Nikki K Poonacha and Zeel Desai claim men’s and women’s national  tennis titles in contrasting style 

Harpal Singh Bedi

Zeel Desai and Nikki K Poonacha

New Delhi: Top seeds  Nikki K Poonacha and Zeel Desai justified their ranking as they won the men’s and women’s singles titles in contrasting style at the Fenesta Open National Tennis Championship here on Saturday.

In the men’s singles final, Nikki had to wage a grim battle to claim the title. Having lost the first battle rather tamely, he made a strong comeback to win the next two to overpower spirited  Digvijay Pratap Singh 3-6, 7-6 (8/6), 6-4 in a match which brought the best out of the two players.The women’s final however turned out to be  a virtual  no-contest with Zeel Desai outplaying qualifier Sharmada Balu  6-3, 6-0

The men’s title clash was an exciting contest. Digvijay took the lead by breaking early.  Nikki, who was struggling with the range of his shots and timing, changed gears soon. He did lose the first set 3-6 but then regained his rhythm and with powerful hard ground-strokes, he took the second set to tie-breaker

Nikki displayed good temperament and held his nerves to clinch the set and draw parity. In the final set, both the players looked tired, and at this juncture, the top seed came up with the big stuff when needed the most to claim the set, match, and title..

“It’s great to win the second time over here. Overall, my game was very shaky but I was holding in the second set and I pulled through it. In the third set, I think I played a very good game, I was holding up and I was confident. It turned out to be a very good day and very good game for me,” said Nikki. His effort won him Rs 3 lakhs in prize money.

 In the women’s summit contest  Zeel Desai showed that age and fitness make a lot of difference in a big match. Zeel, who plays more abroad, adjusted to the conditions over the week. She played near-flawless tennis against qualifier Sharmada Balu 

The triumph brought her prize money of Rs 3 lakhs. More importantly, to be crowned national champion after the resumption of the sport after the Covid-19 pandemic was a big plus.

To be fair, Sharmada Balu played well over the last ten days. From the hard grind of winning qualifying matches to making the final, it was a great journey. In the end, she was defeated but not disgraced.

“Today, I played really well. Like, she (Sharmada) was also so much confident because she beat the second seed yesterday and she was playing really well in the first set. I maintained my composure, so I went through the first set, and then the second set I was much more solid, so she may have mentally broken down and I won, said, Zeel Desai.

HSB

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