Mohit Mayur 6-4, 6-4.
  • Women (semifinals): Natasha Palha bt Zeel Desai 4-6, 6-4, 6-0; Mahak Jain bt Prerna Bhambri 7-6 (7), 4-6, 6-3.
  • Doubles (final): Mahak Jain & Sathwika Sama bt Humera Shaik & Sara Yadav 6-3, 6-3.
  • Under-18 boys (semifinals): Siddhant Banthia bt Madhwin Kamath 6-3, 6-2; Calvin Golmei bt Drona Walia 6-3, 7-6 (4).
  • Doubles (final): Siddhant Banthia & Megh Bhargav Patel bt Madhwin Kamath & Dev Javia 6-3, 6-2.
  • Under-18 girls (semifinals): Humera Shaik bt Sara Yadav 6-4, 6-3; Rashmikaa Shrivalli Bamidipaty bt Sharannya Gaware 6-4, 6-3.
  • Doubles (final): Salsa Aher & Kaavya Sawhney bt Bhakti Shah & Sunskrithi Damera 6-1, 2-6, [10-4].