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Sunil Kumar makes quarterfinals

By Kamesh Srinivasan

NEW DELHI, JUNE 23. Not playing anywhere near his best, Sunil Kumar was good enough to eliminate the third-seeded Vinod Sridhar in the pre-quarterfinals of the ITF Satellite tennis circuit third leg at the DLTA Complex here on Wednesday.

On a cloudy morning, Sunil played a fluent game, sticking to the top- spin drive in overcoming the resistance from the finalist of the second week. Sunil got off to a flier, breaking Vinod in the third game, and once he converted the fifth breakpoint in the fifth game, the Chandigarh lad — who had won the national title when he was 16 — was in the driver's seat.

Vinod looked to have unseated Sunil for sometime when he took a 5-2 lead in the second set, breaking the Indian Oil employee in the second game. The Chennai lad, who had shifted allegiance from GAIL to ONGC recently, was hampered by a shoulder problem, and thus it was no surprise that he surrendered five games in a row to Sunil.

In fact, Vinod had not beaten Sunil in their three previous meetings in the ITF circuit, and though he was stroking the ball well, the Chennai lad did not look to have the stomach for a fight this day.

For someone who had reached the semifinals of a Challenger in Uzbekistan recently, beating Harsh Mankad on the way, and for one who had been seeded No.1 in the first two weeks thanks to his ranking of 411, Sunil has not played the game that he is capable of, that we all so well know.

Maybe, the 21-year-old Sunil has been consciously conserving his best for the climax, as there is a good chance to make plenty of ATP points from the circuit.

Sunil will be challenged by wild card entrant Ashutosh Singh, who raced to a 6-1, 6-2 triumph over qualifier Luke Campbell of Britain, firing eight aces in the process. The Briton was no patch in comparison to Ashutosh's all-round game, and allowed his game to further break into pieces following a running duel with the chair-umpire.

Another Delhi boy, the gangling Vishaal Uppal meted out a similar treatment to Mat Lowe of Britain in setting up a quarterfinal clash with Aqeel Khan of Pakistan, a repeat of last week's semifinal meeting.

Kamala Kannan was quite sharp in overpowering the sixth-seeded Prahlad Srinath in straight sets, and he faces Pathanjali Ravishankar in the next round.

Ravishankar had a stroke of luck, as his opponent, the top-seeded Joshua Goodall of Britain, withdrew from the second round quoting a bout of `heat stroke'.

Ajay Ramaswami progressed on expected lines, and the Mumbai lad working with the ONGC, will try his hand at taming the fourth-seeded Norikazu Sugiyama of Japan in the next round.

The results:

Singles (pre-quarterfinals): Pathanjali Ravishankar w/o Joshua Goodall (GBR); Kamala Kannan bt Prahlad Srinath 6-2, 6-4; Norikazu Sugiyama (Jpn) bt Wrik Ganguly 6-1, 6-3; Ajay Ramaswami bt Syed Rahil 6-3, 6-1; Ashutosh Singh bt Luke Campbell (GBR) 6-1, 6-2; Sunil Kumar bt Vinod Sridhar 6-2, 7-5; Aqeel Khan (Pak) bt Hiu-Tung Yu (Hkg) 6-4, 6-3; Vishaal Uppal bt Mat Lowe (GBR) 6-1, 6-2.

Doubles (quarterfinals): Rishi Sridhar and Vinod Sridhar bt Aqeel Khan and Jaleel Khan (Pak) 6-3, 7-6 (7-3); Ashutosh Singh and Gurmehar Singh bt Saurabh Kohli and Sunil Kumar 4-6, 7-5, 6-1; Norikazu Sugiyama (Jpn) and Vijay Kannan bt Rohan Gide and N. Kiran Kumar 6-1, 6-1; Ajay Ramaswami and Vishaal Uppal bt Atsufumi Yoshikawa (Jpn) and Hiu-Tung Yu (Hkg) 6-3, 6-2.

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