WTA Mumbai Open: Zeel, Karman Kaur bow out

Zeel Desai, the best talent emerging from the junior ranks, and Karman Kaur Thandi who reached a career best rank of 284 to be ranked No.1 in the country among the women on this day, played in contrasting style, in their defeats.

Carol Zhao of Canada in action against Zeel Desai of India in the WTA Mumbai open tournament at CCI in Mumbai on Monday.   -  Vivek Bendre

It was a chastening experience for the young Indian players as they came short on the big stage on the opening day of the L&T $125,000 Mumbai Open WTA tennis tournament at the Cricket Club of India (CCI) tennis courts on Monday.

Zeel Desai, the best talent emerging from the junior ranks, and Karman Kaur Thandi who reached a career best rank of 284 to be ranked No.1 in the country among the women on this day, played in contrasting style, as they bowed out to their seasoned opponents.

After the 18-year-old Zeel had managed to hit a bunch of winners to underline her potential, while eking out four games from seventh seed Carol Zhao of Canada, Karman Kaur provided the thrills with her explosive serves and big shots.

However, the crafty Dalila Jakupovic of Slovenia ran her around with a few drop shots, and stepped it up nicely to go for the jugular, even as the tall Indian girl tended to run short and over hit.

As coach Todd Clark pointed out, there was a big difference in quality of players competing in the $25,000 circuit and the ones aspiring to hit the big stage in the WTA circuit.

The 19-year-old Karman did rise hopes, especially in the second set when she broke back to be on par at 3-3, but lacked the experience, craft and temperament to ride on the revival for long.

Watched by multiple Grand Slam champion Mahesh Bhupathi who has been supporting her professional career with coaching stints in France with Patrick Mouratglou, it was understandable that Karman was a bit excited, especially on establishing her credentials as No.1 woman singles player in the country.

The tall and wiry Karman was in some hurry to show her game, but despite her sincere efforts, she could not get out of the net spread out by Dalila who served and stroked with intensity to make it a straightforward affair.

In contrast, Zeel could not put her best game on display. ‘’I can list 20 points in which Zeel can improve. But that is not the point. We will work on her physical strength for about three months early next season, as it is better to work on it when you are 600 in the world rather than 200!’’, observed coach Todd Clark, who has done a fantastic job in moulding Zeel into a quality player.

There was some hope that there would at least be an Indian win in doubles, but Ankita Raina and Rutuja Bhosale failed to capitalise on a 3-1 lead in the second set, and crashed out in straight sets.

The results:

Singles (first round): Sabina Sharipova (Uzb) bt Irina Khromacheva (Rus) 2-6, 7-6(2), 7-6(3); Fanny Stollar (Hun) bt Hiroko Kuwata (Jpn) 6-4, 6-3; Valentyna Ivakhnenko (Rus) bt Marie Bouzkova (Cze) 6-3, 6-3; Yanina Wickmayer (Bel) bt Laur aRobson (GBR) 7-5, 6-4; Carol Zhao (Can) bt Zeel desai 6-3, 6-1; Dalila Jakupovic (Slo) bt Karman Kaur Thandi 6-2, 6-4; Alize Lim (Fra) bt Mayo Hibi (Jpn) 6-1, 6-1.

Doubles (pre-quarterfinals): Victoria Rodriguez (Mex) & Bibiane Schoofs (Ned) bt Rutuja Bhosale & Ankita Raina 6-4, 6-3.