Pooja eyes third title

Bangalorean to face Subbadharmi in first round

 
Top seed Poojashree, world ranked 416, will be up against Subbadharmi Sundaram of US in the first round. The Bangalorean appears to have a smooth route till the quarterfinals, where she has a potential meeting with seasoned campaigner Rushmi Chakravarthi, seeded sixth.

“I haven’t played Subbadharmi before, but I am confident of clearing the first hurdle,” said Poojashree at the tournament draw on Sunday. “I am working on my serve, which needs improvement. Isha (Lakhani), Rushmi and Slovenian Dalila Jakupovic (seeded seven) are all good players who are capable of winning the title. So it should be a good contest.”

The worrying factor for Poojashree as well as the organisers is the inclement weather that has already played havoc with the final round of qualifiers.

“It’s been four years since we have had a tournament of this nature in Bangalore. It’s great to play at home, a pretty good feeling. I am hoping that the rain keeps away for the next week,” observed Poojashree.

The 19-year-old is eyeing her third ITF crown after title triumphs in Islamabad last November and New Delhi last month.  However, it won’t be a cakewalk for Poojashree, for also in the fray are compatriots Rushmi, Sanaa Bhambri, the fifth seed who is ranked 552, second-seeded Japanese Anastasia Malhotra, ranked 470, and Isha Lakhani, the third seed.

Returning after an injury lay-off, Rushmi admitted she wasn’t at the top of her form. “I am playing after an injury to my knee. So I don’t know how I am going to fare here. I’d like to take it one match at a time,” said Rushmi.

Anastasia, who has Indian roots with her grandfather hailing from Punjab, said she was not worried about the big names, and sounded confident of making a mark in the six-day meet.

“Poojashree is just another competitor, and all others too play to win,” Anastasia, also 19, remarked. “It doesn’t make any difference to me whether I am playing a top player or a qualifier. I like to win.”

Apart from Poojashree, the other Karnataka players in the main draw include Asha Nanda Kumar, Sheethal Goutham, Nimisha Mohan and wild cards Anushree Thammanna, Prathana Prathap and Shweta Gadigeppa Kakhandki.

While Asha was a direct entrant to the main draw, Sheethal and Nimisha made it to the field of 32 after coming through three rounds of qualifying matches.  The 28-year-old Sheethal is making a comeback to the sport after a sabbatical of four years. “I stopped playing since my father’s demise four years back. Then I got married and kept away from the sport. I just wanted to get back into the groove,” said Sheethal.

The final is slated for Saturday. Cricketer Robin Uthappa and Olympian and former hockey player MP Ganesh made the draw along with Poojashree at the KSLTA.
After Bangalore, the ITF caravan will move on to Delhi (Sept 14-19) before winding up in Dehradun (Sept 21-26).

Results, qualifiers (final round, Indians unless mentioned)): Sheethal Goutham (Ind) bt Sowjanya Bavisetti (Ind) 6-4, 4-6, 6-4; Natalia Perepadenko (Spa) bt Sonal Phadke 6-3, 6-3; Harshini Reddy bt Ashvarya Shrivastava 6-3, 6-1; Prerna Prathap bt Dipti Srivastava 6-1, 6-2; Nimisha Mohan bt Sharani Gaini 6-2, 6-0.

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