Erratic Rastogi edges out Shokeen

Davis Cupper sets up final clash with TN's Murali

Struggling to come to terms with the pace and bounce of the newly-laid courts at the Mega Sports Complex, the Davis Cupper fluctuated between the brilliant and the ordinary before carving out a hard-fought 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 victory over Delhi’s seventh seed Vivek Shokeen in an hour and thirty minutes.

In the title clash on Wednesday, Rastogi will lock horns against second seed Mithun Murali of Tamil Nadu, who defeated Delhi’s Ashutosh Singh 3-6, 7-6 (8-6), 6-4 in the other semifinal.

Ranked 284 in the world, the 24-year-old Rastogi would have expected a walk in the park against Shokeen, a player placed 706 places below him. But, it was not to be as deep-serving 23-year-old Shokeen displayed good temperament to keep Rastogi on his toes in bright sunshine before the latter’s big-match experience pulled him through.

Not serving at his best, Rastogi had to rely more on his ground strokes and baseline play which worked to Shokeen’s advantage. The Delhiite nearly broke Rastogi in the opening game of the match but two unforced errors gave the Maharashtrian a 1-0 lead.

Rastogi then stamped his authority on Shokeen, breaking him in the fourth game to love with two crisp forehand winners for a 3-1 lead. However, Shokeen bounced back to break Rastogi three games later before the latter repaid in kind in the very next game and jump to 5-3. The top seed the wrapped up the set with a typical serve and volley routine, Shokeen slamming the return into the net.

Rastogi took the first break of the second set, blasting an overhead for a 2-1 lead. Just when he thought he had done enough to grab a hold in the match, Rastogi’s serve faltered miserably, losing his service game twice on the trot as Shokeen served out the set successfully to level the match at 1-1.

The third set saw the players tread the cautious path before the more experienced Rastogi stepped on the accelerator, notching up the vital break in the sixth game for a 4-2 lead before sealing the match after Shokeen hit out.

Results (prefix denotes seeding): Men’s singles, semifinals: 1-Karan Rastogi (Maharashtra) bt 7-Vivek Shokeen (Delhi) 6-3, 3-6, 6-3; 2-Mithun Murali (Tamil Nadu) bt 9-Ashutosh Singh (Delhi) 3-6, 7-6 (8-6), 6-4.

Women’s singles, semifinals: 1-Zainab Ali Sajjad (AP) bt 4-Nupur Kaul (Maharashtra) 6-3, 6-1; 11-Ratnika Batra (Delhi) bt 3-Prerna Bhambri (Delhi) 7-5, 2-6, 6-3.

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