The Indian team had five match points in the doubles to win the quarterfinals against Korea, the eventual champion, and book one of the four berths for the World Group under-14 tennis competition.
As destiny would have it, the Koreans survived the match points to eventually emerge as the No.1 team.
Coach Ankit Patel, the captain of the under-14 boys’ team in the Asia-Oceania World Junior Tennis competition in the capital, was indeed disheartened about the host finishing fifth, but expressed confidence that the boys can gain from the experience and get better.
“The loss against Korea was most disheartening and very hard to digest. It is rare for a team to lose from 9-5 in the super tie-break in doubles. Both Arnav (Paparkar) and Tanussh (Ghildyal) had served aces and unreturned serves in winning six of the first 14 points. We made the mistake of changing the winning strategy at that stage,” recalled the captain.
“Our plan was to come in for volley, rebound the pace that they were hitting and give them less time to make big back swing. After 9-5, we changed the game plan and tried to hit hard from base line,” Ankit said, about the Indian pair veering off its winning path.
The coach felt that the Indian team was easily among the three best out of 16 assembled countries, along with Japan and Korea.
“Arnav played five singles and won all five. Our boys really deserved to be in the final. Both Arnav and Tanussh were only 70% fit and were having medicines before their matches, during the tournament. Arnav did not play singles against Japan because of an upset stomach, and Tanussh was having cramps after beating the Japanese, thus not being able to play the doubles. Because we lost to Japan in the league, we had to play Korea or Kazakhstan in the quarterfinals. As destiny would have, we met Korea,” said Ankit.
Learning from mistakes
The coach felt that with improved fitness, proper nutrition and sleep, the Indian players could match the best in the game.
“Overall, it was good, but could have been better. If we want to succeed, we should not be worried about failures. Of course, we should learn from our mistakes, and pursue the right path,” he said.