Natasha outlasts Zeel to enter final

Natasha outlasts Zeel to enter final

Arjun Kadhe

Natasha Palha shocked top seed Zeel Desai 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 to storm into her maiden women’s singles final at the Fenesta tennis national championships at the Delhi Lawn Tennis Association on Friday.

The 24-year-old from Goa will meet defending champion Mahak Jain in the title clash. Mahak, seeded second, outlasted four-time national champion Prerna Bhambri 7-6 (7), 4-6, 6-3.

For Natasha, it turned out to be another long outing under the baking sun. She had a nervy start, trailing 0-5 in the opening set, but hung on to claw her way back. The former national grasscourt champion grew better as the match progressed, serving big and flipping the match with her steady groundstrokes. Once Natasha pushed the contest to the decider, in her second attempt to serve out the set, Zeel’s challenge collapsed under the heap of errors.

“I have been looking for a good win for some time. So I am really very happy. I have played her twice but this is the first time I won. In the third set, I was in the zone. I have had long matches, but I am fit enough to go all out in the final,” said Natasha, who shifted base to Pune in 2012 to train under Hemant Bendre.

In the first match, Mahak overcame a tough resistance from Prerna to carve out a fine win. The 17-year-old had the opportunity to serve out for the match in the second set but lost successive games to drag the contest into the decider. She, however, made no such errors in the final set, as she varied her strokes, before closing out the marathon contest. “It was a tough match, she is a four-time champion, so I was a bit under pressure. I am now more confident going into the final,” said Mahak.

There was more good news in store for Mahak, who partnering Sathwika Sama beat Humera Shaik and Sara Dev 6-3,6-3 to clinch women’s doubles title.

The men's singles final will be contested by top seed Arjun Kadhe and Siddharth Vishwakarma. The 23-year-old Vishwakarma, the 2016 finalist, once again put out a display of blazing groundstrokes to outpace Nitin Sinha 6-3, 6-2.

Later, Kadhe was pushed to the wall by Siddharth Rawat before pulling of a hard-fought 2-6, 7-6(2), 6-2 victory. Rawat had begun fluently off both wings and was brilliant in his return of serves to pocket the first set. However, Kadhe fought back in the second, serving with purpose; hitting clean and economical. The top seed took early control in the final set to book a place in the final.

Results (Semifinals): Men’s singles: 1-Arjun Kadhe bt 3- Siddharth Rawat 2-6, 7-6 (2), 6-2, 6-Siddharth Vishwakarma bt 5-Nitin Sinha 6-3, 6-2.

Women’s singles: 2-Mahak Jain bt 4-Prerna 7-6(7), 4-6, 6-3, Natasha Palha bt 1-Zeel Desai 4-6, 6-4, 6-0.