Pooja, Dalila enter final

Indian in line for double after doubles triumph

 
Slovenian Dalila Jakupovic overpowered Sanaa Bhambri of India to move into the final of the ITF tournament in Bangalore on Friday. DH photo The top seed cruised through her semifinal encounter to set up a final date with Dalila Jakupovic in the $10,000 QuestNet ITF women’s tennis tournament here on Friday.

Poojashree, yet to be tested on her home patch after her two previous opponents retired, strolled into the title round with a 6-4, 6-2 win over fourth-seeded Israeli Keren Shlomo at the KSLTA courts.

“This was my first match of the tournament against a good player, so I was nervous initially. After two games, I got my rhythm back,” said Poojashree after the one-hour, 15-minute match.

The Bangalorean will meet seventh-seeded Jakupovic in Saturday’s summit clash after the Slovenian brushed aside Sanaa Bhambri, the fifth seed, 6-3, 6-4 in the second semifinal.

On a hot, sunny day, Poojashree, winner at the ITF tourney in Delhi last month, showed big-match nerves as she dropped her very first serve after sending down a double-fault, followed by a wayward forehand. The lanky Indian, however, soon regained composure, breaking Shlomo in the fourth game when the powerful Israeli hit three consecutive forehands long.

Understandably, with her nerves settling down quickly, Poojashree took the fifth game with an ace before breaking Shlomo with a full-blooded forehand winner.

At 4-2, complacency crept into Poojashree, allowing Shlomo to get back into the encounter as the Indian dropped the seventh game through unforced errors. The 19-year-old Poojashree wrested the initiative back in the very next game but again put herself in trouble. Shlomo got the measure of Poojashree with a double-handed whip that left the top seed stranded for a break of serve.

Poojashree rounded off the first set with a topspin forehand cross court passing shot.

The 21-year-old Shlomo was again on the back foot in the second set as she double-faulted to give her opponent a 2-0 lead. Shlomo showed signs of revival by drawing level at 2-2 but Poojashree then raised her game to the next level, pulling off one winner after another.

Shlomo struggled to find an answer to the powerful ground strokes from the world number 416. A backhand winner off Shlomo’s serve drew the curtains as Poojashree raised her arms in celebration.

Later, Jakupovic continued to impress with her elegance and athleticism.

The 18-year-old bombarded Sanaa with backhand and forehand winners from all parts of the court to shock the 21-year-old Mumbaikar and enter the final. “She (Poojashree) is a good friend of mine.

“But I will put up my best effort to win the title,” said Jakupovic, whose best ITF showing was a semifinal appearance in Delhi last month.

Poojashree stayed on course for a double when she teamed up with Isha Lakhani to beat Kumari Sweta Solanki and Moe Kawatoko of Japan 6-4, 6-3 in the doubles final.

Results (Indians unless mentioned, prefix number denotes seeding):
Singles (semifinals): 1-Poojashree Venkatesha bt 4-Keren Shlomo (Isr) 6-4, 6-2; 7-Dalila Jakupovic (Slo) bt Sanaa Bhambri 6-3, 6-4.
Doubles (final): Poojashree Venkatesha/ Isha Lakhani bt Kumari Sweta Solanki/ Moe Kawatoko (Jpn) 6-4, 6-3.

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