New Delhi: Zeel Desai saved a match point in a battle of wits against a fearless Bhuvana Kalva to set up a summit clash in the women’s singles against a wily Mahak Jain in the Fenesta National Tennis Championships, here today.
A very talented Zeel held her nerves to save a match point in the 12th game of the third set to prevail 4-6 6-4 7-6(0) over a very impressive Bhuvana in a marathon semi- final, which lasted just over three hours at DLTA.
In the other semi-final, Mahak dominated in a 6-2 6-1 win over Tanisha Kashyap, who also lost her girls singles semi-final to Viadehi Chaudhari.
The men’s singles final will be played between top seed Suraj Prabodh and Dalwinder Singh.
Suraj defeated Manish Sureshkumar 7-6(5), 3-6 6-2 while Dalwinder defeated Bava Haddin 7-5 6-0.
In arguably one of the best matches played at the this year’s Nationals, Zeel wriggled out of difficult situations to remain a title contender.
Zeel went up 4-1 in the opening set but Bhuvana, who even surprised herself with her perseverance took the opening set by reeling off five straight games.
She stood out with her fearless hitting and down the line risky shots, which brought her dividends.
Zeel had not faced such an opponent till this stage and had to re-work her strategy to counter a fierce and relentless opponent like Bhuvana.
To her credit, Zeel came out as a thinking player, who had enough tricks to try and subdue her rival. She came up with good service games, sometimes on the body.
Several times she trapped Bhuvana with her angled deep forehand.
Zeel went up in both sets but Bhuvana was not willing to give any easy points and more or less dictated how the match will unfold. If she made errors, Zeel would take points and if she found the winners, Zeel would feel the heat.
Hardly showing emotion in a roller-coaster match, Bhuvana saved a match point in the 10th game of the third set to herself earn match point in the 12th game but netted a forehand on that and eventually lost serve on a backhand error.
In the tie-breaker, it was Zeel who took control of the proceedings with her well-calculated game. She did not lose a single point and won it with down the line backhand winner.
“I never expected Bhuvana to play that good. She was amazing,” Zeel told PTI after the match.
“It was the best match I have seen in this tournament. I could not play well but I am proud that I pulled this off.”
Talking about the final, Zeel sounded confident,”I have played Mahak before several times. Last time, we played in Malaysia and I beat her 6-3 6-2. It’s good to be in final. I want that trophy. I like trophies.”
Bhuvana said she has exceeded her own expectations.
“I never thought I will reach semi-final. I will take a lot of confidence from this performance. When I lost that match point, my mind went blank,” she said.
The Under-18 boys final will be played between Sacchitt Sharrma and Dhruv Sunish. Sacchitt faced stiff resistance from Abhimanyu Vannemreddy before winning 6-2 2-6 7-5 while Dhruv outplayed Siddhant Banthia 6-4 6-3.
Top seed Akansha Bhan will challenge Vaidehi in the girls’ singles title clash. She beat Sathwika Sama 6-1 3-6 6- 4. Vaidehi had pipped Tanisha 7-6(4) 7-5.
“Tanisha needs to be more aggressive. She needs to construct more points and start controlling points. She needs to play Pro-active rather than reactive tennis,” said her coach Vishal Uppal.
“I expected her to step up and make a fight out of it,” he said referring to her women’s singles semifinal against Mahak.
“Mahak has matured as a player and Tanisha also did a lot of good things but needs to be consistent,” he said.