National C’ship: Niki Poonacha, Sowjanya Bavisetti win title in style

It was high-quality entertainment for tennis enthusiasts at the DLTA Complex as Poonacha and Sowjanya played at their authoritative best to clinch victory.

Worthy winners: Niki Poonacha (left) and Sowjanya Bavisetti with their trophies. Photo: Kamesh Srinivasan

Niki Poonacha and Sowjanya Bavisetti lived up to their billing as the No. 1 seeds by winning the men’s and women’s titles in the Fenesta National tennis championship at the DLTA Complex here on Saturday.

The 24-year-old Poonacha, tall and wiry, rode on his better athleticism and forceful game to beat the second seed Aryan Goveas 6-2, 7-6 (4), while Sowjanya beat the four-time champion Prerna Bhambri 6-4, 6-2. It was high-quality entertainment for the tennis enthusiasts who had assembled in strength.

Poonacha dropped serve in the first game, but got back into the driver’s seat and ran away with the first set with an all-court game. Aryan, who has a big game, did show signs of making a fight of it when he broke early and took a 3-1 lead in the second set. But Poonacha broke back in the sixth game with some rousing winners, including a crisp volley. Aryan saved a match-point to force the tie-break in the 12th game, but Poonacha came up with the big serves at the crunch to clinch the contest.

‘A dream’

“It is a dream for me to win the National championship,” Poonacha said, congratulating Aryan for a memorable match and thanking Rohan Bopanna and coach Sujith Sachidanand for supporting him.

Read | Need for better prize money for participants crashing out early

“Niki has a big game. The national title should give him the confidence to what I have been constantly telling him that he has the game to win big,” Rohan Bopanna, who watched the final through ‘live streaming,’ said.

Poonacha has been training at the Rohan Bopanna Academy in Bengaluru for the last two years. Bopanna hopes to get the financial support to make Poonacha, who won an ITF Futures title last year, play in the professional circuit regularly.

A different level

For Sowjanya, the win was a confirmation of her ability to strike the ball with intelligence and punch, and of winning a series of matches against quality players. Prerna made a fight of it by breaking back twice in the first set, but Sowjanya was playing at a different level; she didn’t allow the fight to linger on for long. The key to the contest was winning the first set, and Sowjanya did that at 6-4, scotching the revival, after having led 5-1.

In the second set, the lack of serve-rhythm saw Sowjanya drop serve after having taken a 2-1 lead, but she stepped up the intensity to win the last four games.

Both the champions made it a point to thank physio Anand Dubey for making it possible for them to play and win. Poonacha was being treated for a lower-back strain through the week, while Sowjanya had to address a sprained neck every day.

The champions collected ₹300,000 each and the runners-up were presented ₹200,000 each.

Book launch

Ajay Shriram, chairman and managing director of the DCM Shriram Group, congratulated the champions and thanked the All India Tennis Association (AITA) and its life president Anil Khanna for the association of more than 25 years. On the occasion, a special book, commemorating the 25 editions hosted by the DCM Shriram Group, was launched by Sania Mirza who had herself competed in the event and had won the women’s doubles title as a 14-year-old with Ankita Bhambri besides winning the mixed doubles with Rohan Bopanna.

Madhwin Kamath and Rashmikaa Shrivalli Bhamidipaty won the junior boys and girls titles, respectively, emphasising their strong game and the fine grooming undergone at the Altevol Waske Academy in Ahmedabad and the Sajid Lodi centre in Indore.

The results (finals)
  • Men: Niki Poonacha bt Aryan Goveas 6-2, 7-6 (4).
  • Women: Sowjanya Bavisetti bt Prerna Bhambri 6-4, 6-2.
  • U-18 boys: Madhwin Kamath bt Udit Gogoi 6-2, 7-6 (1).
  • U-18 girls: Rashmikaa Shrivalli Bhamidipaty bt Sandeepti Singh Rao 6-0, 6-4.