Archana clinches title

INDORE, JUNE 16. Mrs. Shyamala Venkataraman's courtside prayers were answered. Archana Venkataraman clinched the Indore leg of the International Tennis Federation's Women's Circuit, beating Sheetal Goutham against all odds. Shyamala, the mother of second seed Archana and fifth seed Arthi, encourages her daughter by her presence in their featured matches. Using the break between the games to get her breath back, shouts certain words of encouragement and continues the chanting.

Archana made sure the prayers did not go in vain, dismissing Sheetal's challenge in 60 minutes for a 6-4, 6-1 victory in the singles final of the second leg played on Saturday at the Emerald Heights International School courts. ``I pray for Archana. It is a positive prayer, in the sense I don't wish bad things on her opponents. I pray so that my daughter can do well. This season, she reached the final at Pune, did well at Chennai and now the title has come her way, here,'' said the mother.

The one-sided final was a dampener for the spectators, young and old, most of whom having travelled 15 kms. on a Saturday morning to reach the venue located on Indore's outskirts. If Archana had her way, the match could have got over earlier, 5-0 up in the first set with breaks in the first, third and fifth games. She played as if she was helped by an unseen force, generating astonishing power and bounce even when hitting against the wind. A dazed Sheetal awoke from the nightmare to win the next four games, using the slice to keep her rival on the move and scoring points off every tentative return.

Archana saw her lead whittled down to 5-4, but continued to take risks, unmindful of the errors. Sheetal earned a round of applause for a backhand down the line winner when she was down 0- 40 in the 10th but could not deny her rival the crucial point needed to grab the set. ``I started badly, went on to win four games but could not stop her,'' said Sheetal, whose wristy topspin lobs at the first hint failed to have the desired effect. The pro-active second seed attacked the ball on the bounce, her speed and timing good enough to deter Sheetal from venturing near the net.

Encouraged by her form in the first set, Sheetal's movements and anticipation improved in the second, producing a few more rallies and a little excitement for the fans.

But there was no letup from the other end, Archana never budged an inch. Leading 40-0 in the sixth game and 4-1 up, she stretched overhead to get her racquet to the ball, getting into an awkward position when the return came but ran back for the lob, turned and scrambled back to finish the point with a crosscourt volley. The best rally of the match, won by sheer determination.

The second leg singles' champion gained 16 ITF Circuit points and Rs. 29,500, while the runner-up accrued 12 points and Rs. 20,500. The trophies were given away by Mr. Bala Bachchan, Sports Minister of Madhya Pradesh, accompanied by Mr. D.K. Agarwal, General Manager, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited, the sponsors. The tournament was organised by the Indore Tennis Association.

The results: Singles (final) 2-Archana Venkataraman bt 3-Sheetal Goutham 6-4, 6- 1.