“Allez allez allez! Come on!,” was a phrase which could be heard frequently during a three-hour long boys’ singles semifinal between Kriish Tyagi and Rethin Pranav at the 29th National Junior under-18 clay court Tennis Championship on Friday.
Karnataka’s Kriish, seeded sixth, won a close first set 6-4 but soon found himself trailing 1-5 in the second as ninth seed Rethin began to play more freely. However, the last local hope suddenly became a bit passive and allowed Kriish to make a comeback and level things up at 5-5.
The second set was a lot better. He was a lot freer and was playing more aggressively. He was looking to win points. He went up 5-1 and from 5-1, he went into a shell till the set got over.
“He could not make one first serve. Basically, he got defensive,” said M Balachandran, Rethin’s coach.
Highlights of National Junior U-18 Clay Court Tennis Championship
- ⦿Day 6: Kriish Tyagi, Vaishnavi Adkar defeat top seeds to win singles titles
- ⦿Day 5: Madhurima-Ruma pair wins girls doubles title; Denim-Vansh champion in boys doubles
- ⦿Day 5: Kriish Tyagi to face Denim Yadav in singles final
- ⦿Day 4: Sisters Asmi, Vaishnavi storm into doubles final
- ⦿Day 3: Packed schedule on day three tests youngsters
- ⦿Day 2: Exit scare for fifth seed Madhurima; top seeds Suhitha, Vaishnavi through to pre-quarters
- ⦿Day 1: Daksh Prasad digs deep to reach second round
- ⦿Underarm serve, upsets, bad light and the drama of qualifying
After winning almost every point, 15-year-old Kriish would pump himself up with the same phrase - “Arre arre arre! Come on!”
Rethin was the only local hope left in singles after unseeded Gagan Vimal went down 1-6, 2-6 to top seed Denim Yadav of Madhya Pradesh in the other semifinal on the adjacent court at the SDAT Stadium in Egmore. The boy from Dindigul made sure that the challenge from home State stayed alive as he clinched the second set 7-6 (4) to force a decider.
The organisers decided to lightly water the court before the final set despite Kriish’s reluctance.
Whether it was the slight change in court conditions or the exhaustion from the previous set, Kriish got off to a terrible start in the final set and got his serve broken in the opening game itself. Rethin duly consolidated the break and went 2-0 up. Kriish saved a break point and held his serve to trail 1-2. It was the fourth game of the final set which possibly decided the fate of the match. A long deuce game, it involved a close call on Rethin’s forehand down the line to save a break point which invited a challenge from Kriish. The chair umpire called it ‘in’, the sixth seed did not look convinced and asked for the AITA referee who reminded Kriish that the chair umpire’s decision was final.
Two points later - “Allez allez allez! Come on!”
“I was screaming a lot to stay motivated. I kept pushing. I had a little fatigue from the previous matches and my muscles were giving up but I had to push myself,”said Kriish after the semifinal.
A brilliant comeback
Kriish had managed to bring things back on serve at 2-2. “Had Rethin won that game, it would have been 3-1. Everything would have looked up. After losing that game, he was slow. He managed to make it three-all but it didn’t look like he had enough in the tank,” said Balachandran.
Kriish got the all-important final break of serve to make it 5-3 and served it out comfortably to reach the final.
“When he gets a chance, he goes for it. The mentality of Kriish is to play offensive and it always works in his favour,” said coach Harsha Vardhan about his student’s performance. The 15-year-old trains under Harsha Vardhan and Harsha Lingappa at the Harsha Lingappa Tennis Academy in Bengaluru.
Kriish faces Denim in the final. Talking about the match-up, Harsha said, “Huge respect for Denim Yadav. He has been playing in the junior circuit for a long time and has won a couple of titles in doubles as well but Kriish is Kriish. He is a young tiger and he just wants to attack.”
Both girls’ singles semifinals were quite one-sided as Suhitha Maruri and Vaishnavi Adkar beat Madhurima Sawant and Ruma Gaikaiwari, respectively in straight sets to set up the final between the top two seeds.
Both singles finals will be played on Saturday.