Prerna Bhambri played an inspired game to outwit the reigning National Games champion Ratnika Batra 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 in the pre-quarterfinals of the $10,000 ITF women's tennis tournament at the DLTA Complex here on Wednesday.
On a day when former National champion Ankita Raina got a walkover from Kim Da Hye of Korea as the latter was troubled by a stomach ailment, it was a fierce battle between two trainees of leading coach Aditya Sachdeva that provided a ray of hope for Indian women's tennis.
It was high-quality fare, a rarity in a match featuring two Indian girls, as both players hit beautifully and with considerable punch on both flanks. It was the better serve and stroking prowess of the 18-year-old Prerna that saw her prevailing over the 16-year-old Ratnika, in a battle of wits that lasted two hours.
It was Prerna who had looked the better player as she hardly put a foot wrong in racing away with the first set in just about 30 minutes and went a break up at 3-2 in the second. However, the gutsy Ratnika who had won the National women's title at the same venue when she was 14 years, revealed her fighting qualities by turning the match around with breaks in the sixth and eighth games.
In the decider, it was Ratnika who got ahead with a break in the first game, as Prerna delivered a double fault on breakpoint in losing the game at love. However, Prerna picked up her game in spectacular fashion, and broke Ratnika in the fourth and sixth games. In fact, it was a gripping contest at this stage, as Prerna needed five breakpoints in the fourth and three breakpoints in the sixth to break Ratnika's resistance.
Prerna herself saved a breakpoint to hold serve for 5-2. She had a matchpoint on Ratnika's serve in the next game, but the champion delivered an ace to stretch the contest. On top of it, Ratnika broke Prerna with ease in the ninth game, but was unable to extend the revival script any further.
Down 0-40 Ratnika saved two more matchpoints, but Prerna put an end to her agony by smacking a forehand inside-out winner.
In the quarterfinals, Prerna will face qualifier Jang Su Jeong of Korea, while Ankita Raina will be challenged by lucky-loser, Misa Kinoshita of Japan.
Singles (pre-quarterfinals): Manisha Foster (GBR) bt Fatma Al Nabhani (Oma) 1-6, 6-4, 6-2; Etsuko Kitazaki (Jpn) w/o Han Na Lae (Kor); Keren Shlomo (Isr) bt Rishika Sunkara 6-4, 6-2; Jessica Sabeshinskaja (Ger) bt Natasha Palha 6-4, 6-1; Jang Su Jeong (Kor) bt Ashvarya Shrivastava 6-2, 6-1; Prerna Bhambri bt Ratnika Batra 6-2, 3-6, 6-4; Ankita Raina w/o Kim Da Hye (Kor); Misa Kinoshita (Jpn) bt Lauren Breadmore (Aus) 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(3).
Doubles (quarterfinals): Fatma Al Nabhani (Oma) & Rushmi Chakravarthi bt Misa Kinoshita & Etsuko Kitazaki (Jpn) 6-4, 6-4; Natasha Palha & Nova Patel bt Pia Konig (Aut) & Sanae Ohta (Jpn) 6-2, 6-4; Prerna Bhambri & Ashvarya Shrivastava w/o Han Na Lae & Lee So Ra; Aishwarya Agrawal & Ankita Raina w/o Jang Su Jeong & Kim Da Hye . — Special Correspondent