Sriram Balaji triumphs, fourth on the trot for Prerna

Sriram Balaji asserted his high-quality game against his doubles partner and defending champion Vishnu Vardhan, while Prerna Bhambri breezed past Sai Samhitha for her fourth title in the Fenesta National tennis championship, at the DLTA Complex here on Saturday.

National tennis champions Sriram Balaji and Prerna Bhambri pose with their trophies at the R K Khanna Tennis stadium in New Delhi on Saturday.   -  PTI

Sriram Balaji asserted his high-quality game against his doubles partner and defending champion Vishnu Vardhan, while Prerna Bhambri breezed past Sai Samhitha for her fourth title in the Fenesta National tennis championship, at the DLTA Complex here on Saturday.

The 25-year-old Balaji, ranked 422 in the world, who had finished runner-up to VM Ranjeet in 2008, had opted to play the national championship on second thoughts, which meant that he had to negotiate three rounds in the qualifying event.

Throughout the tournament, he did not drop a set, and rarely dropped his serve, on his way to pocketing the winner’s prize of Rs 3 lakh.

Against the 28-year-old Vishnu, who was ranked a career-best 262 in 2012 and has a 4-3 win-loss record against him in the international circuit, the wiry Balaji played his vibrant game consistently even though he wavered a bit , dropping his serve when the flow was in his favour.

‘’I came to win this title. I am happy to have won both the singles and doubles titles. I was happy to play my friend and doubles partner in the final. It was not easy. To break his serve three times in the match was special. I dropped serve because I was a bit nervous, being a set up and a break up’’, said Balaji, who had won the doubles title with VM Ranjeet.

It was indeed a keen battle, but Vishnu lost hold as he dropped serve in the twelfth game of the first set with a double-fault, after having saved a set point earlier. In the second set, Balaji broke Vishnu for 2-0, but dropped serve in the next game. He quickly regained his initiative by breaking Vishnu’s serve in the fourth game, with a spectacular passing-shot on breakpoint. He served big thereafter to cruise home.

The quality of the contest was quite high and the organisers were quick to remove the hundreds of balloons that decorated the roof of the court once Vishnu complained about being distracted by the constant noise of the bursting balloons, owing to the heat. As it was proved, Vishnu was troubled more by his opponent who was razor sharp with his challenger-level game.

The women’s final was lopsided as Sai Samhitha was unable to pose any meaningful challenge to Prerna Bhambri, who had won the title the last three years. Prerna conceded a token game after going up 6-0, 5-0, in a quick exercise that left the show court vacant for a long time before the men’s final.

Seeded fourth, Prerna dropped only 16 games in all, winning her five rounds against a string of quality opponents, Mihika Yadav, Vaidehi Chaudhari, Sowjanya Bavisetti , top seed Snehadevi Reddy and former national junior champion Sai Samhitha.

‘’I want to reach the top 300. I was happy with the way I played this tournament’’, said the 23-year-old Prerna, ranked 554 in the world, who is unwilling to accept that it was perhaps the easiest of the four national titles she has won on the trot, on her home court in the capital.

BR NIkshep, the national under-16 champion who had lost his crown from being up a matchpoint last year, graduated to under-18 champion, as he asserted his all-round game and remarkable maturity of approach against the energetic game of top seed Aryan Goveas, in an entertaining three-setter.

Already the national junior girls champion a few times, Zeel Desai, who trains with coach Todd Clark, was crowned yet again after taming second seed Sathwika Sama in three tough sets.

The secretary general of the All India Tennis Association (AITA), Bharat Oza, and Chairman and Managing Director of the DCM Shriram group, Ajay Shriram, presented the trophies.

The results (finals):

Men: Sriram Balaji bt Vishnu Vardhan 7-5, 6-3.

Women: Prerna Bhambri bt Sai Samhitha 6-0, 6-1.

Under-18 boys: BR Nikshep bt Aryan Goveas 6-3, 2-6, 7-5.

Under-18 girls: Zeel Desai bt Sathwika Sama 3-6, 6-3, 7-5.