Having booked an appointment in Saturday’s singles final, Ankita Raina and Natasha Palha had the opportunity to add another title, perhaps even secure a mental edge, when they met in the doubles final in the Chennai ITF women’s tennis championship on Friday.
It was Natasha who won this battle, joining forces with Prarthana G. Thombare to defeat Ankita and Rushmi Chakravarthi 5-7, 6-3, 10-6.
Most points were cross-court baseline exchanges, with the two opposing players at the net looking to poach. Rushmi and Ankita were keener to switch, with a down-the-line groundstroke or a lob to catch the volleyer by surprise.
But this was a match settled by execution, not tactical superiority.
After an early exchange of breaks, Natasha and Prarthana broke again on the back of two backhand volley errors from Rushmi to go up 5-3. But the No.1 seeds took advantage of shaky serving from their opponents and unsure net play from Prarthana in particular to win four straight games and clinch the first set.
Prarthana underwent a remarkable turnaround after an early break in the second. She set the tone of rallies, intercepted more often, even called for overheads having missed a few earlier. With Natasha more than holding her own, the pair broke twice to level the contest. This change in momentum carried into the decisive match tie-break.
Ankita will be keen to turn the tables in the singles final. But she’ll need to recover first. While playing her semifinal earlier, Ankita had stomach cramps. She was fortunate that her opponent, Barbara Bonic, had a grade-1 abdominal tear that hurt her serve so badly that she held just twice.
Both hit an extraordinary number of winners. Ankita largely struck hers after working the rally; the tall, strong Bonic often powered hers with no build-up.
By far the better mover, Ankita seemed in control. But with the aid of an off-court medical timeout and sheer willpower, Bonic came within a whisker of taking the second set. Ankita showed she’s just as strong a competitor and sealed it with a solid tie-break.
Natasha was clinical in her semifinal win. Australia’s Angelique Svinos makes up for her lack of height with a high-energy game and a roundhouse lefty forehand. But Natasha showed from the beginning that it would take a lot to beat her. She covered the court well, pressed when she had the chance, and let the oppressive conditions do the rest. The result: a 6-2, 6-2 win.
The results: Semifinals: Natasha Palha bt Angelique Svinos (Aus) 6-2, 6-2; Ankita Raina bt Barbara Bonic 6-2, 7-6(3).
Doubles: Final: Prarthana G. Thombare & Natasha Palha bt Rushmi Chakravarthi & Ankita Raina 5-7, 6-3, 10-6.