Preethi lifts under-16 crown

BANGALORE, MAY 7. Sadhshivanagar Club court has always been a happy hunting ground for Preethi Rao of Tamil Nadu, who in the past few seasons had picked up one title or the other and the 2000 edition of the Embassy-AITA sub-junior ranking tennis championship proved no exception. Top seeded Preethi Rao today coasted to an easy 6- 2, 6-2 title triumph over Alice joy, also of Tamil Nadu, in the girls' under-16 singles. Preethi Rao thus completed a back to back win with the first one coming at Thiruvananthapuram.

Preceding her victory, Vijay Sundar Prashanth of Chennai took the boys' under-14 singles crown, beating B.R.Prithvi of Karnataka 6- 4, 6-0. Thus the concluding day of the championship was a highly fruitful one for the Tamil Nadu juniors. They had won three of the four AITA titles (barring boys' under-16 singles) which were at stake today.

On a hot and humid afternoon, Preethi Rao played a cool game. Barring a few hiccups with her first serve, she held the upperhand and packed a lot more variety into her strokes than her second seeded rival. Preethi's groundstrokes often put Alice on the defensive and the top seed, often breaking free to the net, slammed volley winners.

Alice showed early promise, which faded away as the game progressed and Preethi Rao with two quick breaks in the fourth and sixth games, sewed up the first set at 6-2.

In the second, Preethi maintained steady pressure on her rival with her strong service returns and broke through in the sixth game. After Alice, netted two volleys, Preethi unleashed a good smash to take a 40-love lead. But Alice, offered resistance, taking the game to deuce, eventually dropped it as Preethi tapped down a drop volley. Up 4-2 with that break, Preethi shut all the avenues for her rival by holding her serve without much effort and cracked a dispirited Alice in the eighth to take the set and match.

Vijay Sundar Prashanth played a steady game to unsettle an erratic B.R.Prithvi. The Karnataka lad, seemed to be in one big hurry as he made a mess of his finish and this despite possessing a better serve than his rival.

Vijay Sundar raced to a 3-0 lead in the first set with breaks in the first and third games and though he dropped his own serve in the fourth, he had the measure of his rival, varying the pace. The second set was a romp as the Chennai lad outhit his demoralised rival.

The diminutive Poojashree hogged the limelight in the State- ranking events section as the Mysore lass took the title in the Children's under-10 title, beating N.Sriram Balaji 6-1, 6-1 and later, Poojashree went down in the under-12 girls' singles final to Asmita of Tamil Nadu 6-1, 3-6, 6-7 (3-7). Poojashree was virtually in line for a double crown as she led 3-0 in the second set after taking the first set at 6-1, before squandering away that advantage. In the decider, she led 5-3 and had match point, before Asmita stormed back to the take the tie and title in a tie-breaker.

In an all-Karnataka under-18 singles final, Sushanth Bihani defeated Siddarth Sharma 7-6 (7-3), 6-2.

Mr.K.Jairaj, Commissioner of Bangalore City Corporation and Mr.Jitu Virwani, Managing Director of the Embassy Group, which sponsored the event, gave away the prizes.

lThe results (all finals): AITA ranking events:

Boys under-14 singles: Vijay Sundar Prashanth (TN) bt B.R.Prithvi (Kar) 6-4, 6-0.

Girls under-16 singles final: Preethi Rao (TN) bt Alice Joy (TN) 6-2, 6-2.

State-ranking events:

Boys under-18 singles: Sushanth Bihani (Kar) bt Siddarth Sharma (Kar) 7-6 (7-3), 6-2.

Girls under-12 singles: Asmita (TN) bt Poojashree (Kar) 1-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-3).

Children under-10 singles: Poojashree (Kar) bt Sriram Balaji (TN) 6-1, 6-1.

Preethi Rao of Tamil Nadu, who won the girls' under-16 singles title in the Embassy AITA sub-junior ranking tennis championship in Bangalore on Sunday.

Vijay Sundar Prashanth, the winner of boys' under-14 singles title.