Iijima to take on Nicha in clash for title

Thai pair wins doubles

happy duo: Thailand’s Luksika Kumkhum and Nungadda Wannasuk show off their spoils after clinching the doubles crown in Bangalore on Friday. dh photo/ p samson victor

Off boil at the very beginning where she kept littering the court with errors, the third-seeded Japanese corrected her shot-making in time to eke out a hard-fought 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 semifinal victory on a sun-splashed Friday at the KSLTA stadium.

In the singles final on the morrow, the 28-year-old will take on bubbly Thai teenager Nicha Lertpitaksinchai, who surprised 2009 French Open Junior champion and seventh seed Kristina Mladenovic 6-2, 7-5.

The day, however, ended in some disappointment for Kimiko as she and Chinese Taipei’s Yi Chien lost the doubles final 6-7 (5-7), 7-5, 8-10 to the Thai pair of Nungadda Wannasuk and Luksika Kumkhum. The is Nungadda and Luksika’s second successive title together after they had triumphed in Mandya exactly a week ago.

World number 243 Kimiko, who made a return to the circuit early this season after being laid flat by injury for the whole of last year which resulted in her losing ranking points, got off to the worst possible start when she lost all her service points in the opening game of the match. That seemed to play on her mind as the Japanese found it incredibly hard to keep the ball in play.

On a host of occasions, Kimiko gifted the 18-year-old Peangthan easy points, smashing the ball wide despite an open court at her disposal. Peangthan, a huge admirer of the tenacious Rafael Nadal, used Kimiko’s errors to her advantage, holding her end strongly to take the first set.

Playing tennis since seven and with four ITF singles and 18 doubles titles to her credit, Kimiko realised her error in going for the ball too hard on the pacy courts. She bought herself the extra second, picking her spots well to put Peanghtan under pressure in the second set. The slices, volleys and forehands began to click as the gritty Peangthan, forced to do a a fair bit of running, eventually ran out of steam.

Kimiko, trying hard as ever, finally broke Peangthan’s serve for the first time in the sixth game of the second set. The Thai missed an open-court volley before committing two unforced errors to hand Kimiko a 4-2 lead. The Japanese broke Peangthan once again in the eighth game to win the second. Kimiko then unlocked Peangthan’s serve for the third time in the fourth game of the deciding set. Peangthan cracked under pressure, losing all her remaining serves and the match too as Kimiko scripted a fine come-from-behind win.

Results, semifinals: 3-Kimiko Iijima (Jpn) bt Peangthan Pliphuech (Tha) 4-6, 6-2, 6-1; Nicha Lertpitaksinchai (Tha) bt 7-Kristina Mladenovic (Fra) 6-2, 7-5.

Doubles, final: Luksika Kumkhum/ Nungadda Wannasuk (Tha) bt 1-Yi Chen (Tpe)/ Kumiko Iijima (Jpn) 7-6 (7-5), 5-7, 10-8.

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