Nandakumar Marar

MUMBAI: Ankita Bhambri banked on ferocious forehands and patience to wear down an anguished Isha Lakhani over three sets and booked a place in the final of the Shivaji Park Gymkhana-ITF women's tennis tournament here on Friday.

The top seeded Indian, playing cut-and-thrust with the left-handed local player, overcame wavering concentration and numerous interruptions to win 6-7(1), 6-4, 6-1 in the second semifinal of the $ 10,000 event which lasted two hours and 15 minutes under floodlights.

Ankita will need every minute of recovery time before Saturday's final against Japanese Kazusa Ito, a qualifier with enough variety and punch in strokeplay to trouble higher ranked rivals.

Ito, displaying fine anticipation and timing, revelled in humid conditions when sending out the seventh seed Nudnida Luangnam (Thailand) in straight sets. The latter is in line for the doubles title though, after partnering Thassha Vitayaviroj to clear the semifinal hurdle.

Ankita and Isha will play on the same Indian team in the Fed Cup, so the bitterly contested semifinal was a worthy work-out under competitive conditions. Ankita took control of points when in position for forehands, connecting with a pronounced swing and sweet timing. She used the double-handed backhand to keep the ball in play. The first set saw both Indians lose serves frequently before Isha fought back at 5-5, leading to the tie-breaker where the third seed was in her element.

Changing tide

The momentum swung Ankita's way in the second set, much to Isha's surprise, after she lost the first four games. A medical time-out by the top seed in the seventh, with the score 5-2 in her favour, drew a cry of protest from the left-hander. As it turned out, Isha's problems were just beginning, as she was walking the tightrope between hope and despair even as the shotmaking got sharper and the rallies longer.

Frequent interruptions by crows flying on to the court and perching on the net did not deter the top seed. The decider turned into a no-contest, with Isha's blistered feet hindering her mobility.

The results (semifinals): Singles: 1-Ankita Bhambri (Ind) bt 3-Isha Lakhani (Ind) 6-7(1), 6-4, 6-1; Kazusa Ito (Jpn) bt 7-Nudnida Luangnam (Thailand) 7-6(1), 6-0.

Doubles: Natasha Khan-Claire Peterzan (Great Britain) bt Miki Miyamura-Tomoyo Takagishi (Jnp) 4-6, 7-5, 6-3; Nudnida Luangnam-Thassha Vitayaviroj (Thn) bt Kavitha Krishnamurthy (Can)-Varanya Vijuksanaboon (Thn) 6-1, 5-7, 6-0.

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